Sue Manix, W&M Class of 1979
Sue Manix arrived at William & Mary in 1975. During her time at William & Mary, she participated in Kappa Kappa Gamma, the Athletic Association, Panhellenic Council, and Omicron Delta Epsilon Economics Honor Society. She also served as an Orientation Aide, a President’s Aide, a Resident Advisor, and was a member of Mortar Board and Phi Beta Kappa.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Government in 1979, Manix worked in the telecommunications industry, specifically for Bell Pennsylvania, Bell Atlantic, and ultimately Verizon, where she served as Vice President of Public Affairs. She returned to school to receive her Master of Business Administration from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987. Manix currently works as Director of Marketing and Communications for The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr while remaining connected to William & Mary through her role as President of the Alumni Association.
In her interview, Manix recounts meeting her would-be husband on her very first trip to visit William & Mary—he was the tour guide for her group. She explains that being involved in so many extracurricular activities as a student “was a great way to keep connected to a wide variety of people on campus and not get into my own little silo…” Manix has maintained the relationships she built while at William & Mary, returning for Homecomings and celebrating birthdays with her college friends. She also continues to serve the school through her role as President of the Alumni Association.
William & Mary
Interviewee: Sue Manix
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Date: September 16, 2017 Duration: 00:43:15
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt, the oral historian at William & Mary. It is currently around noon on September 16, 2017. I’m sitting in the Alumni House with Sue Manix. Can you start by telling me the date and place of your birth?
Sue: Yes. I was born on April 3, 1957 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Carmen: And what years did you attend William & Mary?
Sue: I graduated in 1979, and I went straight through, and I graduated from high school in 1975, so from fall of ’75 until May of ’79.
Carmen: Great. And you said you were born in Connecticut. Can you tell me exactly where and how you were raised, and tell me a little bit about your family?
Sue: Yes. So I was born in Hartford, and as my mother reminds me on every one of my birthdays, I was born two weeks beyond my due date. And there was a snowstorm because it was Connecticut, after I was born in early April, and my parents were about to move to Massachusetts.
00:01:02 So they took me home from the hospital and moved me up to Massachusetts. My dad worked for IBM, so we moved quite a bit until we moved to Stamford, Connecticut when I was going into fifth grade, so I was probably about ten, and then lived in Stamford until I went to college.
Carmen: Wow, great. So when did you first start thinking about college?
Sue: Well, unlike today, probably not until my junior year of high school, and probably not until later in junior year of high school. And my mom didn’t go to college. My dad went to a teachers college nearby his home. He did board for a couple of semesters. So the whole college search process and college visiting process was something they were really excited about, but it was very new to them. So I think we came to look at schools in late spring of my junior year.
Carmen: And how did William & Mary even get on your radar?
Sue: That’s a really good question. I think growing up I went to a very competitive public high school in Fairfield County. I did very well. But it was back in the day when you used telephones to communicate. When report cards came out everybody was on the phone, what did you get, what did you get? Because there were only two of us from this high school who were going to get into Harvard, and I thought there would be more to life than that.
And I guess I’d done some kind of novel reading, fiction reading, and I thought I’d love to find a school where I could really have fantastic academics, but I was really going to have some fun. So William & Mary got on my radar. You know, back in the day we went to the library and looked at the books and the ratings. And it had such an excellent academic reputation, but it seemed like it was a great school as well.
Carmen: Did you visit the school before you started attending?
Sue: Yes. I visited the school and I have kind of a meet cute story. My husband Glenn Gundersen graduated in 1976, and when my parents and I arrived for a tour at the admissions office, Harriet Reid, who was then the dean of admissions, was very concerned about the tour guide who was supposed to take the tour that day because he was her favorite tour guide, but he had been ill in the infirmary overnight and she was hoping he would arrive.
Well, he arrived and took us around, and was just delightful. And the tour guide ended up being Glenn Gundersen. And I think my mom still has the letter, because there was no email back in the day, that said Mom, Dad, you won’t believe who I met at a fraternity party. Remember that cute guy who gave us a tour at William & Mary last spring? So anyway, that’s…and the rest is history.
Carmen: I was going to ask you about that later, actually. This seems to be kind of a common thread amongst a lot of our alumni, just meeting your potential future spouse here.
Sue: Yeah, and I don’t know how typical that is in other universities, but it was quite common back then, yeah, quite common.
Carmen: Well, that’s a great story.
Sue: It is a great story. [Laughs.]
Carmen: A great story to tell the kids, as they say.
Sue: Well, as a parent—and we have three kids who have gone to college—it does make you a little skeptical when you see the tour guide on the different tours. You’re kind of looking them over as a potential son or daughter-in-law rather than just a tour guide.
Carmen: Has anything panned out in the same fashion?
Sue: Nothing has panned out. [Laughs.]
Carmen: Good to know. Well, now I’m going to look at tour guides differently. So outside of this experience of meeting your future spouse as a tour guide, do you remember, do you have any first memories of what William & Mary looked like, or smelled like, or felt like?
Sue: That’s a really good question. I just remember the first days of orientation—you’re nervous when you come—being so reassuring and just feeling so connected so quickly. In fact I had breakfast this morning with two dads who had dropped off their son just at William & Mary earlier and they were back for family weekend.
00:05:06 And I was recalling my mother telling me a story which, I don’t remember this, but my parents were here to drop me off. They stayed for a couple of days. And at the appointed time when they came to my dorm room to say good-bye before they went back to Connecticut, there was a note on the door that said, dear Mom and Dad, I’m off with my friends having a great time. Have a great trip back to Connecticut. And my mother says to this day that it was a uniquely fabulous experience, like this is all that we wanted in raising you, that you would go to William & Mary and be comfortable, but it was a little heartbreaking at the same time.
Carmen: Yeah, that does sound unique. Usually the image you have in your head is this teary good-bye right at the door, but you were out already having fun.
Sue: There were no tears. There were no tears, yeah.
Carmen: Well, that’s great that really your first impressions were so positive. So what did you choose to study? Did you know coming in what you wanted to study?
Sue: I did not. In fact I thought when I came in that I would be an English major because I had always enjoyed that. And quite frankly, I was really lucky to have an English class in my first semester that was in the Wren Building, which I just thought was so cool. But frankly, after a couple semesters of English, I found it a little formulaic, kind of like I know how to do this, I want to try something I have no idea what to do.
And I had taken introductory econ and really thought it was interesting. And I had taken a government class with Bill Morrow, who retired and I think subsequently passed away and I loved, so I was a double major in econ and government.
Carmen: And did you ever think twice about that once you chose that?
Sue: No. I mean, I was about a credit shy of being a French major, so that was kind of…those were my…French were my fun courses. Econ were my…I loved them, but it was a little harder, and that was where I was challenging myself.
00:07:01 And I wanted to make sure I could get a job when I graduated, so econ seemed better than a double major in econ and French.
Carmen: Sure. So do you recall any notable professors that you had during your time here?
Sue: So Bill Morrow was just amazing. And what I remember about his classes—and this is odd, I think, for a government class—his classes were, or his exams were primarily multiple choice. You think about maybe government being more essay. And they were the most challenging multiple choice tests I had ever taken, and I still haven’t figured out exactly why.
John McGlennon, who’s still here, was a fantastic teacher and mentor. And just always seemed to know how to get the conversation going. So those were two of my favorites. I had a Spanish teacher whose name I don’t remember who I think was very frustrated with the fact that I was in an 8:00 class that I attended, but I was never prepared for, but didn’t need to be because of all of my French studies.
00:08:05 So I felt like he was always trying to trip me up and very annoyed when I would get things right.
Carmen: Oh, no. Well, that sticks in the memory, yeah, I’m sure for him as well.
Sue: Probably, yeah.
Carmen: What about outside of professors or individuals who taught your courses? Were there any other mentors or advisors you recall?
Sue: Yes. Harriet Reid, who I mentioned before, who was the dean of admissions when I arrived, subsequently became the head of the career counseling office and became a friend as well as a mentor. I mentioned that Glenn was one of her favorite tour guides. And I really feel that when we got serious and were getting engaged it was harder to pass her muster than it was to pass Glenn’s mother’s muster. But she was very kind to us and really befriended us as people.
00:08:58 And in fact we were married in Williamsburg, and since I was from Connecticut, she had stored my wedding gown for the week before the wedding, and the morning of the wedding when I went over to pick up the dress, she’s like, you know, why don’t you sit down? Would you have a bloody Mary with me? So one of my fondest memories was the morning of my wedding sitting with one of my dearest supporters and friends in a totally non-wedding moment, and it was just great.
Carmen: That’s a wonderful…that sounds like a great moment. Another thing that I’ve picked up through different interviews and talking with different students is that sometimes the president at the time will leave some sort of impression on the student. So it was Thomas Graves during the time you were at school.
Carmen: Are there any memories or impressions you have of him?
Sue: Absolutely. In fact I had the great honor of being a president’s aide in my senior year, and he was just such a great guy. And if you ever had the chance to meet him, he was quite imposing in terms of stature and demeanor, and so warm.
00:10:02 I mean, he was just an intellectual giant, but also just so warm and supportive. In fact he wrote recommendations for me for graduate school, which I really appreciated. And I had the great opportunity to chat with him when he was back for Charter Day a year ago, the year before he passed, and he was in a wheelchair, and there was a reception.
And I went up to him and I said, Dr. Graves, I’m sure you don’t remember me. And he looked me straight in the eye and he said of course I remember you. And that was just—that’s not about me. That’s just the kind of guy that he was. He was just incredibly…he had a twinkle in his eye. He was incredibly welcoming to students. So yes, I have very, very fond memories of Tom Graves.
Carmen: That’s wonderful. So you brought up being a president’s aide. And from my research I noted that you were actually heavily engaged during your time at William & Mary. You were in Kappa Kappa Gamma, were on the PanHellenic Council, Alpha Lambda Delta your freshman year, just to name a few things you were involved in.
00:11:04 But you were also a resident advisor and orientation aide, president’s aide, as you mentioned. And then you went Phi Beta Kappa and you were a member of the Mortar Board. So what motivated you to be so engaged?
Sue: I mean, it sounds hokey, but William & Mary has always felt like my second home. And even this weekend coming back for William & Mary Alumni Association board meetings I just have been so gratified. From my freshman hall and orientation advisor to the new directors that we just inducted into the William & Mary Alumni Association, there are just incredible people who are affiliated with this institution. They are at once brilliant and unassuming, connected and engaged. And it’s just been a huge part of my life from undergraduate days until now. And I feel really grateful for that opportunity.
Carmen: Sure. And I’m sure being involved in so many different things really diversified your experience here.
Sue: Yes. And it exposed you to just a wide variety of people, which I really, really appreciated, from student government to the sorority, to being an RA, which I’ve joked I think is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my life. And I had the opportunity, therefore, to live on a freshman hall for three years, my own and then two as an RA, and then moved into the sorority house my senior year. So it was really a great way to keep connected to a wide variety of people on campus and not get into my own little silo, so to speak.
Carmen: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned your time as a president’s aide and as an RA standing out in your memory, but were there any other specific organizations or experiences you had with these organizations that stood out?
Sue: So another thing that stands out, as I say, being an RA was one of the most formative things I’ve ever done, but I had the opportunity in my senior year to be the student liaison to the Board of Visitors, and so I would be invited to attend Board of Visitors meetings, which I found fascinating.
And I had that role back in a time when there was a huge kind of controversy about investment in a new stadium, and I think was involved in what was as close as William & Mary ever came to kind of student, not unrest, but student disagreement with the institution.
And I would have to say even during that process I felt that I was supported as a student to have my own voice and do what I felt was right, which I really, really appreciated. But yeah, being the student liaison to the Board of Visitors gives you a little bit of insight into how the sausage is made.
00:13:58 And I got to meet some really interesting people who cared so much about the college, which I think continues to this day. Gave me a respect at a young age for the responsibility of being a member of the Board of Visitors.
Carmen: Sure. Any notable board members that stand out?
Sue: Yeah, yeah, not really. Just the whole experience, yeah.
Carmen: Sure. Being there for that controversy, you mentioned that it was maybe one of the closest moments to a period of if not student unrest, just maybe—
Sue: Just difference of opinion maybe would be a better way to put it.
Carmen: Do you recall any sort of active responses?
Sue: So—and it’s funny. Friends remind me of this to this day because sometimes I forget it. We actually staged an alternative Charter Day to just—we had some speakers and we had, you know, bleachers and stuff out toward Phi Beta Kappa Hall just to express the interests of students. And that was kind of fun.
Carmen: Wow. Who organized that?
Sue: That’s a really good question. I was a member of student government as the liaison to the Board of Visitors, so it was a group under the president of the student association at that time.
Carmen: How did that all meet resolution? How did all that simmer down?
Sue: That’s a really good question. My recollection is the kind of effort subsided. And I don’t know what role our intervention or our activity played in that, but I think at that point it was too much too soon. And I’ve been really gratified to see how the growth in the athletic program, the success of the athletic program has grown since then. It just wasn’t the right time, given the resources that we had.
Carmen: That is absolutely fascinating. An alternative Charter Day. I’ve not come across that yet. Very interesting.
Sue: There might be photos in the archives, I don’t know.
Carmen: I need to go look.
Sue: It was before everybody documented their day-to-day life with an iPhone, so I don’t have photos.
Carmen: Maybe a little different, but we do have some pretty extensive photograph collections, so I’ll have to go through there and see what I can find and let you know. So I want to broaden this a bit and ask you to just recollect some of your absolute favorite memories of being on campus here.
Sue: That’s a really good question and a little bit hard. I really loved being an RA because I think you have a unique opportunity to bond with students who are new, who are feeling a little unsure, and they’re happy to be away from their parents, but they would like someone who kind of helps them navigate things. And so I really loved my freshman halls, the good, the bad and the ugly. Because every once in a while you’d have to be a little bit more parent than you would have liked to have been. I loved that.
00:16:55 I had, I mean, I worked hard, but I really enjoyed my social life. I loved being a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In fact there are a group of us who are celebrating our 60th birthdays together later next month, going to the Greenbrier. And it was a group of people that—and we had dinners in the house almost every night—it’s a group of people that kind of became family that you could, no matter what you were doing during the day, you could come back and kind of support one another.
And my roommate in the house my senior year, Libba Galloway, who has also been president of the William & Mary Alumni Association, we lived on the third floor. And it was really the first time I had shared a room in several years, because I had a single as an RA, we were both pretty accomplished in school, but we were really, really messy. So they used to actually bring tours of freshmen and sophomores by to see the mess of our room. [Laughs.] And that’s kind of a highlight. And just living in the house was really, really great.
Carmen: That’s so funny to me. They normally close those doors.
Sue: Exactly. And hide it, yeah.
Carmen: But they were being transparent.
Sue: Already transparent and authentic, yes it was.
Carmen: That’s great. Those sound like great moments. And then maybe also that chance meeting with the tour guide again at that—
Sue: That chance meeting with the tour guide. And, I mean, I do think being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa was really a highlight of my career. And I joke that they have two different inductions, they have a fall and a spring, and the spring folks, you know, I was proud to be a member of the spring group because I think we had a little more fun than the folks who got inducted in the fall.
Carmen: Why is that?
Sue: Well, I think, you know, you had to really be over the edge in the fall, and those of us a little bit more on the cusp were in the spring.
Carmen: So you got your fun and then you…
Sue: Exactly. Exactly.
Carmen: Great. That’s wonderful. I like to know, one thing I enjoy looking at when I go back and research are some of the performances that happened on campus just during different periods of time. And I noted that Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell all performed at William & Mary during your time here.
Sue: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Carmen: Did you make it to any of those performances?
Sue: I made it to Bruce Springsteen. And being from the Philadelphia area, and with him being from New Jersey, that was unbelievable. But it’s weird. In some ways he’s even more iconic now than he was then, do you know what I mean? Then he was just one of the big bands, musical performers of the time, but that was awesome. And William & Mary Hall at the time, now Kaplan Arena, had just a really robust entertainment program, from movies, to speakers, to bands, etc. It was great.
Carmen: That does sound great. And of course one of the ways that you had fun. What are some other ways you had fun as a student? Like what did you do for fun during your time in Williamsburg?
Sue: That’s a really good question. I mean, what I remember most are not the venues or the activities, but the people that I spent time with. There was a pub in what used to be the old student commons that was the Hoi Polloi, and that was a big Thursday night hangout. And remember when I was in college the drinking age was 18, so there was a lot of on campus ability to go and have a beer. Being in the sorority, Glenn was in a fraternity, there was a lot of programming there. So again, what I remember most are the people rather than the events or activities.
Carmen: Sure, sure. I also noted that the American Revolution bicentennial was going on during that same time. Do you have any memories of celebrations for that?
Sue: I believe as part of that there was a Presidential debate on campus, but I could have my dates wrong. Not really, no. I was probably a little more insulated then.
Carmen: Sure, sure. Just wondering. So to switch gears into the opposite question, I’m wondering if you had any difficult experiences at all during your time at William & Mary, and how did they affect you?
Sue: Maybe the kind of aura of reflection eliminates some of those tough times. I just remember supporting…you know, you have those day-to-day problems supporting friends. But I really didn’t have any major challenges when I was here, no.
Carmen: It’s nice to be able to look back and not have bad memories. Do you recall anything going on on campus that would have been negative that didn’t directly affect you?
Sue: The year before I came here there had been…there was a tradition at school that when classes ended in May that there was a rush to the pool at the Williamsburg Inn/Lodge, and a student drowned as part of that.
00:22:02 So I remember coming to campus and that being a real…kind of hanging over the campus in terms of really starting to think through how things that seemed to be fun and high-spirited and lighthearted can turn ugly in an instant. So there might have been a little somberness about things as a result of that.
Carmen: Sure. Yeah, I had not heard about that, but I can imagine that that would stay in the collective mind of William & Mary students as they returned. I’m thinking even more broadly of different sociopolitical things that were going on in the nation and world at the time and I’m wondering if any part of that unfolded on campus, or how campus reacted. So I’m thinking that right before you started college the Vietnam War had just ended. And I don’t know if you have any recollections. When you were returning, you were really probably returning with student soldiers.
Sue: I would say…but I feel the William & Mary campus was pretty insulated from that at that time, I would say. And I think we were just far enough away from the Vietnam War that I certainly don’t recall any presence of former students, students who had formerly served in the military. And for better or for worse, I think the campus was much more insular in that time.
And I think that’s a matter of—I mean, I remember I literally relied on a daily newspaper to get my news. I mean, if you think about that, as opposed to students now, who I think the engagement and the activism in the outside world is really ignited by the access to information and what’s going on. So I would say it was a pretty insular and safe space in my humble experience.
Carmen: Sure. Yeah, it certainly is much different the way we receive our information now, so I can definitely understand that. I know there were some pretty big events, like the assassination of Harvey Milk, during that time, Three Mile Island accident happened.
Sue: Three Mile Island I definitely remember, having grown up in Connecticut and looking to work in Philadelphia, and just being like oh my goodness, how could something like this happen, yeah.
Carmen: Yeah, but I guess that was more where you grew up, the proximity to where you grew up.
Sue: Exactly. Or it was going to be—it did not seem a threat to my day-to-day life in Williamsburg.
Carmen: Completely understand. So I’m wondering if we can discuss what it was like, from your perspective, to be a woman on William & Mary’s campus during the time you were there. Because really just about a decade before dress and curfew regulations had finally come to a close, and in the broader world I guess the women’s lib movement was in full swing. So I don’t know if you saw any of that unfolding on campus or what you…
Sue: That’s a really…it’s actually a question I’ve thought about relative to my business career. And maybe I was just oblivious. But being an econ major in particular, I never felt that anyone expected less or different of me as a female in my academic work. I really didn’t at all. And that’s why some of the experiences I had when I got into the business world were surprising to me.
And I think that there were different norms, I mean, kind of sorority, fraternity stuff back then than there are now. But there was not a feeling, I never had a feeling that as a woman I was not going to have the same opportunities as a male at William & Mary. Never, ever, ever. And maybe I was just clueless. [Laughs.] But I never felt that way at all. And as I say, academically I felt that professors, male and female, were really, really supportive of my academic work.
Carmen: Great. So one final question about climate and life on campus. I noted in some of the “Flat Hats” that a service called the escort service was established during a certain time to walk individuals back to make sure they arrived back home safely. And a little bit, I don’t know if it was really the time you were here or a little bit after, we saw kind of a spike in sexual assault cases and harassment.
Sue: Right, right. I think that was, the escort service did start after I was here. And it was much more…when I was here and the folks I was involved with, it was much more of a dating culture than a hookup culture, so it seemed like there was kind of less opportunity for that. I mean, people dated, which sounds very, very old fashioned.
00:26:53 But you didn’t go to a fraternity—I mean, there were mixers and people went unaccompanied, both sexes, but there was a lot of dating, so there didn’t seem to be quite the issues with sexual misconduct and such, which I think is a huge slippery slope these days.
Carmen: Absolutely. Thank you for reflecting on that. And I got a little ahead of myself. I have one more question before we transition to your time post William & Mary. By the time you graduated it was really only a little more than a decade since African Americans had started attending William & Mary, and there were probably only around a hundred or so African Americans in attendance during that time. Can you describe what that was like on campus, or if you recall there being any talk or reaction to that?
Sue: Not at all. And it’s only just recently realizing, with the celebration of the 50 years. I had no…at that point in my life I had no context. And having gone to a fully integrated high school, it just wouldn’t have occurred to me to think that having African American students was unusual or, you know.
Carmen: Absolutely. And then coming from a school in the North I guess was a little different.
Carmen: You did come to a school in the South, though, so did you note anything about race relations that was different?
Sue: I wouldn’t say race relations per se, but I really was surprised that—I mean, I was called a Yankee when I got here, which I was kind of like, well, that’s very odd. That was a totally new experience for me. And there was much more, I felt that there was much more of a sensitivity to being from the North versus the South here than I think people who would have gone to school in the North would have sensed being from the South.
Carmen: Sure. That’s an interesting thing to reflect on. But yeah, I definitely have noted everyone likes to see wherever the line, the imaginary line where the South begins, and there’s such a…there’s something there that sticks out.
Sue: And there were cultural differences. I noticed it when there were a series of weddings in the couple of years after we left William & Mary, that kind of the folks who were from the North, it was more of a seated, open bar, full meal celebration, and a lot of the Southern, the more traditionally Southern weddings were in church, church hall. So there definitely were cultural differences that I was not expecting.
Carmen: Sure. That’s very interesting. Well, thank you again for reflecting on that. So if we can transition to your professional career, most of which was spent in the telecommunications industry. You worked for Bell Pennsylvania, Bell Atlantic, and ultimately Verizon for a very long time. And during that time you served as vice president of employee communications and were vice president of public affairs when you retired. So can you tell me how your William & Mary education and time here has played out in your life?
Sue: That’s a big question. [Laughs.] So, I mean, at a very direct level, I was looking for internships between my junior and senior year of college, and Bell Pennsylvania actually had a summer internship program, a management development internship program, and they interviewed at William & Mary. And I used to joke that I think the recruiting folks just wanted a spring weekend in Williamsburg, and that’s why they came.
But that was a fantastic experience because I went to Philadelphia kind of on my own, didn’t know anybody, found a place to live, and it was a preview of this management development program, which I then went to after I graduated. And the idea was that within five years you either were going to be middle management or you were going to be out. So it was a lot of professional development. It was a lot of care and attention on who you were going to work for and what you were going to do.
00:31:00 And as I say, I think my experience at William & Mary gave me maybe an undue amount of confidence that having been able to balance kind of having a really terrific academic career, but also being incredibly involved, and then having a great social life, it just never occurred to me that people would expect that particularly a female would not be able to do that. So it was a little bit jarring. I mean, I had people saying, well, you’re going out on a Saturday night? Aren’t you working? Like no, I don’t work on Saturday nights. So I think apart from the excellent academic fundamentals, I felt that I learned at William & Mary that what I really wanted and what I could do was to balance things.
00:31:53 And the only thing I would say is that back then in Philadelphia there were not that many people who had graduated from William & Mary, so back in that day in Philadelphia, if you were new to—like when I first started to work at Bell Pennsylvania, the first question would be did you go to school here? No. Is your family from here? No. And then you would automatically become a little bit suspect because Philadelphia was quite an insular place at that time. It’s become much more of a home for William & Mary folks. In fact just last night I sat next to the dean of the law school at dinner and he said Philadelphia has been a very welcoming place for the law school graduates.
Carmen: Great. So you said you came out of William & Mary with a lot of confidence and the ability to balance, which I find actually incredible, because that is such a struggle both in academic life and in professional life for individuals to be able to find that balance, so that’s wonderful. Were there any other scenarios in which you believe someone commented on your performance or how you worked because of your gender?
Sue: Not in my initial years. But I had had a number of experiences in kind of corporate staff, regulatory, engineering, and they kind of said it’s time to go to operations, where I supervised, as a 28-year-old district manager, supervised 5,000 people who installed and repaired telephones, who were in a business office doing orders for new service, and construction where they actually installed and repaired the cables. And this was a totally unknown environment for me, and incredibly male dominated. So that was quite a wake up call and a little difficult to navigate.
00:33:54 And I think my William & Mary experience kind of prepared me kind of academically to do the work, but the whole cultural piece of being the other, and unwanted, was something I had never experienced.
Carmen: It speaks well to your time at William & Mary.
Sue: Yes, exactly, that I felt, I’d never felt kind of out of place.
Carmen: Sure, sure. Great. So you’ve also remained, during this period of time, very connected to William & Mary, and I think even—well, you can comment on this—but more so even since retirement you’ve taken some pretty big positions here at William & Mary. You were chair of the Communications Committee on the Fund for William & Mary board, Council of Chairs board member, the board liaison for the class of 1979, 30th Class Gift Committee. There’s a long list here.
Sue: Yeah, don’t go through it all.
Carmen: But even more recently holding these positions on the Alumni Association, and now currently president of the Alumni Association. That’s a major position. So can you just speak to all of these ways you’ve remained involved and why you’ve chosen to stay involved?
Sue: So I’ll talk about the most recent time. I mean, again, it sounds a little hokey, but it’s always been just a way of connecting with people that I know I’m going to like. And the other thing about William & Mary people is they want to get stuff done. It’s not just kind of a tea and cookies kind of come join this committee. There’s a real sense of purpose and commitment.
And my former, a lot of my experience as a volunteer since I graduated was on the annual fund side, the annual giving side. And I was really excited and energized with the potential for the combination of the Alumni Association with the Office of University Advancement, because I always felt that that was a gap that could be bridged to really increase the engagement of our alumni.
00:36:01 So I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to be part of that effort and part of that partnership, because I think engagement ultimately leads to philanthropy, and I think engagement, in this day and age, is way different than cocktail parties and football games. They all have a fabulous place in our repertoire. But I’ve been really excited by the initiatives relative to affinity groups, including the alumni initiative, and to career connections and folks helping folks professionally, and bridging beyond the social to get into career and academic kind of pursuits. So that’s kind of why I’m doing what I’m doing now.
Carmen: Absolutely. And it casts a much broader net, I guess.
Sue: Yes. Well, that’s the idea. We have 100,000 alumni, and a much greater percentage of our alumni have graduated since the ‘90s than since before the ‘90s, so I love being in the communication and marketing field.
00:37:05 I’m really inspired and challenged by how do we connect to this diverse group of alumni, and how can we make the college kind of meaningful to them in their lives today.
Carmen: Sure. And the fact that you’ve stayed so connected to William & Mary actually should give you a pretty interesting perspective on the changes you’ve seen at William & Mary over time, from your time as a student to your time now coming back and being involved in the Alumni Association. So can you reflect on those a little bit?
Sue: Yeah. So, I mean, there have certainly been some hiccups at William & Mary over time. And I guess I’d rather say it in a positive way. There have been many times during my experience at William & Mary where it feels like not all of the parties have been on the same page.
00:37:58 And I feel between the president, the Board of Visitors, the Office of University Advancement, the Alumni Association, our provost, our academic folks, I feel that William & Mary has uniquely come to a point where people are on the same page and heading in the right direction, and willing to be bold, and willing to talk about being bold.
I mean, there was a time when I was involved in the annual fund where we were, you know, our pitch for people to give money was about the gap between state funding, the growing gap between state funding and the budget. Well, that’s not really a way to inspire people to engage. It was absolutely correct.
But I’ve just been really gratified by how the university has come together around let’s not apologize for asking for money, let’s not be shy about asking for money, and let’s not be shy about our aspirations for being a bold university and moving forward.
Carmen: Definitely. Are there any changes you would like to see as we continue in this direction?
Sue: I’m really interested to see about what changes will come with the new president. I’ve been very impressed with the presidential search process, and recently read through kind of the description of what characteristics and traits they’re looking for in a new president.
And I think I, you know, I guess I’m the ultimate optimist, but I think we’re really poised. We’re going to finish a billion dollar campaign by 2020. Remember, the first campaign that this college ever had was during Tom Graves’ time, and I think it was $50 million, when I was a student. And it’s just remarkable to me the capacity of the university, and how people have stepped up, and how engaged people are becoming.
Carmen: Definitely. And yes, a one billion dollar campaign, it’s hard to wrap your head around it, isn’t it?
Sue: Yeah, it’s bold. [Laughs.]
Carmen: It is, it’s bold, definitely.
Sue: And we’re going to do it. We’re going to do it.
Carmen: So what would you like people to know about you or for people to know about William & Mary that you think they might not already know?
Sue: It’s funny you ask that question because at breakfast today, as I say, I had breakfast with a former student colleague of mine who, he and his partner just brought their son here to school two weeks ago. And when they talked about their son’s experience at William & Mary, it just brought me back to my freshman year. And they said he found his people.
And I just think there’s something as a parent that you want people to find their people. And even now, when I come back—graduated in ’79, almost 40 years later, and when I connect with graduates from five and ten years ago who are on the Alumni Association board, they have that same incredible striving for excellence, curiosity, dedication to learning.
00:41:06 And they’re self-deprecating, and they’re fun, and they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work. So I think that has endured for me over time. And I still appreciate it to this day.
Carmen: Absolutely. Great. So a couple more questions before opening it up to you. We talked a little bit in your interview about how we’re in the midst of celebrating 50 years of African Americans in residence here at William & Mary, and also going to kick off next year 100 years, the celebration for the hundred year anniversary of coeducation at the school. So I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about what you believe to be the value of diversity and inclusion.
Sue: I mean—and I think we’ve come a long way, and there’s always more ways to go. I mean, William & Mary is a far more diverse community than it was when I was here, and I’m grateful for that.
00:42:02 And I think the university has really dedicated resources to making that a priority, and not only to attracting people who are diverse, but the commitment to supporting folks in their William & Mary journey. And it’s funny. Until the alumni initiative came up, it had never occurred to me that William & Mary was not coed at some point. Like I hadn’t thought of this as a diversity initiative.
And actually, I think the broader opportunity is how do we engage—we’re talking a lot about affinity groups—but how do we engage with people in terms of how they identify with William & Mary, whether it’s being as a female, whether it’s being as an African American, whether it’s being as a first generation college student, whether it is—I mean, I think traditionally we’ve looked at things like the Greek connection, the year connection.
00:42:59 And I just think there’s so much more opportunity to connect with people on the basis of what resonated with their identity and connection and affinity with the college.
00:43:15 [End of recording.]
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