Award Recipient Dr. Susie VanHuss
on March 14, 2011
Dr. Susie VanHuss may have grown up in Louisiana and earned three degrees at other universities, but make no mistake about it, she’s proud to say, “This is my Carolina.”
Dr. VanHuss is one of the 2010 recipients of the Carolina Alumni Association’s Honorary Life Member Award, and was honored as such during the annual Homecoming Awards Gala on November 5. The Honorary Life Member Award is presented to a non-alumnus or alumna who supports and serves the University.
VanHuss is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Management in the Moore School of Business at Carolina, was the executive director of University Foundations from 1997-2006 and has served the University in countless ways since coming to Columbia in 1974. While she says she adopted Carolina as “my Carolina” many years ago, she was quite surprised to learn she would be receiving the award.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect USC to adopt me and bestow the Honorary Life Membership Award on me,” VanHuss says. “I was shocked, honored, and humbled when (Alumni Association executive director) Marsha Cole called to tell me about it. From my experience with the Foundations and my Board service on the Carolina Alumni Association, I learned what outstanding alumni members we have from all walks of life and all parts of the globe. I am truly honored to be recognized as a life member of the Carolina Alumni Association, and I especially appreciate the members who made the effort to nominate me for this award. Although I have degrees from two other universities, the University of South Carolina is truly my university.”
VanHuss was raised in a rural community in Avoyelles Parish and attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette) in the heart of Cajun country where she received a B.S. degree in Business Education and English in 1960. After graduation, she attended Indiana University on a graduate teaching assistantship and received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the I.U. Kelley School of Business in 1961. After teaching at Loyola University in New Orleans, she returned to Indiana University and earned a Ph.D. in Business Education in 1969.
Committing to Carolina
Whether it was as an administrator, educator or member of various boards, VanHuss has served the University in many ways. She is also a prolific author who has written several textbooks. In that regard, Carolina is fortunate that she decided to leave her comfort zone and move to Columbia. She says coming to the University was actually serendipitous.
“Dean Jim Kane was playing golf with the CEO of my publishing company at the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business convention and asked him for a recommendation for a position he was trying to fill,” VanHuss says. “I received a call from Dean Kane asking me to send a résumé and then a follow-up call asking me to come to Columbia for an interview. I was teaching at my alma mater at the time and had never been to Columbia and knew virtually nothing about the University of South Carolina.”
VanHuss recalls that during the interview Dean Kane convinced her that the University was the right place for her and that she was right for USC.
“Over the years, he often kidded me about my acceptance with a limited commitment of three years and still being around,” VanHuss says. “I came to Columbia and Carolina in 1974 and learned to love Columbia and the University, and (husband) Pat and I are here for the duration.”
Playing Many Parts
During her tenure at Carolina from 1974 until June 30, 2006, she served in a number of overlapping roles that are typically associated with faculty and administrative appointments. She notes that three of those roles had a significant impact on her career—-Moore School of Business experience, faculty athletics representative experience, and the USC Foundations experience. VanHuss was hired as an associate professor and head of the Office Management Department in 1974.
“My teaching specialties were business communication, administrative systems, and personnel management,” VanHuss explains. “Subsequently, the Office Management and Management departments were merged. I was promoted to professor and then later was asked to serve as head of the management department. In 1993, President Palms asked me to serve as interim dean of the Business School after Dean Kane retired. I served as interim dean until September of 1994. Although I had no desire to apply for the permanent position, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity I was given.”
VanHuss is thankful for the many wonderful opportunities afforded to her by the Moore School of Business, such as the opportunity to teach in Vienna and to work with the Small Business Center on a major project in Poland and Hungary. She remained head of the Management Department until 1997 when she retired as a distinguished professor of management.
Prior to serving as interim dean, VanHuss was asked by President John Palms to serve as the University's faculty athletics representative. Armed with considerable experience serving on the faculty athletics committee and on the NCAA certification task force, this appointment provided the opportunity to work closely with athletics administrators, coaches, and more than 400 student-athletes in 22 sports.
“It went far beyond the NCAA requirement of overseeing the academic eligibility certification of each athlete each year,” VanHuss says. “That experience totally changed my perception of athletics. I had always been the typical fan who thought about and attended the four major sporting events—-football, men's and women's basketball, and baseball.”
To her surprise, VanHuss found that she was emulating techniques used by coaches in her own classes.
“Athletics administrators and coaches from all of the sports had an extremely strong work ethic and commitment to individual student success,” VanHuss says. “Their interactive style was far more effective than lecture and discussion. I learned from the effective way they used many very small segments of video and repetition to teach skills that I could use in teaching MBA students to make effective business presentations. I also learned from coaches who tried to use every minute of instructional time permitted by the NCAA efficiently and effectively that I could accomplish more in my own classes and that it was okay to demand more from capable students than some wanted to give."
VanHuss explains that this experience gave her a greater appreciation of student-athletes and how they manage athletics, academic and community service requirements.
As the executive director of the University Foundations, she was responsible for managing the USC Educational Foundation and the USC Development Foundation, overseeing of the pooled investments of all of the Foundations, coordinating activities and services among the five foundations, working cooperatively with the Development and Advancement functions of the University and serving as the liaison between the Foundations Boards and the University.
During that time, she is proud to have developed close relationships with many outstanding business and community leaders and alumni and established a substantial faculty retention fund to counter offers from other universities trying to “cherry pick” some of Carolina’s best professors.
With all that she has done, VanHuss says it’s the people that create the best memories.
“The best of my experience is the many opportunities I had to get to know and to work with really wonderful, talented people—-students, faculty members, administrators, coaches, foundation board members, alumni, Gamecock fans, and business and civic leaders of our community and far beyond,” VanHuss says.
VanHuss continues to write textbooks, serve on for-profit and non-profit boards and attend a wide variety of Gamecock athletic events, as well as many art and cultural events. Although she and Pat are retired, staying connected to Carolina and working with several non-profit and for-profit boards are still very important to her.
“Having a strong work ethic and giving back was a part of my upbringing,” VanHuss says. “I grew up with an extended family who taught school, worked hard on the farm, and was involved in everything in the community. Our home was very frequently the site of literacy training for the many rural community members who could not read or write. We have been given many blessings, and giving back to the community is a priority for us.”
She currently chairs the compensation committee of the SCBT Board, and she spends a lot of time reading current literature, participating in webinars and national meetings, and working with consultants to keep abreast of the major changes that are occurring in the industry.
She credits Pat for his tremendous support and involvement in her many activities, making her achievements possible. VanHuss and her husband have been happily married for 32 years and are showing no signs of slowing down.