Our twenty-eighth president, Woodrow Wilson, once said that “absolute identity with one's cause is the first and great condition of successful leadership.”
Sue Marcus, Director of The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School, is a perfect example: since being chosen unanimously by the search committee out of a pool of fifty-four applicants seventeen years ago, Sue has epitomized the concept of lifelong learning. Case in point: she created the popular College for a Day event five years ago and has been one of its students each and every semester.
Ten years ago, Sue brought us Celebrity Readings, the major annual fundraiser for The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School. In fact, her husband, Michael, even pitched in to stage the first one.
Christine Ebersole, Norbert Leo Butz, Kelly Bishop and Mark Jacoby, all Tony-winning actors, have been readers at this event in the past. This year’s Celebrity Readings, on Monday, March 26, features Isaiah Sheffer, creator of NPR's Selected Shorts, and Broadway actors Fred Applegate and Sean McCourt. It promises to be a wonderful evening celebrating great actors, great writers and great stories!
Cathy Garea, the administrator of The Adult School’s Adult Basic Ed program, remembers her first few months of the job: “I was scared out of my wits—Sue was brand-new in the director job, but she saw my deer-caught-in-the-headlights reaction and offered to co-administer the basic skills program on top of her demanding job. Sue was not just an ally, but a true mentor. She didn’t just encourage, she pushed me to develop skills I needed.”
“Sue doesn’t criticize or belittle,” Cathy continues. “She applauds strengths and supports improvements. It was Sue who weaned me off of paper and pencil accounting and on to the computer. She researched possible databases and scrounged up a computer. She made it happen. This is just one example of Sue’s vision and leadership. She sees what needs to be done and then sees that it happens. I have learned so much from Sue—how to handle difficult people and situations, how to keep an even keel and how to enjoy the ride.”
Sue Marcus is also adept at managing the relationships between and among staff and trustees. Charles Bibbins, a member of the Board of Trustees, says that “among Sue's many skills is the ability to seek and hire excellent people for her staff—both skilled and with a positive team oriented attitude. The staff not only gets along well with each other, but also is very much in sync with the trustees. It helps that Sue gives her staff a lot of flexibility in doing their job which results in excellent performance.”
The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School has had only four directors in its nearly eighty years, an impressive feat for any organization:
- Keith Torbert, a co-founder and the first unpaid part-time director led the Adult School for fourteen years;
- Ted Gnagey took up the post in 1947 and spent the next twenty-eight years nurturing the Adult School;
- Don Hamingson, a beloved English teacher at Columbia High School, was the Director from 1975 until his retirement in 1995; and
- Sue Marcus.
In April of 1995, Marcus joined the staff of The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School as the non-profit’s fourth Director. She has succeeded beyond all expectations; in 2005, at Sue's tenth anniversary celebration, a poem recited in her honor ended with:
Together let's raise our glasses to honor and praise the name–
Sue Marcus, the big powerhouse in a rather small frame!
About the author: Alexa Metrick is the Communications Coordinator for The South Orange-Maplewood Adult School.