At her office, hidden in a back hallway of the Roche Sports Complex, Sue Olmstead has just what everyone needs: candy for the athletes who daily tramp by her desk, encouragement for the students who work in her office, schedules and timely information for her supervisors. She lends a motherly spirit of organization and care that will be missed when she retires March 31, her co-workers in the athletic office said.
“She’s been a delight to work with,” said Jeff Lantis, director of external relations for athletics. “She has the most pleasant personality, no matter what challenges she has going on in her life. We will miss her.”
After nearly 27 years working at Hillsdale College, with experience in four departments, Olmstead is retiring from her job as staff assistant for the athletics department to spend time traveling and volunteering in the area, she said.
In June 1990, Olmstead started working as an auditor in the Dow Leadership Center because it was a night shift and allowed her to attend her son’s school events, she said. After that, she worked for trust and investments in Central Hall for 19 years, then for institutional advancement in Moss Hall for another year and a half before coming to the athletic department.
At the athletic office for almost three years now, Olmstead has juggled several tasks: she schedules sports studies classes, creates call reports for Lantis when he travels, helps with events such as games and the Hillsdale Hall of Fame banquet, and coordinates memberships for the athletic facilities.
“Sue will do anything she’s asked to do,” said Anita Gordon, aid to the athletic director, noting that Olmstead is creative and has taught herself to work with new technology. “If she doesn’t know right away, she will figure it out.”
A graduate of Hillsdale High School, Olmstead never attended college but worked in banking for 12 years before coming to Hillsdale. During her time at the college, she said, she’s taken accounting classes to brush up her knowledge and she’s intended to take art classes but never got around to it.
One of her favorite parts of working at Hillsdale, she said, has been forming relationships with students, parents, and faculty. She has a knack for remembering names, she said, and has gotten to know many students personally, especially those with whom she works in the athletics office.
“It is sort of like a family here,” Olmstead said, remembering how co-workers brought her cards and flowers when her husband passed away last school year.
Sophomore Elizabeth Laux, who’s worked for Olmstead for a year and a half, said Olmstead contributes to the office’s close-knit atmosphere.
“Sue is like a second mom to me,” she said, noting that she and Olmstead often have deep conversations about life and faith. “She brings such a comforting personality. Everyone’s busy, but she handles all of the craziness in such a graceful way.”
Gordon said she, Olmstead, and other women with whom they work often go out to lunch together.
“We help each other in our personal lives and share our love for Christ together,” she said. “There’s a light about Sue. She’s just a sweet lady, very kind.”
Gordon said she’s glad Olmstead will be staying in the area so they can continue to attend events and lunches together.
Olmstead said she plans to continue living in her nearby house, where her late husband crafted much of the woodwork and furniture, and said she might travel to Florida, explore Michigan, and volunteer at the hospital and the college. And she plans to be at every graduation for the students she knows, she said.
“It’s unbelievable that I’m at this stage in my life,” she said.
Even as she retires, she said she’s thinking of what she can offer to others: “I want to give someone else the opportunity to enjoy what I’ve enjoyed.”