“Hi, Pastalamizi,” Sue Postle calls from her little apartment off the lobby of Benzing Residence.
Her burnt orange door is flung open, and a bouquet of “thank you” flowers rests on a stool: The women of Benzing have thrown her a surprise party to express their appreciation for her care and commitment as their house mom.
She’s just come in from the side lobby, which she has recently turned into a bedroom for a resident assistant recovering from surgery. While residents pass by, the Benzing house director calls to them to join in singing “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard. The song’s key line: “I got a girl, named Sue, / She knows just what to do.”
She calls all the girls “pastalamizis,” which is a generic term of endearment or mild irritation, depending on the situation.
“Nicknames are terms of endearment,” she says.
It’s not the only way she expresses affection. An Italian, Sue shows love to her residents by singing, laughing, crying, or dancing with them, sometimes all in a moment.
Allison Duber ’17, who lived in Benzing her sophomore year, says Sue was her “mother away from home.”
“When I came back from indoor track and field nationals, she took my trophy from me and ran it around the entire dorm shouting to everyone about our women’s second place finish. She then proceeded to sing, and I don’t even remember what song it was because I was laughing so hard. She is always the most excited person if you tell her any kind of good news, and she wants everyone to share in the celebration,” Duber says.
At the surprise party, Sue asked the girls to join her in dancing. When “Build Me Up Buttercup” came on, she stood up on a chair, air microphone in hand.
After the spring semester, Sue will begin working full-time at the guidance department of Hillsdale High School as a school success worker, helping integrate freshmen and fostering peer-to-peer mentorship.
“I feel like I’m leaving on a high note,” she says. “I feel like I’ve met so many great girls, awesome girls from different walks of life.”
One of these women, senior Emma Klaserner, was an RA in the dorm her sophomore year and still gets regular meals with Sue in the dining hall.
“Her devotion to the residents of Benzing was evident in each interaction she had with them. Regardless of where they were, Sue met them there and helped them to work through whatever they were struggling with without judgement,” Klaserner says. “Sue has been my greatest mentor here at Hillsdale and has given me an excellent example of what servant leadership is. I hope that I can emulate her compassion in my own relationships.”
Sue always takes time for each girl in the dorm, but she also had a mission for the residence as a whole: “to make this a home.”
A typical experience for first-time visitors to the dorm looks something like this: They push through two heavy doors, take a right, and step into the lobby. “This is so cozy!” they say. They can sit on either of two couches, several chairs, and enjoy the travel-themed artwork Sue bought and put up on the wall.
As she sits in her apartment, speckled by pops of orange from the door to a tiny clock, she remembers participating in Mock Rock during the first of her five years in Benzing. She didn’t know what she was getting herself into, and even though she loves all-dorm dance parties, she never danced for Mock Rock again.
She does love parties, though. Thanks to her, Benzing events have developed a reputation (mainly within the dorm and among the men of Galloway) as parties with great decorations and better food.
Junior Abigail Trouwborst, a Benzing RA, says Sue knows how to have a good time.
“Sue always goes above and beyond,” Trouwborst says. “The first time I was working with her on a dorm event, I was on duty that night till 1 a.m., and she stayed up past me and the rest of the team rearranging table decorations because she wanted everything to be perfect for her girls.”
Sue says she loves the traditions she’s built in the dorm, but her best memories are making popcorn and hanging out with her girls. She may be leaving, but she’ll miss these relationships.
“It has been a privilege,” she says.
Her voice catches as she looks toward the open door.