Considered a talented journalist, accomplished alumna, dear friend, sister, daughter, and mother, Anna (Williams) Sutherland ’11, at the age of 29, died unexpectedly on Wednesday, March 6, due to a cardiac condition.
“She was a beaming mother and wife of three children, delivering grace, and an embodiment of living life faithfully and her full joy was on display,” said family friend, Joseph Cella.
During her time at Hillsdale College, Sutherland majored in English, and was one of the top 10 in her graduating class. She also served as the president of the Catholic Society her junior year.
Not knowing Sutherland prior to their work together in the Catholic Society, Mary Tillotson ’11 became dear friends with Sutherland, eventually living with her senior year in an off-campus house named “The Grotto,” referencing the grotto in which Saint Bernadette of Lourdes experienced apparitions.
“I remember walking through Grewcock and going to the rosary, and us talking about wanting to marry good, Catholic guys from Michigan,” Tillotson said, “And we both ended up marrying good, Catholic guys from Michigan who were not on our radar during the time.”
After her time at Hillsdale, Sutherland, known for her impressive editing and writing skills, went on to enter the realm of journalism.
To the public and her colleagues, Sutherland was recognized as a skilled journalist. She worked as a collegiate fellow for one year on the editorial board for USA Today, then as a junior fellow at First Things, and eventually as a founding editor for Institute for Family Studies while continuing freelance work and copyediting.
“By reputation alone, people would turn to her, and her clear thinking, moral thinking. and her precise eye for editing and writing preceded her,” said family friend, Joseph Cella.
Cella said he introduced Sutherland to Christians in the professional world, communication professionals, and Capitol Hill staff and advocacy organizations, where she came across great opportunities.
“She was offered a job at the Wall Street Journal, but because of life as a mother, she passed on it,” Cella said. “It was a great opportunity she passed on in order to answer to her ultimate vocation.”
Married to her college boyfriend, Edward “Eddie” Sutherland ’11, and with three daughters – Marie Ann, Rose Colomba, and Grace Faustina – all under the age of 5, Sutherland took pride in caring for her family, especially her young children, according to close friends and family.
“In her obituary, Eddie added a line about Anna being a mother,” Sutherland’s younger sister Clare Williams said. “And we do write a lot about how Anna loved writing, editing, but at end of day, she loved family the most.”
Sutherland, according to Williams and Tillotson, was always willing to go out of her way for the comfort and conveniences for those she cared most about.
“What has struck me over time about her is if she can give something, she will, whether it’s advice for an essay, sending a care package or birthday gift on time, welcoming a new baby, or going through a hard time,” Williams said. “If she had something to give, she would give it.”
Williams remembered sending her sister her college essays while attending Hillsdale College herself.
“I saw a little bit of what her colleagues saw in her,” Williams said. “I sent her a few college essays and even just a few weeks ago sent my resume. She could always find better words to use or find ways to say things with fewer words.”
Tillotson, along with other close friends of Sutherland, found a word to describe this prudence that Sutherland had with words both in her professional and personal life.
“What was Anna’s superpower? Someone said editing,” Tillotson said. “We kind of settled on ‘tact.’ Anna was genuine in how she spoke and was really good about asking how things were going. She genuinely cared, but never wanted to dig out too personal of details.”
Both family and close friends have supported the Williams and Sutherland families by arranging and delivering meals and by helping prepare memorial ceremonies, showing the same special attention and care that Sutherland did for those around her.
Cella recalls a moment when he saw Sutherland’s three young daughters at her Mass of Christian Burial, which took place at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“In the profundity of the scene of the sadness and loss, the most gripping thing of the mass and funeral home was to see three beautiful girls under 5 without a mom,” Cella said. “There was such a dichotomy and beautiful display of life as Eddie’s sister, who was eight months pregnant, held baby Grace, who was still nursing, and comforted her.”
From her time at Hillsdale, to her short but successful career, and loving family life, Sutherland touched the lives of those she interacted with, and showed both her talents and love to.
“She was a gifted student, a good writer and thinker, but it’s her sweet spirit and smile that I remember best,” Professor of English John Somerville said. “I can see her very clearly in my mind’s eye, as if she’s sitting in my classroom.”