MACOMB, Ill. - For Sue Danner, being a part of the Western Illinois University community dates back to her days as a student. Following a professional career that spans more than 20 years at Western in two different departments, Danner recently retired from her role as assistant director of academics and CHAMPS/Life Skills coordinator.
Danner joined the Athletics Department in 2008 and worked with hundreds of Leatherneck student-athletes in pursuit of their academic goals while providing Life Skills seminars to help develop their leadership and professional career training. However, her time working with student-athletes actually dates back to 16 years as assistant to the dean and director of advising in the College of Business and Technology (CBT).
She also worked for 15 years at Robert Morris College, starting as a faculty member before taking on roles of placement coordinator and program director. Picking one particular highlight of her academic time at Western was not easy.
"There are so many favorite memories. In the College of Business there were a lot of highlights... working with the students and being involved with the Myrtle Beach conference. I was involved in that and presented one year, and then helped with the conference itself for several years. That was a fun part of the job," said Danner. "From the time I started at Robert Morris and to Western I always enjoyed working with the students, but from the very beginning particularly with student-athletes. I've said when I was in Business (CBT) some of my favorite students were student-athletes. It was especially enjoyable to come here and start working with student-athletes all the time. They didn't disappoint me."
After she retired from CBT in 2005, Danner came out of retirement less than a year later to serve as a program support specialist and supervisor at Bridgeway, Inc. in Macomb. Two years later she joined the Leatherneck Athletics staff. As she retires, Danner witnessed another outstanding semester of academic success as student-athletes combined for a cumulative grade point average above a 3.0, the sixth time in last seven semesters accomplishing that feat.
"They (student-athletes) are a unique group of young men and women. The fact they are dedicated to their sport as well as to academic and community service, they are just the ideal kind of people we want to have represent Western," said Danner.
Even outside her professional career, academics encompassed Danner's life. She worked for two terms on the West Prairie Community Unit District 103 school board spanning eight years, and served three years with the Northwest Community Unit District 174. The opportunity to work with student-athletes was something that hit close to home for Danner.
"I raised student-athletes. It's not surprising that I have a special affinity for them. I think they knew that. I understand what they are going through because I've seen others go through it. At this time in my life they look to me as that parent or grandparent that is not around, so we developed some special relationships," stated Danner. "It does make you proud of the fact that you helped that student accomplish what they didn't maybe even realize they could accomplish, and help them realize their dreams. We all remember somebody in our past that was especially helpful, they'll remember what they accomplished and maybe how they accomplished it."
Lisa Melz-Jennings, Assistant Athletics Director for Academic Services, noted the impact that Danner had with student-athletes and the entire department.
"I'd like to thank Sue for her commitment to Western Illinois University, the Athletics Department and the student-athletes lives that she touched each and every day. After a career that included being the Director of the Business Advising Center, Sue retired and then the Athletics Department was very fortunate that she decided to return for a second stint as a mentor to the Leatherneck student-athletes," said Melz-Jennings.
Danner earned her bachelor's degree in business education at Western in 1973 and completed graduate work in interdisciplinary studies at Western. She and her husband Sam have two children, Jason and Jordan, and six grandchildren. Even though she is done working with student-athletes, there are people Danner is excited to spend more time with.
"I have to say it's harder leaving this time because before I
knew I was going onto something else even though I didn't know what then. Now I
know exactly where I'm headed, and I know my professional career has come to an
end. Those six grandkids are a tremendous attraction. I intend to spend a lot
more time with them, and a wonderful family I hope to spend a lot more time