Name: Susan Lennon
YaleWomen title: Chair
Yale Affiliation: ’85MPPM
Where you live: Hartford, CT
What you do: True to SOM’s distinctive mission – educating leaders for business and society– my career has traversed the public, private and non-profit/social sectors. I retired from higher education administration in 2013 as president of the Women’s College Coalition, an association of women’s colleges in the US and Canada that works to transform the world through the education and success of women and girls. Much of what I loved about the mission of that work continues in my work with YaleWomen.
Your family: Husband Nick Merritt. We share many of the same volunteer commitments in the greater Hartford area and joke that this is one way to spend quality time together.
Other Yale volunteer work: I credit my Yale volunteer work – beginning with SOM (Alumni Association Board, Delegate to AYA Assembly, and Alumni Fund Chair) to AYA (Board of Governors, Day of Service, and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force), to YaleWomen and 50 Women at Yale 150 – with helping me to be my best self. I am often out of my comfort zone – in the best sense – engaging with and learning from people with different perspectives and experiences, sometimes in difficult and uncomfortable discussions, working together to put the privilege and responsibility of our education to work to find common ground and transform the world. This is an experience I wish for every alum.
Something we might not know about you: I am a Navy brat and have lived in close proximity to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans my entire life, beginning with my birth in what was then the Territory of Hawaii. This probably influenced my first volunteer political engagement (1975): working with the Connecticut Cetacean Society to have the sperm whale named by the Connecticut General Assembly as the state animal. (Why? Whaling played a key role in Connecticut’s economy in the 1800s, especially for the valuable spermaceti oil. By the 1970s, sperm and other species of whales were close to extinction and this little action in Connecticut was part of a larger whole to save whales: in 1986, the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling. Japan, Norway and Iceland still whale.)
Favorite Yale memory: I don’t think of this as my “favorite” memory, but it is my strongest. It happened after my last exam at SOM. The two years were intense for me – I was an older student and had been out of the academic environment and away from serious quantitative work for quite a while. Some of us didn’t quite know what to do with our new “freedom.” We found ourselves sitting on the floor in the hallway outside of the classroom, letting the realization of we had achieved – both academically and in the community of support and friendships we had developed – unfold. Those friendships endure.
Which two Yale women would you ask to join you for lunch and why: I love Galanes’s piece and often noodle on possible tablemates – there are so many Yale women who are doing incredible things in the many different walks of their personal and professional lives. Today, in the reflective mood in which I write this, I would ask Sharon Kugler and Krista Tippet. Kugler is the Yale University Chaplain. She is the first woman, first Catholic, and first layperson to serve in this position. She offers prayers at many Yale events that are – in their beautiful simplicity – magnificent, powerful, and profound. Krista Tippett ‘94MDiv, is the creator and host of On Being and The Civil Conversations Project. She practices her own advice: “Become wiser by learning to hold transformative conversations, ask generous questions. and listen with presence.”