A Legacy of Advocating for Students

"I love challenges and I enjoy making improvements," said Dr. Susan Cole, professor emerita of theatre and dance at Appalachian State University.

Cole came to the university in 1975 as the director of theatre and in the 30 years that followed, she led the way for transformational change. In fact, in 1989, after 14 years of planning and persistence, she helped establish the university's first official Department of Theatre and Dance, which she chaired until her retirement in 2005.

"Our first graduating class was two students," Cole said, noting that in the early years of the department, the graduates — who were the last to cross the commencement stage — would run back on stage together to take a bow to applause from the audience.

During her tenure, the university supported the renovation of Chapell Wilson Auditorium into the Valborg Theatre, which continues to be the central performance space for theatre and dance students.

Cole's career has been largely focused on supporting and advocating for her students and her colleagues, and she leads by example, having cultivated a long legacy of giving to the university — always for the benefit of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

"I consider it my pleasure as well as my duty to give back and to encourage others to do the same," Cole said. "I know how expensive it is to go to school. Any gift to the university encourages more students to come to college and to give back to their communities."

Of note, she made a gift of real estate to the Appalachian State University Foundation, an often overlooked option for investing in the future of the university. The sale of the property was directed to an endowment for the Department of Theatre and Dance.

"I had always planned to give a sizable donation to the university," Cole said, "and I thought it would be more helpful if I gave a piece of my property to Appalachian State now when it could be used rather than leaving it to be sold by the executors of my estate in the future."

In addition, Cole has established the Susan S. Cole Alpha Psi Omega Endowment and has helped establish and contributed to a number of scholarships and unrestricted funds. She is also a member of the 1899 Legacy Society, designated for those who have included the university in their estate plans.

Dr. Susan Cole, professor emerita of theatre and dance at Appalachian State University.
Published: Oct 20, 2022 4:18pm