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Retiring executive assistant to the President said she had best seat on campus to witness AU’s phenomenal growth
 

 

Diane Sutherland has provided appreciated support to Anderson University since she stepped onto campus as a student in the 1970s.

Sutherland’s first act of service at Anderson University was to fellow students in her English class in the early 1970s. Her professor asked her to tutor two struggling students by reviewing topics from class and giving them suggestions on their compositions.

Sutherland said she considered becoming an elementary school teacher before coming to work full-time at AU. On May 1, 2020, Sutherland began her first day of retirement from the University from which she graduated twice and where she worked since 1991. For more than 25 of those years she served as the executive assistant to the President.

“It was totally different,” Sutherland said, remembering the look and feel of AU in the 1990s. “There was almost no activity on campus.” 

These days, campus is alive with activity, boasting more than 3,900 students. Anderson University is the largest private institution of higher learning in South Carolina. 

Sutherland attributes the University’s growth to President Evans Whitaker. She remembers overhearing one of the trustees give Dr. Whitaker his charge when the University hired him: then-president Dr. Lee G. Royce put us back on solid financial ground, the trustee said; your job is to take Anderson University to the next level.

“Everything was looking up,” Sutherland said, recounting Dr. Whitaker’s taking the helm of the University in 2002. “We were going to thrive under his leadership,” she said.

Sutherland’s first job was administrative assistant to assistant academic deans and division heads. Her job was to support the administrators as the institution transitioned from a two-year school to a baccalaureate institution. 

Born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1954, from the age of six Sutherland grew up in nearby Williamston, South Carolina. 

I thank her for all these wonderful years in which she has encouraged me, supported me, and performed such a critical role for Anderson University. To say that I’m going to miss her is an understatement. God provided someone to take her position, but she will never be replaced.

— Evans P. Whitaker, Ph.D.

President and Professor of Management

Sutherland graduated from Anderson University in 1974, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 2006 while working at AU.

As executive assistant to the President, Sutherland’s duties included writing letters for the President and senior leaders while managing the President’s busy schedule. She organized meetings for the Board of Trust and its committees, gathering and distributing materials and preparing meeting minutes. These duties only scratch the surface of her service, though.

Then-president Mark Hopkins asked her to serve as his executive assistant in the early 1990s. At first, Sutherland was reluctant; she liked what she was doing assisting the academic deans of the University.

Ten months after he initially asked, Sutherland accepted the job and went on to serve two other presidents, spanning a quarter of a century. Sutherland, who announced her retirement in January, pushed her departure date back a month to help the president’s office transition during Anderson University’s response to COVID-19.

It would have felt “strange to leave at that point,” she said. The final days of April were “a little calmer” as she helped Chief of Staff John Don prepare for Anderson University’s first virtual Board of Trust meeting.

Sutherland made her mark during her tenure serving three Anderson University presidents: Dr. Hopkins, Dr. Royce and Dr. Whitaker. Dr. Whitaker praised her contribution.

“I thank her for all these wonderful years in which she has encouraged me, supported me, and performed such a critical role for Anderson University,” Dr. Whitaker said. “To say that I’m going to miss her is an understatement. God provided someone to take her position, but she will never be replaced.”

Sutherland said she had the best seat on campus in witnessing AU’s growth in enrollment, programs and buildings. 

“What’s happened on campus,” she said, “has been truly amazing.”