Sue Knows How to Say “Thank You” (and so does WSU)

Sue & Pepper

Sue Sheppard, NWPB development and outreach coordinator, with her dog Pepper. Outside of work, Pepper and Sue are a certified therapy and crisis response team. Sue will receive a WSU President’s Excellence Award this month. Photo by Janet Johnson.

For nearly 25 years, Sue has represented WSU’s public media to thousands of donor-members as a key part of the two-person Member Relations staff. Her role is key to everything Northwest Public Broadcasting does, and she performs functions that are essential, routine, and jam-packed with activity: daily check and credit card processing, member record updates. The attention to detail Sue gives is equal to the attention she gives each donor when she interacts with them, which is frequent. In monthly calls and emails to hundreds of donors—I’m not exaggerating, literally hundreds—she is professional, compassionate, and grateful.

I was impressed, from the first phone call I heard her make to a member, at how she said “thank you” sincerely, without fawning or boredom, although she says it many times daily. When I complimented her on that ability, she said she has worked on doing just that. How many people in customer service work on how they sound on the phone? Sue does.

Few people can reach the efficiency and productivity levels Sue has. With a member base that’s grown to more than 10,000 and some 3,000 of those people making monthly gifts, Sue processes tens of thousands of donations annually, sends thanks and other communications, and still manages to produce a monthly e-newsletter and manage special projects.

The nature of Sue’s work keeps her in the office most of the time, where she is always available to colleagues. Many of us stop in for kind and practical advice, brainstorming our projects, and—you name it. Sue often is the point-person for personal connections with staff: fund collections for staff partings, loss, and major celebrations. She treats people like people, not just workers, and she elevates the social aspects of the office, which boosts teamwork, which boosts productivity.

Sue has been with NWPB member relations for most of her career, having weathered NWPB’s move from one unit to another, through leadership and organization changes, loss and gain of staff. Her children grew up and left home to start their own families (the grandkids come stay with her for a week each summer), her husband passed away before she could join him in retirement, and she works with her dog as an active member of Pet Partners. Previous and current staff, members, and volunteers count Sue as a friend. As she prepares to retire in the coming year, I expect hundreds, perhaps thousands, of NWPB members, WSU staff, students, faculty, and friends will gladly celebrate her. The President’s Employee Excellence Award provides an opportunity to show her just how valuable she is.