Susan Kepler ’74 knew her move back to the Washington area after retiring from the Army was the right decision. Her 21-year career in military intelligence had her moving every few years, so she returned to Pennsylvania to be near family.
She began her civilian career by rejoining the Washington & Jefferson College community in the development office.
Twenty-one years later, Kepler is still part of W&J’s development staff.
“How can you not like this?,” Kepler said, gesturing to the tree-covered lawn surrounded by historic buildings seen through her office window.
However, Kepler can’t always be found on campus. She frequently travels around the country visiting W&J alumni.
“The first thing they say is, ‘Tell me what’s going on at W&J.’ I tell them the facilities have changed, but the old traditions are still there,” she said.
Kepler was part of a new tradition at W&J: the first co-ed class. She spoke fondly of the camaraderie that developed among the 75 some female students who started in 1970, many of whom still keep in touch.
Kepler appreciated W&J’s small school atmosphere, especially when comparing her experience to that of her relatives who went to large state schools. Even though she was from a farm in nearby Avella, Pa., she lived on campus and fully immersed herself in the college experience.
The summer before her senior year, Kepler realized that she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduation. Her family’s history of military service led her to the Army. She served her first year while she was a senior in college and graduated from W&J in the spring of 1974 with a degree in education and English.
Kepler continued to break gender boundaries in the military. Though she originally signed up for just two years of service, she enjoyed her work and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
An ad Kepler saw in the W&J alumni magazine during a visit home led her back to campus.
“Going from the military to academics was an adjustment,” she said. “I’ve learned to relax.”
Kepler has worked in many aspects of development over the last two decades, doing everything from running the phone-a-thon to serving as the director of alumni relations. She is currently as a major gift officer.
Kepler enjoys the challenge of working with potential donors and finding out what their passions are. Her favorite part of the job is “meeting absolutely amazing people, and hearing their stories.”
Susan Kepler’s own story of her time at W&J, both as a student and as an employee, allows her to relate to donors and share her enthusiasm for the college with alumni both far and near, helping to bring their support to campus for future generations of W&J students.