Susan Maclay Blackman '64

Arlington, Va.

When Susan began her college search in 1960, she had a clear goal in mind: she wanted to work in international relations.

She remembers the scene like it was yesterday, one college admissions dean said to her, “Well, that’s an unusual career choice for a woman.” Thankfully her admissions reception was far more hospitable at Luther College

In the summer of 1963, between her junior and senior years, she took advantage of a summer work-abroad opportunity through Luther. “I spent my time drying dishes in a hotel in Switzerland and enjoyed being part of a truly international staff. On a daily basis I practiced my French, German, and Spanish, and tried to learn some Italian, too!”

In 1968, after completing a master’s degree and doctorate in foreign affairs at the University of Virginia, Susan began working in the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. There she attained key directorships with responsibility for promoting U.S. trade relationships abroad, especially in the developing world. “In the early days, as much as I made the case within the agency for devoting more attention to countries such as India,” Susan says, “most of the time I thought I was carrying on a conversation with myself.” But carry on she did, with great success.

In 2001, Susan established the Susan Maclay Blackman Fellowship for Study Abroad. This fund is tailored to support a student who, like Susan, seeks to study internationally specifically in a developing region like Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, or Latin America.

“An overseas experience is inevitably life-changing,” reflects Susan, “and it very often influences career choices. If a capable young Luther graduate chooses a career in overseas development as a result of my scholarship, I will feel truly rewarded.”

“My advice to students today is to take that leap of faith—go places where you may not be completely comfortable but will learn a tremendous amount, and come back with real insight into where you can make a continuing contribution to the world.”