Susan Danforth, associate director of communications and College editor, died on Sunday at Maine Medical Center after suffering a stroke at her home in South Portland on Friday. She was 53 years old.
In an email sent to all College employees on Sunday evening, President Mills wrote, “Sue was a diligent professional whose careful work touched every corner of our campus for more than a decade...This unexpected and sudden loss of a truly talented and dedicated colleague touches so many of us, and reminds us of the fragile nature of life.”
Danforth arrived at the College in October 2000 after working for over a decade as a marketing assistant and publications coordinator for the Portland Symphony Orchestra. She graduated summa cum laude from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., near her hometown of Methuen. Danforth went on to earn a masters degree in English literature from the University of Vermont.
“She was really an anchor down here,” said Scott Hood, vice president for communications and public affairs, who worked with Danforth over the course of her 12-year tenure at the College. “The nature of this work means everyone moves very quickly...what Sue did was she helped us get it right.”
As College editor, Danforth edited all official College publications, including the College Catalogue, commencement programs, and promotional materials.
“Basically anything with words on it, she was asked to look at,” said Megan Morouse, associate director of communications for publications. “She was just professional through and through...always seeking perfection, but in a human way. As an editor, she was committed to making sure everything was just right.”
“We appreciated her expertise, we appreciated her opinion, and we respected it,” said Morouse. “As a friend, she was just the sincerest and most true friend—so loyal and so dependable. And I don’t know that many people are like that anymore—she was unwavering.
Danforth’s friends, family, and colleagues gathered for a memorial service in her honor in the Chapel yesterday morning. Pastor Ron McLaughlin of United Baptist Church led the proceedings.
Her brother, Stephen Danforth, recalled childhood memories of his sister in a heartfelt eulogy. He began by sharing facts about Danforth that her colleagues and friends at the College may not have known.
“Susan had a love for music—she was a musician in her own right,” said Danforth, recalling family gatherings when Susan and her father would play trumpet duets.
“She used to love acting,” he said, remembering that Danforth belonged to the drama club at Andover High School, where she starred in school productions like “The Mouse that Roared.”
Stephen Danforth referenced “Sustainably Incorrect,” a YouTube short that his sister made with her colleague Doug Cook, director of news and media relations, to promote environmentally conscious living in 2010. In the video, Danforth plays a television anchor of a sustainability program who teaches her co-host, played by Cook, strategies for decreasing his carbon footprint.
“She’s funny, she’s serious, she’s annoyed,” said Danforth of his sister’s performance in the video. “All in all, I know she was thrilled to do that.”
“The last time I spoke with Sue was, I think, last Wednesday,” said Hood. “Security had some graphics that they wanted to put on their vehicles, and they sent them over to us. So I marched them down to Sue’s office and she said, ‘Are you just going to stand over me or do I have a minute to look at it?’”
“Every time I see those Security vehicles I’ll think of Sue,” said Hood. “She had her hand in a lot of different things, but not in a way that would have put her front and center.”
Danforth said that his sister would travel several times a month to visit their parents, George Arthur Danforth and Jeanne Bernardin Danforth, who live in York. Her death, he said, is “going to be a big hole in their lives.”
In addition to her parents, Susan Danforth is survived by her brothers Arthur and Stephen Danforth, sister-in-law Cynthia Danforth, as well as several nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and “a special cat ‘Samantha,’” according to the Portland Press Herald.
“She was modest, she kept to herself,” Hood said. “Somebody said to me, when I told them the news this earlier in the week, that Sue was one of the grownups—I’m not sure what that says about the rest of us, but it says a lot about her.”