Last year, the DeWitt High School Athletic Hall of Fame added the category of honorary membership. The Board of Directors may convey honorary membership to those individuals who, by virtue of their time, resources and dedication, have significantly supported, enhanced and advanced the athletic program(s) of DeWitt High School.
The second inductee to receive honorary membership is Susan Steffens. Hired in April of 1977, she worked as the secretary of athletics for 18 years before retiring in the fall of 1996. During that time she served under five athletic directors (George Noch, Ron Mead, Greg Wieman, Bart Rypstra, and Jim Lutzke), and until 1992 the athletic director served a dual role as assistant principal, which also required considerable secretarial work.
Just some of the athletic responsibilities for Steffens included: getting tickets and cash boxes ready for events, counting and recording gate receipts for all sports, keeping record of awards (letters, numerals, pins, certificates), writing checks for umpires and referees, checking weekly athletic eligibility (weekly for academic purposes), keeping accurate accounting (income and expenses) for the athletic department, and preparing and paying orders for equipment. Shared amongst all secretarial staff were responsibilities that included answering telephones, handwriting messages, recording attendance, and checking excused and unexcused absences.
For one to really appreciate the hard work and dedication, one has to realize that it was only during Mead’s tenure that the athletic department starting using computers. Prior to that time, all accounting was done by hand in journals. In addition to the assistant principal and athletic responsibilities, Steffens did the accounting for all extracurricular groups.
“Susan did everything and was a professional. She would take it upon herself to provide hot food for not only DeWitt coaches and game personnel but also the opposing coaching staff…and that was all on her own,” former athletic director and assistant principal Bart Rypstra said. “She really did enjoy her job but it was the athletic piece that she loved…the kids and the coaches. For the 19 years I coached football, she attended every single one of our banquets.”
The DHS Athletic Hall of Fame’s first honorary member Ray Unger reflected on the significant contributions of Steffens. “Many of the things she did were for the most part hidden from public view…her efforts were just accomplished in the background with very little credit being awarded, and she would only want it that way. She went about her business of taking care of details that allowed for our athletes to be in those athletic contests.”
While Steffens did her job behind the scenes, the opposite was true when it came to proudly cheering on the Panthers, with her husband by her side. Before entering each athletic venue, she and Dick would hold hands and walk in together. Their attendance at games, whether at home or on the road, was a staple to many athletes, who often referred to the couple as “Super Fans.” Before they would start their warm-ups, athletes would locate the Steffens, which wasn’t difficult because Sue and her husband usually beat the team bus on their arrival. With her eyes tearing up, Steffens said, “If Dick were here today, we’d still be traveling to all those games wearing our blue and gold.”
Steffens reflects fondly of her time in athletics stating, “It was always a busy place and certainly never a dull day.” Perhaps Steffens herself can take credit for never allowing a dull day to pass. No one aside from only her closest friends knew about her forged documents, altered phone messages, and her superlative skills with PhotoShop manipulations. As a first year teacher, Bill McCullen remembered getting an urgent hand-written phone message from Steffens to “Call Mr. Fox ASAP.” When McCullen dialed the number, he discovered he had just reached Potter Park Zoo. Her cleverness brought smiles and laughter to the day.
“I got to know so many fine athletes and students over those years,” Steffens recalled. “The heavy workload of the office was made easier because of the enjoyment I had from working with the fine coaching staff and the great young people. We made many friends among the parents of the athletes and enjoyed cheering the teams on together. I have so many happy memories of the time my husband and I spent at athletic events.”
Still living in DeWitt, Steffens enjoys retirement spending her time as a proud grandmother (of six), reading, and scrapbooking. This year, she and her late-husband (Dick) would have celebrated 45 years of marriage. Together they raised three children (David, Rich, and Emily), all of who were DeWitt graduates.