Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Read (MS ’00)

Susan Read (MS ’00) volunteers with the Caltech Alumni Association in Washington, DC. Over the past year, she has helped to put on more than 13 events for Techers, including regular social gatherings, trips to the beach, family campfires, and (this month) a tour of the National Gallery. 

What is your favorite Caltech memory?

I've made many lasting friendships from my time at Caltech and I treasure that. My grad school classmates would meet for beer in the Rathskaller every Friday night. Or every day at 3 pm we would have tea time in Marianne's lab. Someone would make the cups of tea (PG tips) and we'd sit in the conference room with some cookies and chat. But for me the memory that really defines how Caltech is so unique and different than other universities is when I was researching other avenues for my career. I was interested in science writing and communication. I walked into the public relations office and asked if I could work/intern there. It was an immediate yes and I started right away. There was no red tape. Being at Caltech allowed me to define what I wanted to do.

 

What movie, TV show, or book would you recommend to a fellow Techer?

Use What You Have by Laurie Ward was the first decorating book I ever read and I still apply lessons from that book in my interior design work. Her philosophy is that we all surround ourselves with the objects we love. But we may not know how to put it together cohesively. Laurie teaches us how to sort and group our objects to create a beautiful space.


How has the Caltech community helped you since graduation?

When I was researching potential avenues for my career, I was conducting informational interviews with Caltech alumni who were in fields I was interested in. I conducted one with Kurt Brorson (PhD ’90), who works at the FDA. A year later when I moved to MD with my husband, I contacted Kurt again. He offered me a job at the FDA working with him. Later on, after I left, my husband also worked with Kurt at the FDA.


What would you like to learn next?

I've always wanted to learn to fly since meeting a female astronaut at a Girl Scouts Career Fair in 8th grade. It's on my bucket list.


Why do you volunteer for the CAA?

When I first moved to Maryland, I had attended some alumni events hosted by Ralph, Ayeh and Fay. I really enjoyed them. I remember one at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens that was really fun. We had a ranger-led tour of the gardens and then afterwards picnicked in the garden. I liked that my son could also attend. Then for a while alumni events became infrequent and I missed them. So I decided to volunteer. So now we have a monthly event in addition to family-oriented events.


I'd like to help but I'm busy. What can I do?

Even if you host one event a year, that would help. Or give a ride to someone to an event or contacting a speaker for a lecture. Every contribution helps because many hands make light work.


In addition to your volunteering what other ways are you staying in touch with the overall Caltech community?

I still keep in touch with many friends from my grad school days. When I was in Pasadena for the Volunteer Leadership Conference, I met up with friends from Caltech. Also, when we travel we look up Caltech friends in the area.