Dr. Sue Ellen Read, Professor of Education at Northeastern State University, passed away peacefully at home on Friday evening, November 30, 2012, after a 5 1/2 year battle with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
Sue Ellen was born December 20, 1942. in Houston, Texas, to George and Louise (Fletcher) Read. Growing up in Houston, she summered in Kema, took private acting lessons and developed a love for sun and seafood. She graduated from Jesse Jones High School in 1960, where she was a champion debater coached by the legendary Bill Henderson. As a youth leader at First Presbyterian Church, she developed a lifelong trait of gravitating easily across the social strata. Sue Ellen’s wit and personality led to friendships with fellow working class kids, as well as invitations to parties in the mansions of River Oaks. Though offered a Ford Fellowship, she grew up in a time where a promised job at Woolworths seemed adequate for a young woman of her modest background. Through the efforts of her mother and her uncle J.D. McCarty, longtime Speaker of the Oklahoma House, she was offered a scholarship at Eastern Oklahoma Junior College.
“Tex” thrived in Wilburton where she threw herself into campus life. She participated in drama and debate, winning College Nationals in Original Oratory in 1962. She earned the nickname “Run Around Sue” for her flourishing social life, including one memorable evening when she had separate dates with three different suitors. One of the greatest honors of her life was being named to the Eastern Hall of Fame in 2002. One of her former students is now University President.
In 1963, Sue Ellen was recruited by Northeastern State College at Tahlequah on what is believed to be the first full debate scholarship ever offered to a female. She served as a Senior Class Officer and a Yearbook Editor. She graduated with a BA in Speech and a Teaching Certificate in 1964. Her teaching advisor was Dr. Isabel Baker.
Sue Ellen began her career in the Oklahoma City Public Schools, teaching at Jefferson Jr. High and U.S. Grant High School from 1964-1966. She was a Child Welfare Worker from 1966-1968 in the courtroom of Judge Homer Smith. Sue Ellen was recruited back to the classroom to assist in the desegregation of Classen High School where she taught from 1968-1970.
She earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Central State in 1971 and from 1971-1976, was a teacher, counselor and Dean of Students before her abrupt dismissal due to ethical conflicts with the administration, When students staged a walkout in protest of her firing, the incident was reported on the front page of the Daily Oklahoman. If anything, the incident made her more fearless because “after your firing has been covered on the front page, not much worse can happen to you.”
From 1976-1984, Sue Ellen worked at Baptist Medical Center (now Intregris), serving as Director of Children’s World for two years and as Director of Education for the entire hospital for six years. At Baptist she created and taught courses for 2,000 staff and ran the hospital’s television station, producing both in-house training films and more than 60 films for nationwide marketing.
Sue Ellen was an Administrator at Central State Hospital in Norman for four years while she pursued a doctoral degree at OU. Her proudest accomplishment from her years in mental health work was the creation of the Oklahoma Crisis Intervention Center in Oklahoma County which became a model for providing emergency care and transportation for persons with mental health and substance abuse emergencies. She was awarded a Ph.D. in Adult Education in 1987.
Dr. Read joined the Education faculty at Northeastern State University in January 1988 where she taught thousands of students until her medical retirement in August 2012. Even as she faced cancer treatment, multiple brain surgeries, macular degeneration and life in a wheelchair, she taught fulltime until the metastasized tumor on her cerebellum deprived her of the ability to speak clearly. She was an expert in Individual Learning Styles and Brain-based Education. In 1998, she founded the Oklahoma Institute for Learning Styles (OIL). Through OIL, Dr. Read led two of the largest studies ever conducted on Native American learning styles and was the Project Director and/or Principal Investigator for three Department of Education grants totaling in excess of two million dollars. One of these granted provided two-year scholarships to 40 NSU Native Scholars who were pursing degrees in Education.
Sue Ellen conducted more than 500 national and international in-service workshops and has keynoted more than 40 conventions. In 2000, she began consulting with the Alaskan Interior Native Educators (AINE) held several weeklong workshops for teachers of Alaskan native students. Dr. Read was a member of the Executive Board of the International Learning Styles Network and served as a Lead Faculty member for the ISLN National certification training in New York City. In 2011, she was honored to host the ISLN conference at NSU’s Broken Arrow campus – the first time the international conference was conducted outside NYC. Dr. Read’s academic honors included: NSU Faculty of the Year for Excellence in Teaching; Soroptomist Woman of Distinction; and Phi Delta Kappa. In 2001, Dr. Read was honored by the Carnegie Foundation as Oklahoma’s Professor of the Year for her work with Native American youth.
Sue Ellen was a lifelong, yellowdog Democrat. She often recalled the summer she listened to the McCarthy hearings with her mother which led to her passion for civil rights. Inspired by her mother’s stories of seeing Lyndon Johnson entering his victory party in Houston by flinging his white Stetson across the ballroom, she cut her political teeth working on the Fred Harris campaign in Oklahoma City in the 1960s. She stood in a two-hour line in her pajamas while suffering from a 6-week bout with Hepatitis A to vote against Nixon in 1976. She was a surrogate speaker for Governor David Walters which led to the “most wonderful night of her life” – being flown in a private plane to speaking engagements in several little Dixie towns the nights before the election. She later served on the Oklahoma Mental Health Board during Governor Walters’ term. She believed, to her death, that he was the smartest candidate she had ever met. She also served as President of the Women’s Democrat Club of Cherokee County.
Sue Ellen loved football. A lifelong OU fan, her “Pop” paid her a quarter for every OU player she could name in the Wilkinson era, sobbed when the record winning streak ended, sat through games when it was so cold her feet were numb, and respected Bob Stoops. She was, to the end, in love with Barry Switzer. Although she was engaged five times in her life, Barry is the only man she would have married at the drop of a hat. She also loved NFL football. She rooted for the Cowboys only during the years that Switzer was the coach. She loved Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, and Deion Sanders. During the last three years of her life, she slept with the NFL channel on all night, every night. Her knowledge of the college and pro leagues was truly remarkable. If she had lived in Las Vegas where she could have bet on the games, she would have died a very rich woman.
Sue Ellen enjoyed classic movies, good quotations, poetry, classic rock & roll, Dick Clark, Carrie Underwood, Katherine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, Ellen DeGeneres, philosophy, TV crime dramas, dancing, gardening, decorating, cooking, reading mysteries & southern novels, dogs (Sparky, Hoppy, Kate & Reggie Love, Kiku & Chica), cats (Sadie, Klute, Minnie, Cagney, Lacey & Chase), crisply-ironed “casual chic” clothes, and looking "cool” with perfectly feathered hair, tan legs & flawless makeup. Blessed with her mother’s good looks, she rarely failed to meet her own high standards.
She was preceded in death by her father, George Edward Read; her mother, Louise Fletcher Read; her aunt Pat Wendler; and her cousin, Patty Karl. She is survived by her sister, Georgia Read, and her brother, Fletcher Read, both of Oklahoma City; her beloved nephew Conrad Read and wife Teri of Houston, TX; her cousins David Wendler and Scott Wendler, both of Baltimore, MD; and her “adopted” daughter Dale Woody and her best friend Linda Epperley, both of Wagoner, OK.
Sue Ellen and her family express gratitude to the following who helped her continually beat the odds: her favorite man – Dr. Edwin McCreary (Krystal, Cynthia, Megan & Sherri), Oncology Nurse Extraordinaire Jan Byerly; Dr. Thomas X.L. Rapacki (Ingrid & Nola); Utica Infusion Center Nurses, Dr. Lauri Flynn (Megan); Dr. Ray Balyeat (and caring staff) ; Drs. Anthony Haney, Robert Lynch & Robert Smith of OHI; Dr. Pranay Kathuria; Dr. Nathan Uy, Dr. Marjorie Bennett (Peggy) and Annette Howell. She also asked that special recognition be given to the two friends who were there through it all – Dr. Isabel Baker and Jan Warner.
In keeping with her lifelong commitment to education, Dr. Read chose years ago to participate in the OU Willed Bodies Program. A public memorial service will be held in the Spring of 2013.
In lieu of flowers, Sue Ellen requested that memorials in her name be made to one of her favorite causes: The Oklahoma Institute for Learning Styles, c/o the NSU Foundation; Stand Up 2 Cancer; or the Southern Poverty Law Center.