After four years as a student and nearly 22 years as an administrator, Sue Willcox, Ph.D., ’79 is stepping down as University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs in June.
“It’s hard to step back to think about my life with Avila because it started when I was 17 years old when I began as a student,” she said. “I’m an educator at heart, and I always want the highest quality education accessible to the most people. I’m hopeful that what I have done at Avila has made it an environment where students feel safe and can be successful.”
In nearly two decades in administration, Sue has made a visible impact on the University and campus. In 2006, she was named vice president for information services and vice provost. Encouraged by Sr. Marie, Sue helped lead the redesign of the O’Rielly Hall science labs, the remodel of the Learning Commons in the Hooley-Bundschu Library, and optimizing the University’s information technology team. In 2018, the University named her Provost after she spent a year in an interim capacity.
Working for Avila also led to one unexpected blessing, meeting her husband, Jim Willcox. The former chair of the Board of Trustees and interim Avila President knew Sue professionally. It was at a social function in 2014 when they began a conversation, connected, and “the rest is history.” Jim said Sue’s loyalty to the University continues to amaze.
“I’ve seen the work that Sue has done from afar and from up close, and I can tell you she is the ultimate in terms of commitment and dedication to Avila,” Jim said. “I’m extremely proud of what she has been able to accomplish, and I know she is going to want to continue to help out in whatever way she’s asked.”
While she is formally stepping down on June 30, Sue will continue to advise the University on a number of projects on a part-time basis, including her peer evaluation work for the upcoming accreditation report to the Higher Learning Commission. She and Jim plan on traveling more and spending time with their nine grandchildren when COVID-19-related travel restrictions end.
As longtime supporters of the University—both made regular contributions before their marriage—Sue and Jim leave an impressive legacy. Most recently in the newly renovated Goppert Performing Arts Center, the Sue Willcox Ph.D. Music Hall bears her name and imparts a lasting impact for future generations of Avila students to receive a top-notch education. Sue credited the Sisters of St. Joseph with inspiring this generosity.
“The Sisters have always had a strong, quality curriculum that has helped us look at things with a different lens,” Sue said. “Part of that lens is to help others who come into our paths, and I am hopeful we, as alumni, realize that we have a path we’ve been given. I’m a first-generation student, and there was a time between my junior and senior years when I hit a wall financially. After I looked around for a bit of work so that I could finish, S. Ann Dominic Tassone came to me and said she had found another scholarship for me. I was blessed to have individuals like her in my life, and that made such a profound impact on me.
“Whether it’s giving a scholarship, mentoring a student, or helping provide an internship, as alumni, we can contribute in some way to our students and Avila to make it better.”
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