It has been said greatness isn’t given, it’s taken. We are not born great CEOs or grandmasters at chess. Greatness comes from striving for something just out of reach and pushing through the doubt.
When you run away from the challenges of life, you might be running away from your greatness as well. The very challenges you try to escape might be the very means of your greatness. The pioneering women of Purdue University did not run. They did not give up on their dreams. They helped to shape our university and succeed where they have been told they could not. One of those Purdue greats, alumna Dr. Susan Bulkeley Butler (BSIM’65, HDR’99), began blazing a trail for women while a student at Purdue and is still doing so today.
The first woman partner in the consulting division at Arthur Andersen & Company (now Accenture), Butler came to Purdue as an out-of-state student and graduated in 1965 – the first class in an undergraduate program at Krannert to graduate women. With her allegiance lying squarely in helping women succeed, she endowed a scholarship designed to help women from outside the state of Indiana attend Purdue. Butler credits her successes to Purdue stating, “I am who and where I am because of Purdue and a lot of people sharing time, giving me advice and counsel, providing opportunities to grow and showing me the way.”
On campus for a Women for Purdue event in 2006, Butler listened as Sammie Morris, university archivist, head of archives and special collections, and associate professor of library science, spoke on the importance of documenting the accomplishments of pioneering women at Purdue. Butler recognized the need for a women’s repository and created the Archives bearing her name.
More than capturing memories, the Susan Bulkeley Butler Women’s Archives supports the research and teaching mission of Purdue. “Because of the continued generosity of Purdue donors, it has grown substantially both in number of collections and in the number of women who are now honored as having contributed to Purdue history,” states Morris. “It is a way for us to see where the extraordinary women of Purdue came from and what they have been able to achieve.”
Used increasingly by researchers at Purdue and around the world, and for publications as well as classroom work, the collections educate about women’s history. The stories of Purdue’s women pioneers are inspirational, and Morris and Butler both hope, will teach women to believe in themselves and succeed. “One of the greatest pleasures in working with these types of collections is knowing they will continue to inspire future generations,” says Morris.
And she continues: “This exceptional collection would not have been possible without Susan’s vision, leadership and support.” Butler’s initial gift created a circle of giving and because of donor generosity, the collections will live on, benefitting the lives of women in the future through exposure to a rich and shared history.
“Just as the women of the Archives did, you can do anything you set your mind to,” declares Butler. “We must take responsibility and discover who we are; only then can we find our greatness.” Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” So when you’re at your turning point, think of the women of the Archives and don’t stop. Just look back and see how far you’ve already come.
Editor’s note: With a distinguished career, Butler helps empower women and encourages them to follow careers in whatever field they choose. Philanthropist extraordinaire, her ties to Purdue run deep – she graduated in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science in industrial management, has served on the Purdue Research Foundation Board, Dean's Advisory Council at Krannert and as president of the University's President's Council. She received an honorary doctorate from the School in 1999, and was presented with the Business Leadership Award in 2004, and in 2006, was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels to the Purdue Board of Trustees, where she served until her term ended in 2009.