Limelight on Ron Smout Award for Teaching and Mentoring – Sue Weinreis

Throughout the series we will be going back to past Ron Smout recipients and finding out their story to becoming a teacher/mentor and their words of wisdom. The sevent Limelight is on Sue Weinreis

Q: It’s been 5 years since you received the award. How has it changed your outlook?

A: I was stunned when I received The Ron Smout Award for Teaching and Mentoring.  I never DREAMED I would qualify for it.  When I think of Ron –  kind, quiet, steady, unassuming, always supportive, always keeping in the background – well, it certainly doesn’t sound like ME – boisterous, crazy, obnoxious, and always just a little “out there.”   Did it change my outlook?  Yes, most certainly it has changed my view of myself.  I find myself assuming more of a “Ron Smout” approach  –  I try to keep in the background a little more, tone it down, guide gently.  Sometimes….I almost have it….

Q: Did you feel more pressure/incentive to do more mentoring after you received the award? 

A: But of course!  Who wouldn’t?  I have to keep up the illusion, right? 😉

Q: We all have days when we’d like to just walk away from this profession. If you weren’t in financial aid, what would you be doing?

A: Having a little adventure. Backpacking. Gardening.  Hiking.  Skiing.  Geocaching. Reading. Traveling.  Birding.  Making a cake with my granddaughter.

Q: A piece of advice you’ve consistently given to others? 

A: The advice that was given to me by one of the Super Men – tors, Larry Viterna:  “Dare to step out of your Comfort Zone.”  He said, as he conned asked me to co-chair Summer Institute with him waaay back in 1991.  I wanted to say NO – I felt so inadequate.   But Larry promised to support me in every way.  And that’s the second part of mentoring.  If you encourage people to jump, then you better be waiting at the bottom to catch them, prop them up, dry their tears, whatever it takes.

Q: Best advice you’ve been given?

A: The best advice I’ve been given was from another on the Super Men – tors, Jim Swanson.  I will never forget what he said when he accepted the position of RMASFAA President and gave his inaugural address.  He used the word “lagniappe,” to give that little extra bit – to go above and beyond – the extra muffin in the baker’s dozen.  I always try to do that, for a student, for a colleague, for my family, for myself.

Q: Favorite breakfast cereal?  

A: Steel-cut oats, no sugar, with apples and walnuts.  4x/week – it’ll cure what ails ya.  Promise.

Q: How have you seen the profession change? 

A: Too many ways to count and the best is yet to come.

Q: Who was one of your most memorable mentors and why? 

A: I’ve just named two Super Men – tors out of so many people.  Melina Hawkins, of course, would have to be the most memorable of all.  She took a chance and hired me when I didn’t even know what a student loan was.  She sent me to Summer Institute, MASFAA and RMASFAA meetings, and saw that I had the training I needed.  Then she allowed me to get involved in professional activities, while she kept in the background.  She was quiet and wise and kind and tough.  Kind of like Ron Smout.  She was my boss for 20 years and my friend for 30+ years.  As I look toward retirement, I hope that I can make my “after-financial-aid-life” as fulfilling and successful as she has made hers.

Q: Favorite vacation spot? 

A: Copper Canyon in northern Mexico.  Or South Africa. Or Ireland. Or Nepal. Or Cuba.  Or….someplace I’ve never been before?

Q: When you were very young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: A teacher, just like my mom and grandma.

Q: Anything you’d like to add….

A: So many role models I didn’t mention – I am proud to call Financial Aid my profession, and even prouder to call each one of you “Friend.”  I hope you get a kick out of the picture.  Now you know the “real” me.  Oh, wait…you always did.


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