Susan Morgan’s, BS ’01, affinity for WashU began as a high school student in the Architecture Discovery Program. “There’s just something about the identity of the community in the School of Architecture that holds a strong place in my heart and is a very meaningful part of my personal and professional development,” she says. “It was clear to me, even as a high school student, that I was a part of an incredibly diverse and passionate community. The Architecture Discovery Program also is where I first met my architecture “mother”, Sandy Brennan, in whose memory I have made my planned gift,” she adds with a smile.
Sandy Brennan was a beloved staff member at the School of Architecture who became a lifelong friend to Susan and many alumni. “We were close personal friends for more than half my life,” says Susan. “She and her husband would bring homemade treats when my classmates and I were working hard. They would set up movie nights and made sure that our time at WashU was a really special and nurtured experience.”
Susan also formed lasting relationships with faculty members, many of which she maintains in her professional life. She recounts influential discussions with her professors including Bob Hansman, Jim Harris, and Gia Daskalakis among others. “Over time, each of my instructors really shaped and guided me and invested in my development,” she says. “I came to know Dean (Cynthia) Weese as well as former Dean, Constantine Michaelides. I was a student several years after his tenure, yet when I come back to campus he still remembers me.”
Professionally, Susan has successfully combined a thriving practice with a teaching career that began as a student teacher at WashU and continues today through the Boston Architectural College distance Master of Architecture program. “I’ve taught more than 270 students over the life of my teaching career, and I find that I am a better practitioner because I teach, and I’m a better teacher because I practice,” she says. As Project Manager and Associate Partner at BKV Group in Minneapolis, her practice focuses on a mix of higher education projects and public spaces including libraries and museums. Among her favorite projects are the Yawkey Student Center at Boston University and the addition to the Maine Historic Society, which included research on the landmark building and landscape, as well as working with local craftsmen to develop period-appropriate furniture and light fixtures. “I appreciate the different scales of problem solving in architecture. Whether it’s the building scale, bringing together the different people and groups, or the level of craft and detail,” she explains.
In 2011, Susan received the Sam Fox School Award for Distinction. As she approached the podium to give her prepared remarks, Dean Bruce Lindsey leaned over and said, ‘I just thought you should know, that somebody has established a scholarship in your honor.’ Unbeknownst to Susan, that person was Sandy Brennan. “That just took me out at the knees,” Susan recalls. “She died the next year, and that’s a loss that I still feel quite keenly. For Sandy to give from her heart, in my honor, it remains astounding to me and I’m incredibly grateful.”
Sandy’s sons established the Sandy Brennan Student Travel fund in her memory and Susan was among a group of alumni that contributed to the fund and solicited gifts from classmates who knew and loved Sandy. “We wanted the amount of the fund to be significant at the time it was announced – and it was. It was wonderful,” she says. Susan also has designated the university as a beneficiary of her retirement plan assets, which ultimately will endow the travel fund. “In my mind, I had planned a long-term gift to WashU. My four years in undergraduate school really shaped me, so a commitment to undergraduate traveling fellowship resonates with me deeply, both from the travel aspect as well as the undergraduate aspect,” she says. “To make that commitment now honors my relationship with Sandy, it honors her values and passion for the school,” she says. “I support the university because of the value I received both before and during my degree program, but also because of what it gave me that I’ve carried with me through my life, whether that’s my friendships, or the continued connection to faculty.”
To learn more about designating Washington University as a beneficiary of a qualified retirement plan or other planned gift, please click here.