Susan Keene Nutter
Susan Keene Nutter, North Carolina State University's dynamic and innovative former Vice Provost and Director of Libraries, died on Monday, March 25, 2019 of natural causes in Durham, NC. Nutter was recognized internationally as a visionary in the academic library world. She was so dedicated to enabling others' success that her impact will be felt far and wide for generations. Countless research library directors, other library leaders, and new librarians were inspired, encouraged, and mentored by Susan Nutter. Craig Dykers, Founding Partner of Snøhetta, the architectural firm that designed the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at NC State, captured her "force of nature" personality when he said that she made "passion" a verb rather than a noun.
Nutter is best known for spearheading the development of the iconic and award-winning James B. Hunt Jr. Library at NC State, which created a new model for how academic libraries can be a platform for teaching, learning, and research through a blend of dramatic and inclusive architecture, collaborative spaces, and innovative technology that places the library at the very core of student and faculty life. Beyond the physical space, her devotion to excellence propelled NC State's library system from a middling position among research libraries to one of national and international renown. She grew the Libraries' collections from 1.5 million volumes in 1990 to 5.2 million in 2017 and invested significantly in online access to digital resources. In 2016, Michelle Obama bestowed the National Medal for Museum and Library Services on the NC State University Libraries, which Nutter accepted at the White House on the Libraries' behalf.
Stylish and quietly commanding, Nutter led the library through a period of tremendous change, when computers and the Internet came to compete with book stacks and microfilm as deposits of knowledge. Her vision for libraries and scholarships in the digital age was nothing short of prophetic and stemmed from her early-career work on the pioneering Project Intrex at MIT, a national incubator for computer-centric library sciences, which instilled in her an ability to predict library trends and needs years in advance. This special talent of hers was appropriately summed up by Jay Dawkins, NC State's '08-'09 Student Body President: "As time went on, I saw one student need after another directly addressed by Susan and her wonderful staff. And not only does the Libraries listen--it anticipates. Our needs started being met before they even occurred to us."
Nutter created a staff that, in the words of the NC State University Chancellor W. Randolph Woodson, was "on fire to push the envelope of what can be done to make our students and faculty more successful, more alive to the possibilities of a life on the edge of innovation." She was beloved by her staff, and, with them, she also had great fun; they reveled in each other's foibles as well as their strengths.
Nutter's many honors and awards include the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Hugh C. Atkinson Memorial Award (1999), the 2005 Library Journal "Librarian of the Year," and the 2016 ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. Under her leadership, the NC State University Libraries was the first university library to win the ACRL "Excellence in Academic Libraries Award."
In describing her career, Nutter said, "I have tried to make the academic/research library strategic and essential to the university's mission and competitiveness, to make a real difference for faculty and student success, and to contribute in a powerful way to the development of the next generations of librarians and library leaders. To be successful in doing this is what brings me the greatest joy."
Nutter was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Attorney Edmund Winslow Nutter and Dorothy Hilmer Nutter. She was raised in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. She held a B.A. in American Literature from Colby College (1966) and an MSLS from Simmons College (1968). Before arriving at NC State in 1987, Nutter was Associate Director of Barker Engineering Library at MIT and a Council on Library Resources Academic Library Management Intern at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Nutter was predeceased in December by her beloved husband, best friend, and creative colleague, Joe Anderson Hewitt, former Vice Provost and University Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is survived and mourned by her sister, Deborah Winslow Nutter, Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Practice at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; her brother-in-law Alan Huntington Rutan; her niece Carolyn Schickel of London; and her nephew Todd Miner of Jacksonville; and their families, as well as her stepson Stephen Hewitt of Durham.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, May 31 at 10:30 a.m. at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, NC State University, Raleigh, NC. Contributions may be made to the Libraries' Susan K. Nutter Innovative Leadership Fund.
Published in The News and Observer & Herald Sun on Apr. 14, 2019.