Susan Keene Nutter
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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.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The News and Observer & Herald Sun on Apr. 14, 2019.
Memorial service
10:30 AM
Memories & Condolences
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13 entries
June 23, 2019
May the God of all comfort strengthen the family during this time of deep sorrow. Those who pass on, God keeps in his memory because they are precious in his eyes. My sincerest condolences. (Psalms 116:15)
May 31, 2019
I feel deeply privileged to have met and been influenced by Susans quiet, listen-first approach to leadership. Looking back on the many times I interacted with her, the best way to sum up Susan is love. Love for the work, love for her team, and love for the people she served. For me, that love manifested in little things like getting new computer mice within a week of mentioning an issues with a scroll wheel. And big things, like graciously providing a home for our class gift, carillon bells, as they awaited their future home in the bell tower. Susan, we love you back. Wish I'd said that more. You leave a void here that we cannot fill, but we promise to live by your example and carry your love forward into a future that is brighter because you lived.
Jay Dawkins
April 29, 2019
April 29 2019
Susan Nutter was a dear friend of Mine.
She and I loved exchanging stories about Bart Giamatti's Baseball Quotes and his love for the Game that both Susan and I loved as well.
I will miss Susan's boundless enthusiasm and uplifting spirit. Len Pietrafesa, NC State Professor Emeritus.
April 29, 2019
Len Pietrafesa
April 29, 2019
Susan was an extraordinary library director full of vision, passion and energy! I admire her and will miss her!
Rongda Qu
April 25, 2019
I was deeply saddened by the news of Susan's passing. It was my pleasure to have known her as a library colleague while I was director of library services at Shaw University, (1988-98; 2010-16). Susan's work speaks volumes of the kind of library director and person she was: efficient, organized and always results oriented. Dr. Maya Angelou once said: "If you're going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that cannot be erased." Susan's legacy of strong leadership and commitment to education will live on forever.
To Susan's Family: May the loving memories of Susan give you strength and help to comfort you through the days ahead.

With sincere condolences,
Carolyn Y. Peterson
April 23, 2019
Susan Nutter was the first female chosen to head a library at a top
Notch University. She was hired by my husband who retired from N.C.State. In 1990. She did a wonderful job transformed the library to a state of the arts.
Gerry (Geraldine) Winstead
April 18, 2019
I only knew Susan through her work but I will forever remember her warmth and humor. She had a way of making everyone feel wanted and important. I want to send my thanks and my condolences to her family. We were blessed to have known her.
Rachel Clarke
April 17, 2019
Many thanks for her support of the TRLN , North Carolina Central University's Libraries and my professional development and service as a member of the TRLN Executive Committee. Her soft touch in recognizing me as a very different type of Librarian in a Good way was very reaffirming for me. May her soul have eternal rest and the Peace of the Lord be with her family in ALL ways, Always!.
Lionell Parker
April 16, 2019
So sorry for the family's and friends' loss. "Stylish and quietly commanding...", that would sum up my first impression of Susan when I met her a few years ago. NCSU and the Libraries have much to be thankful for in this true gem.
Michele Yates
April 15, 2019
Sincere condolences to the family and good memories of all Susan did to enhance North Carolina State University.

Jeanne J. Smoot
Professor Emerita
English Department
Jeanne Smoot
April 14, 2019
Paul Ockers
April 12, 2019
Sorry for your loss. Take time to grieve and find comfort in knowing that God is near to all those calling on him. Psalm 145:18
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