Contrary to what one might expect, the First Lady of Union, Susie Oliver, has a modest office nestled discreetly in the obscure F hallway near Union Station.
She can always count on having an interesting week, especially since her schedule changes from day to day.
“There are no usual days,” Oliver said. “Every day is different.”
Being First Lady of Union can be a demanding role. From traveling with the Tennessee Baptist Convention to serving as president of Union’s Auxiliary, an organization that raises money for student scholarships, Oliver has plenty to tackle each week. Nevertheless, she says she gladly embraces this role while still finding the time to minister to the students at Union.
“I love the students, and I enjoy being with them,” Oliver said.
Though Oliver was recently invited to serve as the house mom for Lambda Chi during bid day, most students associate her with leading Union’s cheerleading team, where she is known as “Coach Susie.”
Because Oliver has experience teaching cheer from the elementary level through college, it was not surprising that she wanted to continue that role here at Union. In fact, Oliver was able to start the team soon after her husband, Dr. Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver became president. It is still fairly new, but Oliver and her two assistants have managed to nurture the team into a close-knit community strengthened by the love of Christ.
“I really like getting to know the girls,” Oliver said. “It gives me a group to be connected to that’s kind of my group, and I really enjoy seeing how far we come from the beginning to the end of the season.”
For students who are interested in joining the cheer team for next semester, Oliver encourages them to audition even if they have no prior experience as a cheerleader. Her only requirement is that you love Jesus, Union, and work hard as part of the team.
“We’ve been very open to people that want to just try something new,” Oliver said.
Rachel Williams, a junior social work major and Union’s cheerleading captain, understands the nervousness of trying new things. Nevertheless, she still encourages students to audition and see what it’s like.
“Trying out for the Union Cheer team was one of the best decisions I’ve made in college,” Williams said. “Getting to know Susie Oliver has been incredible. Her enthusiasm about Union and cheerleading is incredibly infectious.”
In addition to filling her role as Union’s cheerleading coach, Oliver has the privilege of both working with and watching her husband as he serves as president of Union University.
“I feel honored to walk alongside him. It’s a joy and great adventure to be with him,” Oliver said. “I feel peace about what he does…and that God has called him to this role.”
In addition to working alongside her husband, Oliver intends to continually encourage others through her love for Christ and her community.
“I would hope that I would leave a legacy for the next person and that I would be able to go to what God calls me to next…even if that’s in Jackson,” Oliver said. “I’ve just had wonderful women [in my life] that have served in this role…so hopefully I’ll continue that legacy that they have both served in as well.”
The First Lady has high expectations for herself. Nevertheless, she has already earned both the respect and support of many on Union’s campus.
“I appreciate that Coach Susie is a capable, strong leader who has a talent for seeing what needs to be done and the steps needed to get there,”said Sydney Fly, senior interdisciplinary studies major and cheerleader. “Though she is a powerhouse all on her own, she never passes up the opportunity to lift others up and give them the time to share their ideas and exercise their strengths for the betterment of the individual and of the team.”