Susan Stitham began inspiring students at Lathrop High School shortly after earning her master’s degree at UAF in 1971. Forty years later, her influence could still be seen and heard.
“As Ms. Susan Stitham, my high school English teacher would say, it’s time I broadened my pitifully narrow horizons,” reported Curtis Thomas, explaining why he left Fairbanks in 2008 for a public affairs job with BP America in the western U.S.
Thomas was just one of hundreds of students who Stitham inspired while teaching English, government and history at Lathrop from 1972-2004. Her high standards, rapid-fire delivery and sharp wit made a class with her a memorable experience. Students asked her to speak at graduation at least a dozen times during her tenure at Lathrop. In 1991, she won a national $25,000 Milken Education Award, one of many honors earned during her career.
In her own high school years, Stitham attended Foxworth Academy in Maine. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Vermont’s Middlebury College in 1965, then returned to Foxworth to teach. After a few years, she drove to Fairbanks for a teaching assistantship at UAF. When the job ended, she stayed and began teaching middle school while earning her master’s.
Stitham served on the UA Board of Regents from 1987-1995. She then joined the state Board of Education from 1995-2002. She was active with the National Education Association at the state and national levels. She also served on the board of the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre.
Though Stitham moved to Ashland, Oregon, several years ago, she keeps in touch with the people of her former home, donates to charitable causes and comments on local and national issues through occasional letters to the newspaper editor. She also has returned in late winter to teach history and government classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Fairbanks — and to serve as auctioneer at the annual Fabulous Feminist Fundraiser for the Alaska Women’s Lobby.
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