Each day, as Lauren Wilkinson ’23 finishes reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with her fifth-grade class at Hood Elementary School in Lynn, Massachusetts, the recent Colby-Sawyer graduate pauses to say, “Thank you.”
Wilkinson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in child development education prep, isn’t thanking one of her students or a teacher’s assistant. In fact, she’s not thanking anyone associated with the school. Instead, the 22-year-old Massachusetts native, born just 13 days prior to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, makes a point each day of thanking an inspiration she never actually met.
“If I could say something to Sue today, it would be ‘thank you,’ ” said Wilkinson, referring to the namesake of the Susan L. Blair ’88 Memorial Scholarship, of which she was the most recent recipient. “So each morning I remember to say thank you. Thank you for inspiring me to always set a goal and to go after it. Thank you for reminding me to live every day to the fullest and surrounded by the people I love. And thank you for motivating me to be the best educator I can be.”
Susan Blair '88, whose mother, Sally Trussell White ’59, and sister, Leslie Blair ’83, also attended Colby-Sawyer, had dreams of one day becoming a child educator herself and had even taken the step of beginning night classes in pursuit of that dream. But on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, while working at Aon Insurance on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower, Blair’s dreams — and those of 2,976 others — came to a sudden and tragic end.
Though Blair never realized her dream of becoming a teacher, her family, along with friends and Colby-Sawyer classmates, have ensured that others can. In 2002, the Susan L. Blair ’88 Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in Susan’s honor to support female students majoring in Colby-Sawyer’s child development prep or education programs. Since its creation, the Susan L. Blair ’88 Memorial Scholarship Fund has granted more than $115,000 to 27 students.
“My mother and I are so proud that, through Susan's legacy and scholarship, we are able to support students pursuing their own dreams of making a difference in the lives of children,” Leslie Blair said. “It is incredibly gratifying to see Lauren achieve her academic goals and begin her next chapter. In a way, I feel as though Sue's dream lives on through Lauren. And I know that Lauren will be an amazing teacher.”
Earlier this month, Wilkinson – joined by members of Susan’s family and some of her longtime friends — attended a ceremony hosted by the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund commemorating the 22nd anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Wilkinson said she enjoyed hearing stories about Susan’s time at Colby-Sawyer and her passion for the well-being of children.
For Wilkinson, who credits the scholarship for inspiring her to complete the requirements necessary to earn her bachelor’s degree, the event served as a way for her to connect personally with someone she said she would have undoubtedly gravitated toward.
“She was clearly a loving, funny and deeply compassionate individual,” Wilkinson said. “She had a love for her nieces and nephews, and I could tell from the stories that she was always meant to be an educator. Her stories have influenced the way I live my life by reminding me to always make time for important moments and to be there for the people who love you.”
For her part, Leslie Blair said her meeting with Wilkinson was equally gratifying.
“My mother and I always delight in reading letters from scholarship recipients but we had never met anyone in person,” Leslie Blair explained. “I was just thrilled to meet Lauren. She really reminded me of Sue’s genuine and joyful nature and I couldn't help but give her a big hug when we met face to face. She told me that she shared this experience with her class and all of her students had questions about Sue and about the history of Sept. 11. That is really the point of legacy, of history, of teaching. I'm so happy for Lauren and for her class. Those students are the real winners in this story.”
For more information about the Susan L. Blair ’88 Memorial Scholarship Fund, or to make a gift, contact the Office of College Advancement at (603) 526-3426 or email@example.com.