Circle K International reached a milestone in 1984 when Susan McClernon was elected the program’s first female International President. For Susan, that accomplishment has shaped her professionally and personally.
A student at the College of St. Scholastica, in Duluth, MN, she got a lot of support at the time from her school and fellow students. She had been motivated to run for a District Governor position by three of her mentors, Cecilia Burke, Ken Burke and Larry Rittgarn, each were strong advocates of female opportunity and leadership within Circle K International.
“I am happy they, and others like Durbin Keeney, kept after getting women more involved,” Susan says. “The Port of Duluth Kiwanis Club and Minn-Dak Kiwanis District were very determined and very supportive, which was a big motivator for me.”
Ultimately Susan was elected on the first ballot. Although she was slightly shocked when her name was announced, the excitement of traveling and meeting new people instantly replaced her feeling of surprise.
“One day it kicked in that I was the first female president,” she says. “I just tried to stay focused amongst all the chaos. Sometimes it was awkward being the first female president. I had to minimize it in order to stay focused.”
A leader and mentor
After obtaining her Bachelors of Science in Healthcare Administration, Susan earned Master’s and PHD degrees in the subject from the University of Minnesota. Professionally, Susan has been involved in healthcare administration for the past 30 years. She is now the CEO of Innovative Healthcare Leadership, which consults with a variety of health related clients.
Having a mission is Susan's favorite thing about healthcare management. And she enjoys teaching others business and management skills. In fact, she is also the Faculty Director of Applied Business and Health Services at the University of Minnesota and an adjunct faculty member for both the University of Minnesota and the College of St. Scholastica.
Susan has redirected her focus because she loves mentoring students and watching them succeed. Susan's faculty-director position at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities started as a part-time gig, she says, but it grew into something much larger. She found it surprising that the university did not offer an undergraduate degree in applied health services management—so she helped develop one! Susan now manages faculty who teach online classes and in the classroom, and the program’s current first group of HSM major students started in Fall 2015.
Susan also teaches three classes a year for the University of Minnesota’s Applied Business and Health Services Management programs and a masters level class annually for the College of St. Scholastica’s Health Information Management Division.
Life clearly keeps Susan busy—she also has three children who are at the ages of 14, 15 and 20—but the Kiwanis family is still very much a part of her life. In fact, Susan just served as the 2014-2015 club president of the Kiwanis Club of Friendly Duluth.
She joined her first Kiwanis club, in St. Paul, Minnesota, immediately after earning her Master's Degree in 1987—which was also the first year women were able to join. After that she was a member of a Kiwanis club in St. Petersburg, FL and Austin, Texas, and in 2005 she joined her current club.
Susan's favorite service projects are the two her club does annually , the Kiwanis Kite Fly and Kiwanis TV Auction. The Kiwanis Kite Fly is a free event that happens in conjunction with a hot air balloon festival. Luckily it is held at a large park because there are typically 3-5,000 kites given away for families to fly that day! The TV auction is exactly what it sounds like—an auction hosted over television. The event is hosted by local the Kiwanis club, with help from Key Club members, and the event typically raises around US$40,000.
“I’ve continued to give back to Kiwanis because I would never be where I am without the community service attitude and leadership skills I gained from my time spent in Circle K.”