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MSU Law professor enters Women’s Hall of Fame

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Given the number of hats she’s worn throughout her career – attorney, journalist, professor, press secretary, author, Episcopal priest – Sue Carter was bound to win a number of awards and honors.
And she has.

Carter, 65, of East Lansing, has won three Emmy Awards, claimed the UPI National Sports Broadcasting Award for her coverage of the 1990 Detroit Free Press International Marathon – while running in it, no less, was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 2007, and was a recipient of the Martha Rayne Award for Media Research in 2000.

It doesn’t stop there.

On October 29, Carter was one of six women inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of Michigan State University. These six women were chosen from more than 100 nominees.

The other five inductees are Jocelyn Benson, dean of the Wayne State University Law School and the youngest woman to lead a Top 100 law school in U.S. history; U.S. Rep. Candice S. Miller, who was the first female Secretary of State of Michigan; consumer rights advocate Esther K. Shapiro, who was appointed the first director of Detroit’s Consumer Affairs Department; Linda M. Woods, a social worker who’s promoted understanding of Native American culture and a U.S. Air Force veteran who served during Vietnam and the only female in the nation to carry an Eagle Staff, which is an esteemed symbol in Native American culture, on behalf of women veterans.

“I was thrilled and quite surprised. I was absolutely blown away when I learned of my nomination because it’s a remarkable group of women,” said Carter, a professor in the MSU School of Journalism and an associate rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lansing. “It still hasn’t really sunk in. It’s a huge honor – almost too much to embrace all the sudden.”

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Carter – the oldest of three – spent her early years in France. Her father Ned Carter was a civilian adviser/contract negotiator to the USAF and she attended NATO-sponsored schools with classmates from many different walks of life.

“I learned a lot of about the Muslims and the Turks as a kid,” said Carter, who speaks fluent French.

Her family returned to the United States and settled in Niles, Mich. in 1964. She graduated from Niles High School in 1968. Upon graduation, she attended MSU with the hopes of becoming a French teacher.
However, the late 1960s were a turbulent time in America, given the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the election of Richard M. Nixon as the 37th President, and the Vietnam War.
This sparked her interest in politics.

That interest led to her career in broadcasting. She was the first woman to join the news staff the Lansing-based radio station WVIC-AM (730 AM), which was fortuitous for her because this was during a time when radio stations were encouraging diversity. Other firsts in her broadcasting career include being the first woman announcer for the MSU women’s basketball team, being the first woman to join the news staff at WXYZ-AM in Detroit, being the first woman news director at WAVZ-AM (1320 AM) in New Haven, Conn. and at WABX (FM 99) in Detroit. All these firsts made her a trailblazer for women in broadcasting.

Other jobs in broadcasting including being an anchor and reporter for WWJ (950 AM) in Detroit and being a talk show host for the above-mentioned WXYZ-AM, which was the radio station of WXYZ-TV (Channel 7 in Detroit). Additionally, Carter was editorial director at WDIV-TV (Channel 4 in Detroit). 

“I fell in love with (broadcasting). It was made for me. I fully embraced it with passion. I enjoyed every day (in broadcasting),” she fondly recalled.    

Carter has taught journalism and law at MSU since 1991. Besides teaching at MSU, Carter also was the Secretary of the Board of Trustees and executive assistant to then-President M. Peter McPherson from 2002-05, as well as the sesquicentennial director in 2005. Currently, she is MSU’s faculty athletic representative to the NCAA and the Big Ten.

Prior to coming to MSU, Carter taught journalism at Wayne State from 1989-91. She also served as press secretary to Gov. James J. Blanchard from 1982-83.

“That was during (Blanchard’s) first term,” said Carter. “It was an interesting experience, but I preferred being a journalist.”

Carter graduated in MSU with her undergraduate degree in humanities in 1984. She joked about being on a 16-year plan since her broadcasting career took her out of the classroom and into the thick of it. From there, she earned her juris doctor from Wayne State and a graduate degree in history in 1988 and 1991, respectively.

“When I was at Channel 4, one day I looked around the newsroom and didn’t see many 50-year-old women working in the newsroom. My ticket to survival was education,” she said. “I was always interested in law. It helps us understand how we order our society.”

Her desire to learn didn’t end there. She earned her Master of Divinity from the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York City in 2009 and her Doctorate in Ministry from the Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. in 2013. Currently, Carter is currently working on her doctorate in history from MSU with a projected graduation date of 2018.

“MSU is the alpha and the omega – I started here, I will end here,” said Carter. “I’ve always enjoyed being around academics.”

One of the highlights of her career – and her life – was leading the first all-women’s ski expedition from Russia to the North Pole almost 15 years ago.

“I had seen an article about a woman from Marquette who wanted to lead an all-women’s ski expedition to the North Pole (in the early 1990s),” recalled Carter. “I thought, ‘Not without me she’s not.’”

After several false starts, this team of 12 – under Carter’s leadership – spent an entire month in Russia and nine days on the ice, setting out on April 12, 2001 and reaching the North Pole by April 24, 2001.
Sponsored by Women Quest and monitored via webcast by NASA, it took several years of preparation and training for them to brave the elements in an unforgiving environment that could’ve easily killed them. For instance, they traveled more than 150 miles on skis in subzero conditions. Their biggest challenge was staying warm. Other challenges included encountering leads – these are large rifts in the ice that are filled with open water. 

During webcasts, Carter described their experiences along the way. This expedition also conducted the first educational webcast from the top of the world.

All throughout the trip, they maintained telephone contact via satellite with Michigan-based middle school students who monitored their progress from the confines of their classroom. Carter wanted this expedition to foster in girls a sense of empowerment.

“We wanted to encourage them to dream big and to pursue those dreams,” said Carter, who wrote a book about her adventure in the North Pole called “Ordinary Women: An Arctic Adventure” (Michigan State University Press $29.99).

A few years after returning from this expedition, Carter found herself undergoing a “process of discernment” and decided to enter the seminary and on a path to becoming an Episcopal priest.

“I’ve been thankful to be able to stretch across multiple realms,” said Carter. “It’s a privilege to work at MSU and a joy to be part of the church.”

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