Monday Profile: Susan E. Wagner

Bodman PLC associate Susan Wagner specializes in federal and state banking regulations, representing them regarding operational, lending and other regulatory issues. Prior to that, she spent seven years working as an in-house attorney and compliance officer in community banks in southeastern Michigan.

Wagner graduated from Wayne State University Law School in 2003. Prior to law school, she studied art history at Cleveland State University and Japanese language and culture at The University of Michigan.

Residence: Northville, but I used to live in Ann Arbor.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? It's a quiet, sunny morning. I've got a good book and the cat is sleeping on my feet.

What is your greatest fear? Homelessness. After I graduated from college in Cleveland, I really wanted to study Japanese at the University of Michigan. I couldn't afford out-of-state tuition, so I decided to move to Michigan and work in Ann Arbor for a couple of years before applying to graduate school. I had my Mom drive me to Ann Arbor and drop me off at the Y, the old one that used to be on Fifth Street. I lived in the Y for a few weeks until I found a job and a place to live. I met people who had no place to live and were close to living in a shelter, and I discovered how uncertain life can be, even for people who thought they were invulnerable.

What is the trait you hate most in yourself? I'm a perfectionist. I'm never quite satisfied with what I've done, so I keep fussing with it. I wish I could just finish a project, give it all that I've got, then put it out of my mind and move on to the next project.

What is the trait you hate most in others? I would rather be concerned with correcting traits that I don't like in myself.

If you suddenly had an extra room in your house, what would you do with it? I don't want an extra room, but I've always wanted a greenhouse so I could grow orchids.

What was your most memorable meal? I lived in Japan several years ago, and the company that I worked for was entertaining some American executives from Campbell Soup Company at a very expensive Japanese restaurant, the kind I will never be able to afford. They brought out little plates of the most elegantly-decorated food, like fish formed into the shape of a camellia blossom, and tiny, baby octopus under a thin layer of gold leaf. It wasn't the cost that amazed me, it was the detailed attention paid to turning every plate into something beautiful and delicious.

If you could take back one thing you did ...

I was really angry when my parents got divorced, and I blamed my father. In hindsight, I realize it wasn't his fault, but he passed away before I could repair our relationship.

If you could do one thing professionally? I love being an attorney.

What are your favorite websites? Ravelry--it's a knitting website. However, the website that I visit most frequently is the online Code of Federal Regulations (www.ecfr.gov). One is my favorite play website and the other is my favorite work website.

Your proudest moment(s) as a lawyer?

Being sworn in at the Washtenaw County Courthouse.

Introvert or extrovert? I'm an introvert, but I wish I were an extrovert. I've been making an effort to go somewhere other than work, home and the gym at least once a week, so I can meet at least one new person each time.

When and where were you happiest? I missed the snow when I lived in Japan, so I got up really early one morning and took a train way up into the mountains to see the snow. The view from the train was amazing. We went along some really deep gorges. When I got to the end of the line, I wandered around the village, saw some snow, then made the last train back home. I don't know if that was my happiest moment, but it was pretty good.

What's your greatest achievement? Passing the Michigan bar exam after studying hard for two months, and then passing the Ohio bar exam seven years later, after only about five weeks of studying in the evenings and weekends.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self? Don't be afraid to tackle things that you think are difficult. Even if you try and fail, keep trying. Each time you fail, you learn something, and eventually you will be able to do the thing that seemed so hard. The people who I have watched succeed are the ones who weren't afraid to try something and fail or maybe look foolish, they are the ones who persevered.

What would be your ideal job? If I could somehow combine banking regulations and Japanese language, that would be amazing.

What one habit do you wish you could break? I'm very methodic when I do things. I wish I was faster, but not careless.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? My grandma, dad, and great aunt. They're gone now and I miss them.

Who is your favorite character of fiction? Dr. Stephen Maturin. I've read all of the Patrick O'Brien "Master and Commander" books (some twice). He was a doctor, scientist, and spy who had a lot of adventures with his friend, Jonathan Aubrey, a commander in the queen's navy.

Favorite words:

"Serenity now." I used those words a lot this past summer on M-14.

Favorite movie: I have a lot of favorite movies, usually the ones shown at the Michigan Theater.

What's one thing you can do now that you couldn't do 20 years ago?

One of the partners took me to a trap shooting range, along with his daughter, and taught me how to shoot clay pigeons. It seems out of character for me, but I like to try new things, and I would definitely go trap shooting again.

What is your motto?

"A life lived in fear is a life half-lived." It's from a movie called "Strictly Ballroom."

Where would you like to be when you're 90? Healthy, active and traveling.

Published: Mon, Nov 5, 2012

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