Susan Masewicz

Viterbo Alumna’s Legacy Lives On

The family members of the late Viterbo University alumna Susan Masewicz ’74 had gathered in Seattle to attend a memorial service held in her honor by her co-workers. To say the least, they were surprised with what they heard. “It blew us away,” her brother Marty Masewicz said. “We knew she worked hard, but we didn’t know how important the work she was doing was. She was recognized by people from around the world.” After earning her bachelor of science degree from Viterbo, Susan Masewicz had spent her 30-year professional career doing ground-breaking work, researching the cells in blood that determine immune responses during her career at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle. Her life was cut short at the age of 53 in July 2006 after a brief but courageous fight with ovarian cancer. Her important work and her legacy will go on, thanks to the generosity of her brothers and sister. “I said, ‘Let’s think of what Susan would do,’” said Marty, who along with his brother Robert and sister Cathy, had inherited Susan’s estate. Marty had been the closest to Susan, often visiting her from his home in Alaska. “We could all buy new cars, or we could do something good with the money.” Wanting to help future scientists, the Masewicz family gave a $52,000 gift to Viterbo University, to be used to help students interested in cellular research. They also made a $52,000 gift to the Benaroya Research Institute. Viterbo’s vice president for institutional advancement, Gary Klein, said the Viterbo community is very proud of Susan Masewicz’s many accomplishments and is grateful for the opportunity to continue her legacy through her estate gift. “Although I only met and spoke with Susan once, her passion for life and her work were quite obvious,” Klein said. “Susan’s gift will create an endowment to sponsor summer research for students at Viterbo.” The Masewicz family selected Viterbo as a beneficiary of Susan’s estate because Susan had held the university in high regard and was very happy with the education she had received. The science department also provided a natural outlet to assist students in cellular research. “Viterbo definitely set her off on the right path,” Marty Masewicz said. “Viterbo was exactly what she was looking for, and she did outstanding there.” A La Crescent, Minn. native, Susan Masewicz was born July 26, 1952, the oldest child of Edwin and Charlotte Masewicz. “Susan was a joy to work with,” said Ron Amel, the long-time chemistry professor at Viterbo who taught Masewicz organic chemistry. “She was an excellent student who was very hard-working and conscientious. It’s not surprising to me that she did well.” At the end of her life, she had been working on an extremely important project, attempting to understand how disease-causing autoimmune T-cells become resistant to therapy. Many important doctors and scientists had trained under her care. The large crowd and kind words at the memorial service did a great deal to comfort he and his grieving family members, he said. He fondly remembers his sister as an “easy-going, good natured person who just enjoyed each day to the fullest.” Her life ended sooner than it should have. Her memory and her legacy certainly won’t.