End of one adventure; start of another

By Glenn Battishill

It’s going to be a late night for several students who have papers due in their English classes the next morning. They are sitting in the Writing Studio in Bixler working with the writing assistants there. All the lights are off except the lounge and the writing annex.

It’s that time of night where a serious debate can be made of what day it actually is.

Everyone is tired and not ready for the night of work they are about to face.

Noise echoes down the dark hall and all of the students turn to look. A light flicks on at the end of the hall and sounds of rattling can be heard, though it is unclear what is being rattled. Soft footsteps creep down the hall and a woman appears in the dark holding several mugs. Her voice is soft but confident.

“Would anyone like some tea?”

Sue Guiher-Huff never thought too much about becoming a teacher until she was in the middle of adulthood though she had loved writing ever since grade school. It wasn’t until after raising her children did Huff decide to become a teacher.

“I didn’t plan to become a teacher,” Huff said. “I just fell into it.”

When Huff attended college she initially went to study science but switched to English and philosophy after two years. She gained a Bachelor of Arts degree and she returned later to gain a Master of Education degree from Ashland College. After college she did several years as a travelling journalist on behalf of BMW who provided a motorcycle in exchange for articles.

Huff has travelled across, and camped in, every state in the United States, all of the Canadian provinces and twenty countries in Central America and Europe. She motorcycled across the country with her husband when she was between the ages of 45-65. She estimates she has spent 300,000 miles on that motorcycle.

Huff travels because she loves nature, which you can easily tell through her involvement in the ecological programs at Ashland University.

“I started Earth day here at Ashland,” Huff said. “And I helped to start the recycling program on campus.”

Additionally, Huff is a huge supporter of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence and is hoping to develop a minor in Human Conflict resolution.

Huff is often nicknamed “The Queen of the Writing Studio” and it’s a fitting title; there hasn’t been a writing studio without Sue Huff. In 1988 Huff and John Stratton were both serving as adjunct professors at Ashland and sought to start a writing center at the provost’s request. When it was created Huff served as the assistant director and took over as the director in 1990. When then renamed the writing center to “the writing studio” because she believes students are creating art when they write.

When the studio moved to Bixler a placard was installed on her door that listed her title as “Queen of the writing studio” and she has not relinquished her throne in the following two decades.

Though she does eventually plan to retire soon she has no definite time or plan.

Huff is in her 70s but carries herself with a much more youthful energy.

“I just stay around young people like students,” she said. “They teach me more than I teach them.”

The students she easily spends the most time with are the writing assistants from the writing studio, who she hand picks and helps to mentor. During her time as Queen she has personally mentored around 75 students, who she considers to be her own children.

“Every time they graduate, I am grief stricken because I think ‘how can I ever replace them?’ but then new students come in and win me over,” Huff said.

Huff has impacted students in more ways than just writing, though.

“Sue is constantly pushing her writing assistants and their students to branch out, think creatively and learn as much as they can, both in and out of the English discipline,” former writing assistant, Meghan Ellsworth, wrote in an evaluation for Huff. “My time in the Writing Studio has made me a better rounded person and writer.”

Huff said she tailors her lectures and classes according to whatever the students in her class are interested in.

“I teach writing that is applicable to everyone,” Huff said. “My philosophy is that I want to expand students horizons. I want them to learn as much from me as possible.”

Huff spends around 12 hours a day in the writing studio and has an inflatable mattress in her office if she needs to stay all night. Many students pulling all-nighters in the studio are surprised to find Huff offering them tea at the most ungodly hours in the morning.

She also keeps pillows and blankets in the writer’s annex for anyone who needs them.

There’s a picture sitting on Huff’s desk of a woman sitting at the crest of a hill, gazing at Mount McKinley in Alaska. The weather in that part of the mountains is constantly foggy but on one day in 1986 everything was clear and the mountain stood majestically against the skyline.

The picture appeals to her deep desires to travel, to learn and to occasionally stop and sit in silence. She looks at the picture every day, refusing to give up on her adventure even at her age.

“When I retire I’m not going to just sit at home,” Huff said. “I’m going to become a new person, with a new identity and a new life. I’ll move to a different state and become a stand up comedian.”

She said it will be another chapter of her life.

Another adventure.