Longtime university staff member Susan Ramirez-Armstrong (Bio‘84) retires at the end of December after a 34-year career at CU Boulder. A thoughtful, warm and caring presence, she’s been recognized by campus for her ingenuity and for contributing to student retention and success.
Beginning in 1983, Armstrong spent five years as a payroll technician and financial aid liaison, diligently responding to the concerns of students and ensuring their voices were heard. In the ensuing years, she went on to work for several offices and departments across campus. Working as a permit coordinator and parking liaison for Parking and Transportation, she won the CU Police Department's Innovation Award for developing a tamper-resistant parking permit which helped prevent permit theft and was kept in operation until virtual permits were adopted five years ago. (Her design for a temporary permit remains in use today.)
While serving as a program assistant with Ethnic Studies, Armstrong was awarded an Equity and Excellence Staff Honorable Mention Award from CU Boulder's Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement.
After serving as a project assistant in the Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS), Armstrong transitioned to undergraduate program assistant for the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, where she remained for seven years.
A forward-facing presence in the department where many students she advised were living away from home for the first time, she took on a maternal role, earning the nickname, “Astro Mom." In 2017, during her last year with APS, she was awarded a Marinus Smith Award, which recognizes staff members who have a positive impact on the lives of CU Boulder students and their families.
In the fall 2017 APS newsletter, Department Chair Nils Halverson wrote, “Her role as ‘Astro Mom’ touched the lives of many students, providing a warm and caring face to our department, and contributing greatly to student recruitment, retention and success.”
“The students I keep in touch with still call me ‘Astro Mom,’” Armstrong says.
At ATLAS, Armstrong has continued to touch the lives of students. “Since joining the ATLAS community in October 2018, Armstrong has been a warm, helpful and welcoming presence at the ATLAS front desk,” says Stephanie Wanek, assistant director of operations for the institute. “She is always willing to help out, and she’s supported ATLAS events, activities and operations with a smile and a steady hand.”
Armstrong’s good cheer expands beyond campus; she has been a longtime activities coordinator at Balfour Senior Living in Louisville. Interested in learning more about the cognitive, psychological and social effects of aging, she was recently admitted to the Balfour Senior Living–Emerging Leaders Program, which focuses on senior living and the leadership skills needed to be successful in the senior living industry.
Besides working with seniors at Balfour, Armstrong looks forward to spending more time with her family: her husband, Jeff, her four adult children, her granddaughter, Luca Sophia, and her two dogs. She also looks forward to having time for her other interests: hiking, skiing, yoga, traveling and volunteering with Ho-Bo Care Boxer Rescue, where both Armstrong and her husband have been volunteering for 20 years in the organization’s adoption and foster programs. Other plans include volunteering with the Special Olympics, the local food bank and A Precious Child, a nonprofit providing children in need with opportunities and resources to empower them to achieve their full potential.
Armstrong is not the first member of her family to make an impact on the lives of students at CU Boulder. Her father, Albert, professor emeritus, and mother, Vera, provided support, mentorship and guidance for many years to first-generation and other underrepresented students. Earlier this year, the CU Board of Regents approved a resolution renaming the Albert and Vera Ramírez Temporary Building 1 to honor their legacy as role models and leaders who supported academic excellence, inclusivity and student success.
As Armstrong prepares to take her leave from the university, she doesn’t try to hide the feelings that come with such a major life change. “I’m sad,” she admits. “I’ve been with the university for a long time, but there are things I want to do. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”