When Susie Van Hook—then Susie Hayes—graduated from high school, going to college was a dream. With little emotional or financial support at home, if Van Hook wanted to go to college, she’d have to find a way to do it herself.
So, she did.
For three years, Van Hook worked as a secretary at an insurance company to earn money to put toward her tuition. Finally, when she’d earned enough, Van Hook enrolled at Trevecca to pursue her degree in elementary education.
“Susie genuinely loved Trevecca,” says Jim Van Hook, Susie’s husband. “Getting to go to college meant a lot to her.”
After meeting at Trevecca, Jim and Susie married in 1962. Jim was a junior; Susie a senior. After graduation, Susie began teaching elementary students, mostly first and second graders, at Schwab Elementary School in Nashville. For Susie, teaching wasn’t just a profession; it was a ministry.
“She became a fantastic first and second grade teacher,” Jim says about Susie, who passed away earlier this year. “Her students were so poor. Kids would come to school without shoes... She bathed them, bought clothes for them.”
Susie’s desire to make a difference in others’ lives—to serve and encourage—never faded. It was apparent in her family life and the way she raised her children, devoting herself to them full-time after leaving teaching. And it was apparent in her final days when she whispered a few words to Jim that ultimately resulted in the Susie Van Hook Memorial Scholarship.
“In the hospital one day—I was staying with her as much as possible,” Jim recalls, “she said, ‘I want to die penniless. I want to give it all away.’ That kind of stayed with us.”
When Susie passed away in June 2018, the family wanted to do something that honored Susie and her thirst for education.
“We got to thinking about that, about how much she loved Trevecca,” Jim says. “We thought about how some people don’t like to give flowers and there was no better place than Trevecca to give to. So, we created the scholarship.”
The Susie Van Hook Memorial Scholarship is awarded to students pursuing a degree in education with a story similar to Susie’s, students who need a little financial help to make earning a college degree a reality.
The first recipient, Jonathan Smith, who is majoring in music education, wasn’t sure he’d able to return to the University for his senior year without financial help.
“Money has always been tight in my family, and it has been no different for me in college,” he says. “If it weren’t for the Susie Van Hook Scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to return to Trevecca this fall. Money is still extremely tight, but both my parents and I can breathe a little more easily this fall.”
For the Van Hook family, it’s important to know and be involved in the lives of the students who receive the scholarship. After Smith found out he had received the scholarship, the Van Hooks took him out to lunch.
“We took him out to lunch and try to stay in touch,” Jim says. “We told him Susie’s story. We want to repeat that story every year.”
For Jim and his children, Brent and Susan, the scholarship endowed in Susie’s name is a way to invest in the university that meant so much to her as well as today’s students.
“We’re really looking for students … with situations similar to Susie’s,” Jim says. “That’s why we want public school teachers who are coming out of Trevecca. Trevecca will equip them to care for people with a ministry element. And if we can help encourage them, provide just enough financial help to push them over the hill, well, we know how much that would have meant to Susie.”
Share the Van Hooks’ commitment to Trevecca or want to give in memory of Susie? Visit give.trevecca.edu to learn more or give toward Trevecca’s endowed scholarship fund.