Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
July 21, 2023 // Diocese

Susan Richter Retires after 38 Years in Catholic Education

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

“I can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t spent 38 years in Catholic education,” said Susan Richter. “I’ve enjoyed every minute.”

After 23 years at Saint Joseph High School in Mishawaka, most as Principal, Richter taught middle school social studies at St. Matthew Cathedral School for five years before retiring at the end of this past semester.

Originally from Fort Wayne, Richter earned her B.S. in 1980 and her M.A. in 1981 from Purdue, with a double major that qualified her to teach middle and high school social studies and physical education. For 10 years, she was at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Illinois, not only teaching social studies at every grade level but also serving as Assistant Athletic Director for girls’ sports, coaching basketball and track. Although she was raised Presbyterian and her husband Patric was raised Lutheran, they often attended Mass together in solidarity with the Montini school “family.”

Christopher Lushis
Susan Richter is seen here in 2018 at a reception given in her honor after retiring from administrative duties at Saint Joseph High School in South Bend.

Patric grew up in LaPorte, so the Richters were eager to return to Indiana when a sales job opened up for Patric. Susan tried staying home with her two sons, but she missed teaching young people so much that she began subbing in both Catholic and public high schools in the South Bend area, including a semester at Clay High School. In 1995, she accepted a position at Saint Joseph High School as Director of Student Life, responsible for attendance and discipline. Those were the duties of an assistant principal but she didn’t have the academic qualifications for that title, so she enrolled in Notre Dame’s ACE Program, which she described as “the best two years of education I ever had.” Older than most of her fellow students, Richter loved learning so much more about the Catholic faith. In many conversations, theology teachers at Saint Joseph urged her to follow where her heart was leading. So, she was already enrolled in RCIA by the time Bishop D’Arcy tapped her to be Principal at Saint Joseph High School. The whole family eventually joined the Church and became active at St. Joseph, South Bend.

During her tenure as Principal, Saint Joseph moved into its brand-new building, a major accomplishment. Richter calls those years the best part of her educational career, but giving her all often involved 20-hour days, until the very end of athletic contests or co-curricular activities. In fairness to her family, she decided to resign as Principal in 2018. However, she wasn’t ready to retire from teaching. When a friend told her St. Matthew Cathedral School was looking for a middle school social studies teacher, she met with the Principal, Sister Gianna Marie Webber. Before entering religious life, Sister Gianna had also been a coach and teacher, so the two hit it off right away.

Here’s what the Sister Gianna Marie said about Richter, “Susan has been a Blazer for the last five years following her retirement from administration. She is passionate about education and puts her all into her work. Susan is service-oriented and desires the best for everyone she meets and serves. She is a friend, colleague, and a beautiful daughter of God.”

Richter had never before taught middle school, reputedly the most challenging level, but “I like challenges,” she said. She taught geography (eastern and western hemisphere, respectively) to 6th and 7th grade students and U.S. history, her specialty, to 8th-graders as well as being their homeroom teacher. “My students kept me young and made me laugh every day,” culminating with teaching her the Griddy and watching in disbelief as she danced it down the hallway just before Christmas break. She’s grateful to Sister Gianna Marie and her students and their parents for the opportunity to teach at St. Matthew.

And now it’s time to retire and spend quality time with her husband during their “golden years,” however long or short. The Richters have no major travel plans but look forward to spending more time in Rome, Georgia, where their son Matthew is Assistant Basketball Coach at Berry College, which has the largest campus in the United States in square miles.

Richter hopes she’s been able to “plant a few seeds,” every educator’s job. By staying in the area, she should continue to run into former students. Some have already told her they’re living by “Richterisms,” the life lessons she considers more important than the content of her classes. “I’ve always said I teach faith first and my subject second.”

For example, “I’m a big advocate of civic responsibility,” she said, voting in every election. One of the lessons she learned from her own mother: Work hard, so hard that you’re tired at the end of each day. She could honestly tell her students she verified that at the end of every day. Another Richterism is to do your very best, since “you get out of life what you put into it.”

Richter has long made a practice of writing a letter of advice to each graduating high school senior or 8th-grader. The most important piece of advice? “Follow your passion!” For Susan Richter, that passion has been Catholic secondary education, to the benefit of her students and colleagues and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.