I Spy: Susie Harrelson cleans up CCU
Coastal Carolina University staff members work hard to keep our campus beautiful, inside and out. Susie Harrelson, first-shift supervisor in facilities, has been here for more than 20 years, and her work makes the campus shine.
Harrelson is in charge of custodial services at the Williams-Brice Recreation Center and the Hackler Golf Course. Along with her dedicated staff, she makes sure these areas remain beautiful and sanitary for the community to enjoy.
She goes beyond the call of duty. Herb Thompson, facilities coordinator for the recreation center, talked about Harrelson’s dedication—coming in on her days off to bleach the showers, detailing every nook in the building, and even looking after his son while he attended a youth camp many years ago.
“She does so much, and does it without complaining,” said Thompson. “She is such an excellent worker; a worker like her is very hard to come by.”
Harrelson has been cleaning our campus since 1993. Before that, starting in 1989, she cashed students out at the old cafeteria where the CINO Grille is now located. She moved to facilities after four years for permanent full-time work. Her CCU tenure has spanned more than two decades, and our evolving campus has left her in disbelief.
“When I started, we only had 800 students and a lot of dirt,” said Harrelson. “Now, we have more than 800 graduating and new buildings all over the area. It’s great to see this place grow.”
A native of Horry County, Harrelson lives on the farm she grew up on. Her family’s 100-acre plot between Conway and Aynor was the site of tobacco farming for five generations. Harrelson, along with her four brothers and five sisters, started helping on the family farm at the age of 5.
“Everybody knew how to work the fields,” said Harrelson, “and we would all have little chores. The chores got harder as we got older. If we could do it, we did it.”
She continued tobacco farming into the early '90s, but stopped when she and her husband of 43 years, Edward, shifted the farm’s focus to sustainable living—growing vegetables for her family’s consumption. They also raise many animals as pets, including horses, chickens, ducks, dogs and pot-bellied pigs.
“We raised our first pig in the house,” said Harrelson with a laugh. “We let him in and out as he pleased. We had to stop because he got to be 300 pounds, and that’s too big!”
The farm is no longer 100 acres, but has enough space for her and Edward’s home as well as a house for her 37-year-old son, Shane. She has another son, Sammie, 42, and a daughter, Stephanie, 32.
When she is not tending to her vegetables or animals, Harrelson can be found working on a new birdhouse, and occasionally the wail of her dirt bike will echo across her property. She doesn’t ride it too often, but it gives her a much-needed bike-fix. She and Edward were once avid motorcycle riders, but their bikes are becoming too heavy for either to hold up.
Over the past few months, CCU has missed seeing Harrelson around campus. She was recently out for seven weeks with a wrist injury, came back for two weeks, and took another leave as Edward underwent much-needed heart surgery, a follow-up procedure to cardiac work he had done more than 20 years ago. Her wrist has healed, and Edward is doing well, so she is back to work and loving it.
“I love working here,” said Harrelson. “I am a people-person, and the people here are just so friendly. It’s great to be back.”
There is one drawback to working here, according to Harrelson. “I enjoy watching the students grow up,” said Harrelson, “but it’s awfully hard to see them go.”
Harrelson, 63, has contemplated her retirement, although she acknowledged that she has a few years of work left in her. She looks forward to traveling as well as spending more time with her seven grand-kids.
“It will be a sad day when she decides to retire,” said Thompson. “It’s been such a pleasure working for her, and we’re going to miss her a lot.”
Perhaps the job she does goes unnoticed to many in the campus community. But next time you visit the recreation center or decide to tee it up at Hackler, take a moment to consider the work that went into making that area clean. Behind that shine is some elbow-grease, and behind that elbow-grease is Susie Harrelson and her dedicated staff.
“Susie is loyal, trustworthy, dependable and honest,” said Barbara Scott, superintendent of facilities. “She takes a lot of pride in her work, and I am very proud to have her as my assistant supervisor.”