Sunday, March 8, 1998
Susan Tew
Takes her faith to volunteer work

BY JOHN JOHNSTON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

1997 Women of the Year
Susan Tew, in the backyard of her Mount Lookout home, enjoys the personal interaction of her ''kitchen-table ministry.''
(Yoni Pozner photo)
| ZOOM |

Susan Tew builds small communities through Christian commitment and caring.

She has ministered to grieving families, performing artists, women who study Scripture in her home, students, visitors from foreign lands, homeless people and others. Her efforts are like pieces of a patchwork quilt that form a fabric to better the entire community.

"I've been afforded the great luxury of time," Mrs. Tew says in her Hyde Park home. "I feel like that's a real blessing. Also a responsibility."

Her husband, Dr. John M. Tew, is chairman of neurosurgery at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. They have three grown children. And while she says that being a full-time wife and mother has been her most satisfying role, it is not the only one.

When her husband was on the staff of Good Samaritan Hospital in the early 1980s, she co-founded the Good Samaritans, a group that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the hospital. But she especially enjoys the personal interaction of what she calls "kitchen-table ministry." It includes attending to the needs of her husband's patients and their families. That's how she met Emily Albers Davis, whose husband, Dr. Kenneth Albers, died from a brain tumor 10 years ago.

"Susan was not only there at the funeral as a wonderful support, but continued to call, send notes and express in countless ways her love and concern for me and my children. It's something I will never forget," Mrs. Davis wrote in her nomination letter.

Mrs. Davis attends one of two ecumenical Scripture study groups that meet monthly in Mrs. Tew's home. From those groups has sprung Rites of Spring, an annual event that sometimes includes songs, plays or stories with Gospel themes.

"It's a way for the women involved in the Bible study to invite their friends, to see who else is involved, and see what kind of spirit this group has, what kind of life it has," Mrs. Tew says.

Mrs. Tew's interest in spiritual matters often spills over into her volunteer work.

A former grade school and high school teacher and product of a Catholic education, Mrs. Tew gives back by serving on the boards of the Catholic Inner City Schools Education Fund and Purcell Marian High School.

She's a parishioner at Xavier University's Bellarmine Chapel, where she serves on the adult education team and the bereavement committee. In the latter role, she assists other parishioners with funeral planning and the grieving process.

Susan Tew
  • Born: Cincinnati.
  • Home: Hyde Park.
  • Activities: Purcell Marian High School board; Catholic Inner City Schools Education Fund board; adult education team and bereavement committee at Xavier University's Bellarmine Chapel; hosts two ecumenical Bible study groups that meet monthly in her home; helping establish a Contemplative Outreach Program in Cincinnati.
  • Family: Married 31 years to Dr. John M. Tew. Children: Margaret, 30, works for an adventure travel company in San Francisco; Mat, 29, and his wife, Nicole, live in Park City, Utah, where he sells neurosurgical devices; Neal, 26, is a monk in a French-speaking order in Italy.
  • Education: Ursuline Academy; bachelor's degree in history from Trinity College, Washington; master's in urban education from University of Pennsylvania. Has participated in the Lay Pastoral Ministry program at the Athenaeum of Ohio, Mount Washington.
  • Best advice received: ''To those who have been given much, much is expected.'' (From Sister Margaret Clayton, president of Trinity College.)
  • She served nine years on the board - three as chairman - of Fountain Square Fools, a traveling Christian theater company that disbanded about two years ago. She led fund-raising efforts, organized retreats and helped clarify the organization's goals, but emphasizes that she was part of a team.

    "My favorite form of leadership is the collaborative, collective kind . . . . When you can facilitate and awaken a group of people and feel the pulse, that's when it's really exciting."

    She helped create the Shepherd Center in Hyde Park. There, she says, people of all faiths "could be nurtured in silence, and (participate) in workshops and activities that provided spiritual enrichment." Though the center no longer exists as such, "the spirit continues to percolate in the community," she says, and "people are not so timid about crossing church lines."

    Indeed, one of Mrs. Tew's strengths is her willingness to embrace all people.

    "Age differences, differences in religious conviction, race, nationality or cultural background may form barriers to understanding and acceptance for many of us, but for her they do not," Naomi Tucker Stoehr, who has attended Bible study in Mrs. Tew's home, wrote in her nomination letter.

    Once a month, Mrs. Tew prepares and serves meals at Tender Mercies, an Over-the-Rhine agency that provides housing for homeless and mentally ill people.

    And in the years when her children were growing up, Mrs. Tew created a kind of cultural exchange in her home by hosting young people from Asia, South America and Europe, each of whom lived with her family for a year. The Tews became acquainted with the guests and their parents through Dr. Tew's world travels to lectures, conferences and the like.

    "It's been a wonderfully reciprocal kind of relationship. We were enriched as much by that experience" as the guests were, she says.

    She also has opened her home for church activities and fine arts functions and fund-raisers.

    For Mrs. Tew, all this is more than a patchwork quilt of good deeds. "Each encounter is a way of revealing that deep Truth with a capital T. The providence of God in everything. Everything is a gift."

    Juanita M. Adams | Rebecca Bechhold | Sarah Blanken | Shannon Carter
    Susan S. Friedlander | Barbara Gould | Margaret Richards | Susan Tew
    Judith Van Ginkel | Kathy Wade
    Cover | Introduction | Previous winners