With her mildly theatrical yet beguiling charm, Susan Lassiter makes a lasting impression that might be compared to the virtual offspring of Coco Chanel and Marilyn Monroe. An MC alumnus with Old Hollywood airs floating by in a flattering full-length mink coat, she is Mississippi College’s literature fashionista.
After graduating from Mississippi College with an English degree, she interviewed with McCrae’s, and ended up working with them for 10 years. She worked in retail as a buyer for designer clothes.
“When you travel you always need a fur coat. Fur is a necessity. Most people think it is a luxury” she said. Throughout her experiences with fashion, professor Lassiter has gotten to meet some pretty important designers including Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, and Oscar de la Renta–with whom she rode in the elevator one time and chit- chatted in front of his limousine. For her job, she traveled to New York a total of 75 times.
Professor Lassiter completed her undergraduate and graduate schooling at MC. During her time as a student here, women were held to a different standards than men. Women could leave twice a week.
They had to sign out where they were going: date night or shopping night. They had to be back by 10 p.m. Women could not wear shorts at MC; they had to wear a coat over them. Lights had to be out by midnight. If you had to study you had to have a flashlight under the sheet.
“I am proud of myself and my friends who had a little influence in changing those situations. How do you blame women for wanting what men have?” She keeps a rocket scientist Barbie as a symbol of the preservation of the equality of which she believes all women deserve.
Her office exudes her diverse appreciation for the arts including Chinese ceramics, Broadway plays, and detective fiction. Nancy Drew and BBC Sherlock are some of her favorites.
“People like the order to restore at the end. That is a part of my personality. If they do something bad they have to be punished,” she said.
Professor Lassiter has been involved in many things at MC. She was Kissimmee tribe’s sponsor for many years. She is currently involved in the national leadership society, Omicron Delta Kappa. This year marks her 25th year as faculty council president.
When offered a commemorative gift to honor her hard work, she replied, “If the diamond tiara is not available, I’ll take the pin (or pendant).”
She teaches short story, detective fiction, sophomore literature, and freshman literature. Her specialty is in American literature, from about 1918- 1939, focusing on authors such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, Lassiter’s English 102 class is tailored towards a fashion theme. She prods her students to ask questions such as, “Has real fashion ended? Is Coco Chanel the icon of the century? Why does everybody want to dress alike?” They read The End of Fashion written by Teri Agins.
After experiencing the death of her husband, professor Lassiter said, “Teaching has given me another look at life.” She explains that literature is about life. It can be difficult to apply unless you have had personal experiences in your own life from which to relate. Once you have that, it becomes important when you need it.
“It is hard to teach younger people who do not know love, pain, or death.” But the perky and glamorous, professor Lassiter remains as resilient and interesting as ever.
– Bethany Kuhn, Reporter