Den Renamed “Susie’s” In Honor of Suzanne Elson

With a donation to the Campaign for Andover, Louis Elson ’80, Charter Trustee, renamed the Den “Susie’s,” in honor of his mother, Suzanne Goodman Elson. Suzanne Elson is the wife of Edward Elson ’52, Trustee Emeritus, the mother of Louis Elson, Harry Elson ’83 and Charles Elson ’77, and the grandmother of Isabel Elson ’12 and Evie Elson ’15. “I am so thrilled to have this beautiful honor done for me. I am very excited about it,” said Suzanne Elson. “[Andover is] a marvelous school and it’s been close to my heart for a long time, and this means a lot to me.” A “Susie’s” sign, a replica of Suzanne Elson’s signature, was installed on the stone exterior outside the entrance of the Den this past week. Louis Elson said, “The Den is a space that is all about community. It’s the place where students go to interact with each other, to support each other, to entertain each other, to provide sustenance for each other. That’s the spot.” He continued, “I just couldn’t think of a better way, a more fitting or more proper way, to honor my mother, who herself has been the bedrock of her own community, wherever that community has been. I don’t mean just her family. The plaque that will go up expresses my gratitude to her for her support of three generations of Andover people—her husband, her three sons and now her grandchildren–[but] she’s been someone who has always been very active in her community.” Constructed in the 1930s, the Den initially served as a smoking lounge for Uppers and Seniors. It has since evolved into a center for student activities, hosting dances, game nights and other weekend events. According to an article in The Phillipian, the Den bore the name “Ryley Room” in honor of James Ryley, Andover Boys Soccer coach from 1912 to 1946 and member of the Office of Physical Plant (OPP), until the renovation of Paresky Commons in 2009. After the renovation, the Board of Trustees gave the space an interim name, “The Den,” and designated the space as as one of the multiple “naming opportunities” for Campaign donors, according to Peter Ramsey, Secretary of the Academy. After designating a portion of his donation for Paresky Commons as part of the Campaign for Andover this past winter, Louis Elson approached the Board of Trustees and Ramsey with a request to name the Den after his mother. Ramsey said, “I think it will be fun over time. ‘Meet you at Susie’s.’” The donation will most likely not be used to fund a renovation of the Den, according to Ramsey, but Louis Elson believes that the name change will help forge a personal connection between students and the space. “I wanted it to be personal. I really wanted kids to show up in that space [and] know that there is somebody, a person, that they could identify with. I think the only thing that will happen–the only change that will be made–is that people will associate that space with a very loving and supportive person,” said Louis Elson. Ramsey said, “We haven’t had many namings on campus that are [after] women. The majority of them are men because, for nearly 200 years, we were a school for young men. I think of Tang Theatre, in memory of [Frances “Frankie” Young Tang AA’57], who went to Abbot Academy, and now we have this in honor of Susie Elson.” Louis Elson said that he initially considered honoring his mother in a way that would relate to Isham Health Center or the Graham House Counseling Center. Suzanne Elson was active in the pursuit of mental health reform in the 1970s, as she became the president of the National Mental Health Association and campaigned for legislation for mental health care. Of his family’s long history with Andover, Louis Elson said, “Each of us [the Elsons] has had a very different experience of how we came into ourselves at Andover. That’s the wonderful thing about Andover, and that’s part of why I’m so supportive of the school. It allows for individuals to develop and excel.” The official dedication ceremony will take place at noon on Grandparents’ Day, May 12.