When President David Roe retired from Central in 2010, Ardith Sutphen ’64 (known around campus as Ardie) had a flashback to the moment that brought her to Central in the first place. As a secretary at Second Reformed Church in Pella in the 1970s, the third pastor in seven years left, and she made up her mind: “I’m not going through this again.” In 1979, she got a job in the clerical pool in the admission office.
By 2010, Ardith had served as assistant to three presidents and one interim president couldn’t imagine taking on a fifth. Retirement seemed the only answer. But as she served on the search committee for the new president, Ardie found herself strangely enthused. The candidate they decided on, current president Mark Putnam, felt like a good fit for Central and for her own personality. She decided to stay for two more years to help him get situated, but now “the training wheels are off,” as Putnam puts it.
This summer, Ardie began to feel that it was time to retire, and she left her post in August. “The last week I was there, it was funny to think I had been sitting in that same spot for so many years,” she says.
Ardie was hired as executive assistant to the president in 1985, after six years doing data entry in the admission office. Before applying, she consulted with her family, since the new position would mean working summers, too. They supported her decision, and she served Dr. Kenneth Weller for the last five years of his presidency.
Next came President Wiebenga for seven years, Dr. Thomas Iverson for one as interim president and Roe for nearly 13. Under the last, Ardie began taking on more responsibility, and she appreciated the confidence the new president had in her. She also began planning the annual board retreats—a five-day working trip away from campus. Over the years, she became especially close with the members of the board of trustees, and her favorite part of the job was their on-campus meetings. The board gave her a special send-off after their recent meeting in October.
“Ardie is the best executive assistant I ever had in more than 25 years of senior executive positions in the Air Force, financial services world and academe,” says Roe. “In my remarks at the board celebration of her service, I referred to her as the Matriarch of Central College because everyone on campus, in Pella or otherwise connected to Central knew the person to go to for answers about Central was Ardie. The good news is that she will always be involved in helping the college, particularly its students.”
Everyone on campus appreciated Ardie and her work, but none more so than her husband Dave Sutphen ’61, vice president for advancement. “I’ve been fortunate to be married to this woman for 50 years,” he says. “I could write a book about what a great person she is—as a wife, mother and grandmother.”
Central College is a huge part of the Sutphens’ professional and personal lives. They often attend athletic and music events on campus and count alumni, faculty and staff among their friends and family. Both their children, Tamre Logan ’89 and Todd ’85, along with their daughter-in-law Valerie Newendorp Sutphen ’85, attended Central.
When Dave began working at Central in 2000, Ardie was there to help fill in his knowledge of the school. She often went on fundraising trips with him, explaining to donors what makes Central College special.
“Ardie has devoted her life to Central College,” says Dave. “She did her job with dignity and integrity. She is just a great person—kind, always willing to serve others. Working at Central was the way she felt she could do that.”
Although she assisted the president for 33 years, Ardie felt her work directly affected students. She is even considering a part-time job on campus so she can stay close to them. “It’s so rewarding to see a freshman come in and how we help them grow until they are seniors.”
For now, Ardie is reading mystery novels and helping with the bookkeeping for her daughter’s online business. She misses being on campus every day but enjoys the evenings she spends with Dave, instead of working late or running errands.
The whole college is feeling her absence, though, especially the president’s office. “Ardie has had a profound and consistent influence on the strengths of the college,” says Putnam. “People looked to her for stability; she reached out and connected to so many. Ardie personifies a steady hand, warm heart and friendly smile.”
Watch the video shown at Ardie’s retirement party.