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Thursday January 20th

Susan Moeser Settles Into UNC As Mentor, Music Enthusiast

With bright red hair and blue eyes, the wife of UNC's ninth chancellor stands out in a crowd.

But her appearance and her marriage to the University's man-in-charge are not the only things that make Susan Dickerson Moeser unique.

An avid sports fan, an accomplished organist, a marathon runner, a cook and a lover of the outdoors, Susan is lucky if she can find time during the day to catch her breath.

Born in rural Kansas into a family that "bleeds Jayhawk blood," Susan began playing the piano before she could even read, which helped set the course for her lifelong passion for music.

After watching a teenage boy play the organ at her family's church, Susan decided at age 14 to focus her musical efforts on the popular church instrument.

"(The organ) is a very challenging instrument," she said. "There is a different array of sounds and keyboards to choose from, which makes each organ unique."

Susan, who is active in the American Guild of Organists, has performed concerts at sites all over the world, including Westminster Abbey and Portugal, Germany and South Korea.

Although Susan set her sights on music early in her life, little did she know that her love of music would also lead her to her husband, who is an accomplished organist as well.

The two met at the University of Kansas while Susan was getting her doctorate in musical arts and James Moeser was a faculty member at the university. They quickly developed a friendship - one that Susan said progressed over the years.

"We knew each other for years before marrying," she said. "When we moved away from Kansas and lived in different cities, our relationship grew even stronger."

In 1987, the couple married and began their life together.

As James worked his way up the administrative ladder at Pennsylvania State University, the University of South Carolina and then the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Susan held faculty appointments teaching organ and music theory.

Despite their busy schedules, Susan said she and her husband, who has two children from a previous marriage, have always made an effort to spend quality time together.

With their common musical bond, the couple has even performed an organ concert together.

"The last time James and I played together, we did a concert in Portugal," she said. "It was a glorious experience for both of us."

In addition to her passion for music, Susan said she also enjoys running, hiking and tennis. Having run several marathons, Susan said she likes getting outdoors everyday and staying active.

"The last marathon I ran was in 1997," she said. "I need to run in another one if I still want to call myself a marathon runner, though."

Susan, who practices the organ nearly every day at area churches, said her husband has been very supportive of her hobbies, even during the most stressful times of his job.

"There's not enough room in the paper for all the things to say about James," she said. "He has a wonderful sense of humor and spontaneity. He can shift gears so easily."

Because James has held administrative positions at several universities around the country, Susan said she has learned how to make a smooth transition between places.

"Whenever we move, it's a little awkward until I get my feet on the ground," she said. "But I already feel like Chapel Hill is home."

Susan, who mentors a UNC freshman as part of the Carolina Leadership Development's WOMENtoring program, said she might teach organ lessons on a part-time basis at UNC in the future.

But right now, she has been busy settling into her new home and travelling with her husband in his campaign to boost support for the $3.1 billion higher education bond referendum.

From day one at UNC, Susan said, the University community has welcomed her and the chancellor with open arms.

"The atmosphere at UNC is special," she said. "Students stop and introduce themselves. All the people associated with the University are wonderful."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.


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