Four Generous Generations: The Tucker, Westlake, and Steere Families
Dedication to their alma mater and community is what steers the Steeres.
Susan Westlake Steere ’81 and Tom Steere ‘80 are part of a large family of Alfred scholars, engineers, athletes, teachers, and artists who donate to the Alfred Fund each and every year, but their contributions don’t end there. This family has helped make our community what it is today.
Susan’s grandfather, Nathan Tucker, earned his BS in Ceramic Engineering from Alfred University in 1929. The Great Depression made it a difficult time to find a job in industry, so he ran a garage, grocery store, and barber shop on Main Street while his wife, Mary Pierce Tucker, worked as a nurse. They owned the land that would one day be Tucker Field (now Harrington Field) and the McLane Center, where their descendants would eventually compete and excel. The majestic spruce tree now standing between Main Street and the athletic fields was planted by the Tuckers and has survived despite lightning strikes to several nearby trees and buildings.
Nathan and Mary’s daughter and Susan’s mother, Mary Ellen Tucker Westlake, earned a BA in Latin from AU in ’53, and a MS in Education in ’54. Women’s sports were limited to intramural teams at the time, but Mary Ellen was a dedicated athlete. She played basketball, volleyball, and occasionally field hockey, and also served on the Women’s Athletic Governing Board. Mary Ellen enjoyed refereeing basketball, and under the guidance of Lavinia Creighton, she earned a National Women’s Basketball officials’ rating, a very unusual feat in those days. Also in keeping with Alfred’s culture of close-knit and caring mentorship, Dr. Stewart Nease encouraged Mary Ellen to major in Latin, his wife, Grace, taught her several forms of needle work, and together they welcomed her and other students to participate in Sodalitas Latina, the AU Latin Club, at their home. Mary Ellen would go on to teach Latin for over thirty years and, briefly, physical education, at area public schools. Thanks perhaps to the Neases’ example, her Roman banquets and Junior Classical League activities were highlights of many students’ high school years. Meanwhile, she has remained one of our most loyal and consistent donors, contributing financially to the University for 50 years and counting.
Susan and Tom Steere have continued this legacy of philanthropy and service in many ways, while raising and educating their six children at home. Susan, who completed a BS in Ceramic Science and a BA in Physics in ‘81 and a MS in Ceramic Science ‘84, currently assists our Confucius Institute. Susan remembers the friendships she formed during an exceptionally cold and snowy Allen Term (Winter Term) her freshman year, and also as a member of the soccer team and Alfred Christian Fellowship, and credits her junior semester abroad in Germany with expanding her horizons and instilling a lifelong interest in other languages and cultures. She has passed down her love of international travel to her own children.
When asked what drew him to Alfred from his native Hudson River Valley town, Tom Steere fondly recalls visiting his older brother Gordon Steere (Ceramic Engineering ’74) at AU when Tom was a young teenager. Tom felt at home in this beautiful region, and was glad he decided on Alfred when he met Susan here. Tom also credits ceramic engineering instructor Jim Funk ’54 and his wife, June Miller Funk ‘72, with taking the time to be involved mentors and friends through the Bible study at their home. Jim was thesis advisor to both Susan and Tom and even officiated at their wedding. (Coincidentally, Nathan and Mary Tucker were married by Ceramic Engineering Professor Charles Binns at AU’s Gothic Chapel in 1930.) Tom earned his BS in Ceramic Science and BA in Chemistry in ’80 and a MS in Ceramic Science in ’84. Following a career as a development engineer for Philips Lighting in Bath, NY, Tom recently began teaching part-time at the Inamori School of Engineering and the School of Business.
Both Tom and Susan now volunteer for various groups in and around Alfred, and meet with the Christian fellowship at the Gothic Chapel each Sunday. Two of their children have also graduated from AU: the former Swimming and Diving Team members Carrie Steere BFA ’08 and Dan Steere BS (Ceramic Engineering) ’11. Their sons Artemas and John are current A.U. Ceramic Engineering students. Their son James will be a senior at Alfred-Almond Central School this year, and David will be a sophomore in the family home school.
In addition to commitments to other non-profit organizations, the Steeres choose to give to the Alfred Fund each year, as they have done for decades. When asked why they give so loyally, their answer is simple: “To give back to the school that has been so important to our family and the Alfred community."