It was 1970, the year before Allentown–born Susan Kovacs would graduate from Mansfield University with a B.S.Ed. in secondary education–social studies, and the U.S. Peace Corps was holding an informational event on campus. Susan went, was encouraged by what she heard, and applied to the volunteer program in her senior year. When the invitation to serve arrived, Susan found out that she was going to be teaching English as a second language (ESL) for two years overseas. Where overseas? Majuro in the Marshall Islands (Federated States of Micronesia). “I said, ‘Where in the heck is Micronesia?’” Susan’s father, a WWII U.S. Marine veteran, pulled out a map and showed her. He knew, of course, that just after WWII ended the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests and detonated the first hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands. Still, Susan trained for three months in Hilo, Hawaii, learning a new language and becoming familiar with food options in her host country. One week after training was completed, Susan, now an unofficial U.S. ambassador of goodwill, headed to the Islands. “Having the ability to travel during the summer of 1972 throughout several island groupings of Micronesia, I was able to walk North Field on the island of Tinian. This was the departure point during WWII for the B–29 bombers Enola Gay and Bockscar, which carried the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
After Susan returned to the states in 1973, she held a number of retail management and banking positions, and in 1985 earned a B.A. in business administration–accounting from DeSales University. Across the street from her banking job in downtown Bethlehem was Pentamation Enterprises (now PowerSchool), a provider of cloud–based software in K-12 education. The company hired Susan away from the bank, where she was training tellers, to train school districts on its software. To prove how much she loved her job, Susan stayed on for 35 years. She retired in 2022.
So, why did Susan Kovacs go into the teaching and education field in the first place? “I wanted to be a history teacher. In 7th grade I had Mr. Richard Kantor for American history who made the subject so exciting and fascinating. And throughout high school and college, I never had a history teacher that could match his skills and passion for the subject and I found that disappointing.”
Susan continues to be a student of history. She came to the Old Baldy CWRT in 2008 through her beloved late husband Michael Cavanaugh, a founding member of OB who served over the years as treasurer, program chairman and twice president. They had been married for 14 years when Michael died January 7, 2020. “What a wonderful opportunity it has been to meet individuals, authors and historians with similar interests.” Susan is also a member of the Civil War Roundtable of Eastern Pennsylvania. She says she is interested in the American Civil War because it was a changing moment in the history of our country. “And it is a war that did not create separate countries, as has happened in other parts of the world, but kept the country intact as one nation.”
Susan’s biggest hobby is reading and that includes various books and biographies related to the Civil War. Her two most favorite books have been Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam by Stephen W. Sears and Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Bethlehem has a very active arts and cultural scene and Susan enjoys being part of it. There are jazz concerts at Lehigh University Zoellner Arts Center as well as classical concerts presented by the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra and Miller Symphony Hall. “And in the summer you can find me at the Bethlehem Rose Garden listening to Sunday evening local band and jazz groups.”
Profile by Kim Weaver