You may have met her at Camp War Eagle, taken her Sports Officiating class, or maybe you've seen her on Sunday morning as an usher at the Auburn United Methodist Church 8 a.m. traditional service. But how much do you really know about "The Nun"?
Susan Nunnelly began her freshman year at Auburn University in 1966 where she was involved with recreational sports and the Auburn University Band. She lived in Alumni Hall (now Ingram Hall) in the heart of downtown, then moved to The Hill, where she became a part of the first class to live in The Hill dorms.
“I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything,” she said. “I loved dorm life.”
Despite popular belief, The Nun did not get her nickname because of any involvement with a catholic church. It all started her freshman year at Auburn where she had a roommate who was also named Susan. As you can imagine, it would get confusing when someone called the dorm for Susan, so the “desk girls” began calling them by their last names and shortened Nunnelly to Nun. Other students in the dorm picked up on it, and it has stuck with her to this day.
After graduating from Auburn, she was offered an assistantship for graduate school at the University of Tennessee. However, when her mother became ill, Nunnelly decided to stay close to home, Hueytown, Alabama, where she taught at Berry High School (now Hoover) for one year. After that, she obtained an assistantship to study at Auburn. Once she finished her graduate work in 1972, she was hired in the physical education department as an adjunct instructor, and has been in Auburn ever since.
“The good Lord has been so good to me that I was at the right place at the right time,” Nunnelly said.
Because of her love for sports, Nunnelly got more involved in officiating and coaching. She coached basketball and officiated for multiple women’s sports teams. After she gave up coaching, she became the Women’s Officials Coordinator for the SEC.
“But teaching is my first love,” Nunnelly said.
She began teaching a sports officiating class in the early 2000s, which allows her to combine her love for sports with her love for teaching.
“I enjoy teaching because it keeps me connected with the students,” she said.
She said she loves being able to be with students and influence their lives. It’s important to her that her students feel comfortable talking to her, even outside of class-related topics. Nunnelly even gives out the number to her flip phone as well as her home phone number and tells her students to call (not text) if they need anything, day or night.
Nunnelly truly cares for her students. When her students don’t show up to class, she worries about where they are. She’s even considering buying an iPhone so her students will be able to text her when they aren’t going to make it to class.
Despite her retirement in 2008 after almost 40 years, Nunnelly remains involved with Auburn by teaching, participating in “Fun With The Nun” at Camp War Eagle, being a faculty adviser to the Auburn University cheerleaders, working at the command post at Jordan Hare during home football games, and announcing for Auburn University women’s volleyball and basketball teams.
“I stay pretty busy. I don’t know how I ever did it when I worked,” Nunnelly said. “I’ve always felt like Auburn has given me so much that anything I can do to give back, that’s what I want to do.”
The Auburn family and the Auburn spirit are special to Nunnelly. She emphasized the importance of feeling at home at Auburn.
“The Auburn family truly is something that meant a lot to me when coming,” she said. “After you graduate, when you look at Auburn, you see it as coming home. The Auburn spirit, even though you can’t define it, you have to feel it.”
Nunnelly has watched Auburn change tremendously during the years she has been here. She said as long as it’s positive change, she will support it.
“It doesn’t matter how many buildings you build or tear down, as long as the Auburn spirit remains the same,” she said. “(The Auburn spirit) is the key to making Auburn what it is.”
Although she may be a little biased, Nunnelly said she believes that Auburn and its students are truly the best. She enjoys being a part of the process of preparing students for life and to be good citizens.
“The Lord has a plan, and if you’ll put your faith in him, I think he’ll direct your path without question,” she said. “I’ve always tried to encourage students to get the most out of every day. We all have the same 24 hours, but it’s how you use them and how you prioritize those hours that will make the difference down the road.”
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