Susan Setta remembered as dedicated, passionate

Chris Butler

Loved ones of the late Susan Setta gathered Oct. 6 for a memorial service honoring her achievements throughout her life.

Setta, who died May 14 at age 69, was a professor at Northeastern for 40 years in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. She served as chair of the department for 16 years until her death.

“We try to keep what she started going,” said Ronald Sandler, the current chair of the department. “She was great. She shaped the department the way it ought to be for Northeastern.”

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Michael and Lillian Setta, Setta attended Wilson College and received a bachelor’s degree in religious studies. She earned a master’s degree at Hartford Seminary in the same subject and a doctorate from Pennsylvania State University in American religious studies.

Her memorial service was held by her coworkers and family to reminisce on her life.

“She was always thankful for her colleagues and thankful for what Northeastern represented to her,” said John Weagraff, Setta’s husband of nearly 41 years.

Coworkers remembered Setta for her dedication to her profession and admired her passion for  religious studies, teaching, and the department she led.

“She was totally supportive and completely encouraging,” Sandler said. “She wanted us to have whatever resources we needed to succeed. She wanted us to put students first.”

Setta helped found the university’s Jewish studies program as well as the women’s, gender and sexualities studies program. Most recently, she helped create the philosophy, politics and economics major.

As an educator, Setta taught various popular courses throughout her career, including a class called The Meaning of Death, held in Blackman Auditorium to accommodate the high demand from students.

“She would have hundreds and hundreds of students who would take this course and it was enormously popular,” Sandler said.

Northeastern alum Ame Wren took several of Setta’s classes, and was a teaching assistant under Setta for two consecutive semesters.

“She was an incredibly dynamic professor,” Wren said. “She was so invested. She learned everyone’s name. She learned about our lives.”

Since graduating, Wren founded the Boston Yoga School, where she aims to use the philosophies she learned from Setta in her yoga instruction and her daily life.

“She always taught us to think ‘how interesting’ and so that’s what I remember most, and that’s what has framed how I live everything,” Wren said. “Really learning how to be an inquirer instead of an judger.”

Sandler recalled Setta’s contagious laughter and memorable sense of humor, explaining how she would often use humor to relieve stress and tension in the workplace.

“It set the tone for the whole department, that we were able to do serious things but at the same time not take them so seriously,” Sandler said.

Setta’s sense of humor was present not only in her office, but in the classroom and her personal life as well.

“She was a very vibrant person, she has a great sense of humor,” Weagraff said.