There was always music in Susie Johnson’s soul. Born in Long Beach, California, and a 1973 graduate of Millikan High School there, Susie was one of the first students to come to North Central Michigan College as part of the Young American Program, an American music program, now with world-wide recognition. Susie came to Petoskey at age 18, lived in the residence hall, took courses and earning college credits during the school year, and living life on the road with the Young Americans during the summer months.
“I loved the feeling of ‘everyone knowing your name’ and living in the dorms,” states Susie. “I really loved the chocolate chip cookies the cafeteria would make hot every day, and the candy store in the basement of the cafeteria,” she continues. “And I loved watching the switchboard lady at the dorms answer all of the phones.”
Susie started at age 21 as the company manager for the Young Americans and their USA tours with Columbia Artists. “There were 55 performers, a bus, a semi-truck, and a different town each night,” she remembers. “I was also privileged to work with both of the early presidents of North Central – Al Shankland and Bob Graham. I am still friends with Bob.”
At age 26, Susie was hired by Paramount Pictures in their TV production division and worked there for 32 years. “I worked with network and studio heads, cast members, and writers on all of the shows that I helped produce,” states Susie. “During the summer months, when my TV shows were on hiatus, I would come to Petoskey/Harbor Springs and produce everything the Young Americans did in Northern Michigan.”
Susie now lives permanently in Harbor Springs, still involved with the Young Americans Dinner Theatre and camps in Harbor Springs each summer, and volunteers for many organizations and the arts. She and her husband, Gil, love the area. Her advice to students contemplating attending North Central, “Embrace the greatness of what the College offers. North Central is at the top of its game! I am happy for the current and future students and wish I could live my life there all over again.”
PS: Susie is the one with long blonde hair on the left side of the photo. And yes, that is Bing Crosby, who was on the original Young Americans Board, 1962.