Written by Jane Gutsell
Sue Kody Seagraves, former Upper School Art teacher, is truly a woman for all seasons. Over the years, her interests and passions in life have ranged from art and art history to architecture, cooking, Japanese maples, travel, reading, gardening, and of course, her family. With a B. S. in Art and a minor in English from Concord College in Athens, West Virginia and a M.F.A. in Art from UNCG, Sue was invited to join the GDS faculty by Jim Hendrix in 1976 to fill in for the Lower School art teacher who was on maternity leave. Jim also wanted her to teach English, but Sue suggested that he get in touch with a woman she had met when they taught together at Gillespie, and thus GDS had the good fortune to also acquire Tricia Fish as an Upper School English teacher.
For a brief but important time after that, Sue shared 4th grade teaching responsibilities with Carmen Redding. “Carmen,” she says, “was very influential to me. She was my first exposure to a real teacher in a real classroom. I learned a lot from her.” Gradually, Sue moved from part-time in both Middle and Upper Schools and in 1978 became the full-time U.S. Art teacher, whose responsibilities included not just basic painting and drawing classes but also photography and ceramics and AP Art. She helped design the Art Survey course as well. Photography, which she says she knew nothing about at the time and took classes at UNCG to learn, has become one of her life’s passions.
Sue retired in 2003, but until just a couple of years ago, stayed actively involved with the drama program in all three divisions, helping to paint sets for many productions. She has worked especially closely with Dana Lowell in the Upper School drama department on both fall musicals and spring dramas.
Since retirement, Sue has spent a lot of time with her four children and five grandchildren. Mostly she says she just tries to keep up with them, entertain them, and lure them over for visits with her and her husband Ed with her home-cooked meals. Her son-in-law is our own Middle School Director, Barry Davis!
In the late 1990s she and Ed started their own very labor intensive Japanese maple business and began taking horticultural classes at Forsyth Technical Community College. It took the first seven years before the small grafted trees they had purchased were ready to sell. They had at least fifty varieties and, as the business grew, somewhere between six and seven thousand trees, which they sold to garden centers, farmers markets, and the general public. They stayed busy with their trees until 2014.
Another of Sue’s passions is travel. Her first adventure began with a summer enrichment grant which took her to Paris, Nice, and other cities in France. And, as she says, “that was that. I got the bug.” A subsequent grant sent her to Italy for art history classes and tours through Rome, Florence, and Venice. Later she went with the second group of Upper School students on the exchange trip to Russia. “Getting out of the country to see art just changed my life.”
Since 2003 Sue has travelled to the United Kingdom and Japan where she visited beautiful gardens with her beloved Japanese maples and shrines and temples. Then to Greece and Turkey for art, architecture, and archeology. In 2014 I joined her on a two-week trip to Belgium and Holland to learn about 17th Century Flemish and Dutch paintings, cathedrals, and much more. One lovely summer afternoon GDS alumna Corinna Scott ’95 took us boating through the canals of Amsterdam. At the end of the trip, Sue went off on her own to spend another week in Paris. All day every day, she visited as many museums as she could pack into a day and still didn’t see everything she wanted to see!
One of the things Sue is most proud of is that, while she was at UNCG, she was one of the four original founders of the Green Hill Gallery. As a member of the Greensboro Artists League, she and others wanted a place to show their work and so they put their minds to purchasing an old house on the land occupied by Green Hill Cemetery and made it happen.
Now she enjoys relaxing at their cottage, which she completely remodeled, on a lake in Rockingham County – kayaking, gardening, reading, entertaining friends. Last year she remodeled their Greensboro home. She has stayed in close touch with a group of GDS retirees, whose friendships she values very much. She has also returned to her first love – watercolors. She is painting almost every day and was one of nine women artists who exhibited their work at The Penn House in Reidsville this past September.
The main thing Sue enjoyed about her time at the Day School was her students. It was “thrilling to work with students who loved art and to see them excel.” She is “always pleased to hear about those who have succeeded in having a career in art.” Sue Seagraves was an important mentor and role model for her many students in so many ways that it would only be fair to call her a Renaissance woman.