Alumni National Awards

College of Nursing
Award Recipient


Photo of Susan ElaSusan Eshelman Ela, Nurs '77, Grad '88

Sue lived the Marquette mission throughout her celebrated career in health care. Before retiring, Sue became the highest-ranking woman at Aurora Health Care where she served as chief operating officer.

Even when Marquette won the 1977 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, Sue was providing care to others. She was the on-duty resident assistant in Carpenter Hall; her job was to keep them safe. “The dorm erupted and kids went wild. Bedlam ensued,” she recalls.

Marquette professors like Dr. Dan Maguire challenged her every day and exposed her to ideas far beyond the nursing curriculum — ideas that influenced her entire clinical and leadership practice. Taking care of patients was a privilege, and she always made decisions with their needs at the forefront.

With continuity of care and everyone — caregivers, patients, community leaders, employers and payers — working together, Sue knew more was possible. During her time at Aurora Health Care, the network attained national stature in clinical quality, launched their patient experience initiative and applied hundreds of millions of dollars in cost reductions.

Drawing from her background in pediatric nursing, Sue’s volunteer time is focused on underserved youth. She is a trustee and interim president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, a trustee with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and a member of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

Sue also is co-founder, with her family, of Ela Cider Co. in Rochester, Wis. “It has been rewarding to be involved in the growing local food scene here in Milwaukee,” she says.
Fun facts:
Dream dinner guest: “I would love to have dinner with Barack and Michelle Obama and talk about grace in leadership. And, of course, Florence Nightingale. Her influence on medicine and science is inspiring to nurses everywhere.”

Favorite Marquette memories: “Meeting other transfer students at Carpenter Hall. Seashells and balloons. Real Chili. Grebe’s Bakery. Green beer on St Patty’s Day.”