Alumni Rich ’83 and Sue (Johnson) ’83 Levitte hold The University of Olivet, or Jolly Olly as they like to call it, near to their hearts. As flourishing student-athletes, the couple began their lives together on campus and the college has stuck with them over the past 30 years, regardless of living almost four hours away. Currently, Rich and Sue’s daughter, Paige, attends OC and is a member of the Marching Band. The Levittes are a true family of Comets.
The family’s love of Olivet makes it easy for Rich and Sue to serve as ambassadors, spreading the word of what life is like as a Comet to families living in northern Michigan. “Rich and I have experienced what it’s like to build close relationships with professors and how Olivet’s small size helps make you visible as a student,” Sue explained. “We know Paige will get the close personal attention to succeed and the encouragement to contribute to society. The combination of it all is proven to be successful, shown through Paige’s high grades and the way she is achieving her goals. We want to help other students and families see that Olivet will nurture students to help them grow, too.”
Sue grew up in White Lake, Michigan, only 10 miles from the nearby town of Hartland, Rich’s hometown. While the two lived so close to each other, they attended different high schools and their paths never crossed. That is, until Rich and Sue each decided to attend The University of Olivet and even pledged to brother and sister Greek organizations.
As a wrestler, Rich was recruited to OC by then Head Coach Jare Klein. “He wasn’t someone you could say no to,” Rich joked. Sue attended a college visit with a friend who was more interested in becoming a Comet than Sue at first. After some time to think the decision over, however, Sue knew she had found the right fit for herself as well.
“I love the place,” Sue exclaimed about The University of Olivet. “I have since I was a student there and of course I still do now. It was a fun time with wonderful people. I enjoyed myself tremendously and am so thankful for my experience at OC.”
Each in their freshman year and looking for even more from their college journey, Rich pledged to Adelphic and Sue pledged to Sigma Beta. The two met during the pledging process and they later became good friends.
Over the next year, the couple became inseparable. After graduation, however, each pursued career opportunities in different areas, Rich moving to Holland and Sue staying in southwest Michigan. Almost a year and a half later at Homecoming in the fall of 1984, Rich and Sue found themselves on campus again and soon picked up right where they left off.
“I was skeptical about Rich,” Sue said. “I asked him, what are your intentions here? And Rich asked me, well, how about we get married?” A week later the couple picked out Sue’s engagement ring and the following October they were married. Today, the couple lives in Petoskey, where Rich works at East Jordan Plastics, and Sue is a middle school physical education teacher at Petoskey Public Schools. In her role, she interacts with many students who are just beginning to think about college. Sue also coordinates an annual training retreat for OC’s volleyball team in Petoskey.
Several students from Petoskey attend Olivet, many with help from the Levittes. Sue believes that OC is a great match for up north students because of the similar small town charm. While 250 miles separates Petoskey and Olivet, both Sue and Rich work to build connections between the two. The Levitte’s love hosting alumni events and creating new relationships while reconnecting with others.
“I love Facebook because it allows me to find and connect with alumni from all generations,” Sue said. “These events are just fun and cool, and I love that I’ve never stopped making friends with fellow Olivetians. Hosting events has allowed us to connect with alumni all the way from 1959 to 2017. We’ve made new friends right in our hometown and even some great friends who live near Olivet that we visit every time we’re in the area. It’s like an extension of my time as a student and that’s awesome.”
“I have great memories from my time as a student,” Rich added. “I think The University of Olivet provides a great foundation for life. There are so many opportunities to get involved at Olivet that give you an advantage when you start your career. It’s really cool to be able to continue to make more memories centered around the people belonging to the The University of Olivet family.”