White Recalls Being One of First Female Graduates from Rinker

Friday, March 1, 2024
By: Tatiana Rodriguez

Susan Rivers White (BBC ’76) was one of the first few women to graduate with a degree in construction management at the University of Florida. While this may sound daunting or intimidating, White described her time at UF as anything but that.

White was first drawn to construction in junior college, when she took an aptitude test that showed that she was good at math and visualizing. One of her older brothers was also getting a degree from the M.E. Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management and would come home and talk about how much fun it was and how much she would love it. She explained that, while women now get a degree because they want to support themselves, the mentality at that time was that women would get a degree in something so that if they had to support themselves, they could. She knew she was going to get a degree, and she enjoyed construction, so she decided to go for it. In terms of why she chose to go to UF, she said she always knew that she wanted to go there. Her father and both of her brothers went to UF.

“If you were going to be anybody in the South, you went to the University of Florida. So that is what I did.”

And she’s happy she did it. She feels that her degree has helped her so much throughout the years with everything that she has wanted to do. She said that being one of the few women in the program opened a lot of doors for her and brought her a lot of attention. She received a lot of support from her classmates and professors. She was voted president of the Student Contractors and Builders Association and described the college environment as welcoming and positive. She recalled that the NOW, or the National Organization for Women, was very big at the time and pushed for women’s rights. As she walked across the stage at her graduation, she heard someone clapping very loudly and realized it was the president of NOW in the front row cheering for her and her accomplishments. The only downside of majoring in construction was that she missed out on the female companionship that most girls have in college, as there were only two other girls in the program with her. Still, she loved her time at UF and said she had a lot of fun.

White didn’t take the typical career path after graduation. Two months after graduating, she got married and left town with her husband, who majored in civil engineering at UF. She moved to Colorado with him as he pursued his master’s degree, and they eventually ended up in south Florida. She worked as an estimator for a small firm there but mostly focused on raising a family. Her heart was at home, so that’s where she spent most of her energy. After her children were grown and out of the house, White was the House Director of Delta Zeta Sorority here at UF. Her primary responsibility was managing the building and facilities and “making sure the house didn’t burn down.” She took care of anything that was broken or needed to be repaired. She retired this past June after spending several years there.

She said she loved working at the sorority house and that the girls were smart, pretty and respectful. She learned that “if you ever need anything done at all, ask a sorority girl.”

This past semester, Rinker had a record high of 25 percent of construction students being female.

“Why on Earth not?” White exclaimed. “If you have that attention to detail, and if you can think on your feet, why not do it?”

To any girls considering entering construction management, White says that they will never regret it.

“It will help you in everything that you do all your life. You have the critical thinking, the problem solving, just sticking to something when it gets too hard and following through to finishing it. Just be who you are and be proud to be who you are.”

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