Meet one of our Sages – Susan Hammer. She’s giving forward through board service and community leadership.

Susan Hammer

Susan Hammer is a life-long volunteer who learned early on the personal rewards of service. Growing up in a community-oriented family, she was taught that when you have more, you have more to give, and that giving brings joy to your life. For Susan, the perceptive words of Albert Schweitzer ring true: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found a way to serve.”

Susan is an experienced mediator and helps people resolve disputes. One of the core skills she has learned is how to balance a busy career while budgeting time for service. In her early years, she was involved in one-one-one services, like working as a volunteer in a community hospital. Over time, she became more involved in non-profit boards to help meet a range of needs from organizational development to fundraising to strategic planning.

Today, she serves on four boards: Ecotrust, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Willamette University, and the International Academy of Mediators. Reflecting on her experience with nonprofit boards, she remarked: “I’ve received so much more than I’ve given. I have a broad range of interests and it gives me a way of being involved in many things I care about.” The best part of board service, however, has been the new friendships:

“My life has been enriched immeasurably by relationships with really smart, committed, innovative people—staff, board, volunteers—who I otherwise would not have met. Many have become life-long friends. I am in awe of the many people with very rich lives who do great work for modest economic compensation.”

Susan’s Tips for Giving Forward

From a young age I associated volunteering with having fun and expanding my world. If you are not sure where to serve, consider these questions, which helped me think about how to get involved:

1. What is my legacy to the community and the people in my life? Where do I most want to put my time and resources?

2. What do I want to learn? How do I want to grow? What keeps me a life-long learner?

3. Who do I want to hang out with? Who will I meet, give to and learn from?

Portland is a stronger community because of Susan’s leadership and board service.

Postscript: Susan has passed away. She was one of our peer-to-peer advisors and a great champion for SAGE. We are very grateful to her for all her support and encouragement over the years. If you would like to learn more, contact SAGE.


“When you have more, you have more to give, and that giving brings joy to your life.”