Susie Ganzenmuller – 27 August 1947 – 3 April 2020

(Tribute written by Fiona Clark, World Lacrosse Competition Director/Past IFWLA President)

World renowned, and much-loved Official, Susan Leland Ganzenmuller, known affectionately to all  as Susie, passed away Friday 3 April, after a 5-year battle with health-related issues.  Grief is one of those emotions you can never reconcile, and the many messages of sympathy and support by lacrosse followers around the world, show how much Susie was loved and respected.

Susie had many outstanding qualities ~ a fine intellect, loyalty, commitment to excellence, great generosity of spirit, inspirational leadership, bravery and as an expert in the rules of lacrosse, an unwavering focus on safety issues for women and girls in the sport.

She was a kind and caring friend, and mentor, to many around the world; Anne Kingston, a close friend, and fellow International Official, stated “I first met Susie when she travelled to Australia in 2000 as the umpire with the US lacrosse team and since that time, I had the joy of working with Susie at a number of world events and at IFWLA meetings. I will miss Susie, as will all of us who have had the privilege of knowing her. A common phrase amongst those who knew Susie when faced with a dilemma was “What would Susie do?” She was a strong leader, who was able to demonstrate clarity, compassion, generosity, and thoughtfulness in her interactions with others. Susie led by assisting others to be the best person or official that they could be. Susie had a unique gift of recognising people’s strengths, and encouraging them to utilise those strengths in achieving their goals.”

Never having actually played lacrosse, Susie’s Officiating career started  in 1981 after a former St. Louis prep-school classmate, who she bumped into in Connecticut, convinced her to make ‘lacrosse her game,’  after a short stint umpiring field hockey, and history tells the rest, as she quickly rose through the ranks as a leader in this field. Away from the world of lacrosse however, Susie’s background was in education, first as a mathematics teacher, and later, as an interpreter for, and teacher of deaf and hearing-impaired students.

Susie served both the USWLA, and US Lacrosse, with distinction; She was active, both on and off the field, in the USA, serving on the National Umpiring Committee from 1989 – 2002.  In 1997 Susie produced the “Stars & Stripes Rules & Umpiring Video,” and in the same year was awarded the USWLA ‘Nancy Chance Service Award.’

Of course Susie’s love of teaching and officiating extended well beyond the borders of the USA, after she gained her International Rating in 1991, and she conducted 20 yeas of international umpiring training, as an Umpire Clinician, which took her to Australia, Canada, Japan, Czech Republic, Scotland and other countries.

Susie was destined to become an IFWLA Officer, and after being elected in 1999 as IFWLA Vice President Rules & Umpiring for 4 years, she was re-elected in 2003 for a further 4-year term until 2007.  During her 8-year tenure Susie was instrumental in co-ordinating the direction of lacrosse officiating, and two of her key projects included revising the IFWLA Crosse Specifications, and writing the Umpiring Manual. Susie developed a good and close working relationship with the lacrosse equipment manufacturers, and was instrumental in the establishment of an independent testing facility that was contracted to evaluate women’s lacrosse sticks, to determine if crosses met the revised IFWLA standard. For most of us, the painstaking work of ‘rules and specs’ would be ‘something to be avoided at all costs,’ but Susie ‘owned it’ and lacrosse is better, and safer, for her efforts.  Ever pragmatic and timely, when Susie sought re-election in 2003 she stated, “I am organized and am willing to delegate responsibilities to other IFWLA country umpire chairpersons, who are able to meet reasonable deadlines.”

Susie’s expertise, and her commitment to expanding the horizons of officiating world-wide, have seen her umpire in major events around the world, including, European Championships, Senior Home Internationals in the UK, Senior Nationals in Australia, the OWL Tournament in Canada, the Prague Cup, the Berlin Open, the Friendship Games in Japan and the Asia-Pacific Tournament.

Not only has she umpired more than twenty-five designated International Matches, including the bronze medal game at the 1993 World Cup in Scotland, the gold medal game at the 1997 World Cup in Japan, and the final in the European Championship in the Czech Republic in 2004, Susie was also a member of the Technical Delegate Team in 1995, 2009, 2011 and 2013, and served as Head Technical Delegatein four World Events from 2001 through 2007.

Susie’s achievements also include having been an IFWLA Ratings Evaluator since 1999 during the European Championship in Scotland, the 2001 and 2005 World Cups, and the 2003 & 2007 U19 World Championships.

In a tribute from Cheryl MacNeill (Canada), Cheryl quoted “As an Official if you worked any International event from 1993-2013 you would be hard pressed to say that you didn’t leave as a better Official having worked with Susie Ganzenmuller. Whether she was as an on-field umpire, a Technical Delegate or the International Vice President Rules & Umpiring, Susie led by her humble example and insightful feedback to make you a better Official.

She was kind, gracious and a brilliant student of the game. It was for all these reasons that International umpiring flourished under her leadership. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have been mentored by her, knew that it was our responsibility to give back to the game. She made each of us believe we had something valuable to offer, and it sparked a passion in each of us to do just that. Her influence on the game reached the four corners of global lacrosse, and many programs, such as those in Canada, owe their success directly to her leadership in the early stages of our programs.

One thing she taught us as officials, is that we are there to facilitate for the players, and often to be the “calm in the storm”. When everything is starting to go sideways, you need to be the one to help bring it back together. That is what you could always count on with Susie ~ to be that calm guiding presence.

She was a teacher, a mentor, a leader, a brilliant mindand someone I was honoured to say was a friend.” 

Measured against all the activities Susie undertook she has indeed been a most worthy and respected recipient of many awards, including induction into the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2005, and four years later, in 2009, Susie was inducted as an IFWLA Honorary Life Member, at a special award ceremony in Prague.  In that same year Susie became the third Official to be honoured with the International Honorary Umpiring Award, which is conferred upon an individual to ‘recognise outstanding, exceptional service in the field of officiating, and one who has promoted umpiring Women’s Lacrosse at the international level.’ In 2013 Susie retired as an Umpire Emeritus.

As the IFWLA President during most of Susie’s 8 years in office, and working alongside her at all 11 IFWLA Conferences she attended, I share in the immense sadness at the passing of Susie, and I want to share with you all the words Susie wrote when she nominated for the IFWLA VP R&U role in 1999 “I am committed to umpiring, umpire development and the growth of the game of women’s lacrosse.  My involvement in umpiring, both in the USA and internationally, has afforded me many opportunities for personal growth, as both an umpire and as a leader.  I worked very closely with Marge Garinger during her term as IFWLA VP R&U, and I am therefore familiar with the responsibilities required to fulfill this position.  I would like to ‘give back’ to the IFWLA by assuming the position of VP R&U, as we grow the game into the 21stCentury.  The international game will only grow healthfully if umpires, coaches and players from around the world continue to communicate.  We must respect one another’s ideas, learn from our common experiences, and work together for the game rather than promoting any single person’s or country’s agenda.”

And in a final tribute this past week from her son Austin, who wrote Loved unconditionally, and made the world a better place. Mum carried her family through the death of her first son, then raised thousands of dollars for Leukemia Lymphoma, and helped open a flagship Ronald McDonald House in Denver, Colorado. Loved unconditionally. Assisted hundreds of young people cement the building blocks necessary to succeed in higher education. Loved unconditionally.Helped countless young deaf people navigate the challenges they faced in living, education, and living fulfilling lives. Loved unconditionally. Worked tirelessly to bring women’s lacrosse where it is today, sharing it with the world and making it safer for all those who play. Loved unconditionally. Shared her love of the flora and fauna with thousands of residents and visitors to the Sonoran Desert. She loved unconditionally, and touched all those who were lucky enough to have known her.”

World Lacrosse extends their condolences to husband Tuck, son Austin, daughter in law Mary, and grandsons.

 “Remember the smiles, Cherish the moments, Find comfort in memories”

Honouring one of life’s special people

 RIP Susie