Suzanne E. Estler


Celebration of life

Saturday May 18, 2019

2:00 PM

Wells Conference Center

University of Maine, Orono

Get directions
Orono - Activist, scholar, mentor, and friend, Suzanne Estler died April 10, 2019, of pancreatic cancer. She was 74 years old. Sue was known for her zest for life, her love of family and friends, and her commitment to social justice, especially gay rights. Sue loved life, lived it fully, and died in peace.
Sue was born September 16, 1944, to Calder and Beatrice (Vandervoort) Estler. She attended Douglass College of Rutgers University, where she made friendships that lasted her lifetime, cemented her enthusiasm for women's sports, and earned a B.A. in History/Political Science. Sue earned a M.A. in Human Relations from Ohio University and a PhD. in Educational Administration and Policy from Stanford University.
Sue held teaching and administrative positions at the University of Washington, Claremont Graduate School, Stanford University, the University of New York at Binghamton, Dickinson College, and Ohio University. After joining the University of Maine faculty in 1984, Sue gave tirelessly to the community in many capacities, including as Associate Professor of Higher Education (1994-2009) and Director of Equal Opportunity (1986-1997). As teacher and role model, Sue changed the course of many, many students' lives for the better.
A huge fan of women's basketball, Sue served for many years as official timekeeper for the University of Maine's Division 1 women's basketball team the Black Bears.
Sue was predeceased by her loving wife and life-partner, Paula Day Johnson. After 25 years together, Sue and Paula married on the first day gay marriage was legal in Maine, having fought passionately for marriage equality in the state.
Sue and Paula spent many summers on Swan's Island, where they were part of a diverse community of islanders and 'summer people.' One of Sue's great loves was lobstering; she had a recreational lobster license and enjoyed checking her traps in her boat the Paula Day. Sue also served on the island's comprehensive planning committee.
In addition to her professional commitments, Sue served on the boards of directors of many non-profit organizations, including the Orono Land Trust, Audubon Expedition Institute, Rape Response Services, Abenaki Girl Scouts Council, and SAGE Maine. She also volunteered with Spruce Run Association, Marriage Equality, and other social justice and environmental advocacy organizations.
Sue was committed to everything she undertook, professionally, personally, and as a citizen of the community. Her integrity, enthusiasm, good humor, kindness, and generous spirit touched those fortunate enough to know her.
Sue will be greatly missed by her sisters, Nancy Rollins, of Iowa and Florida and Patricia Brown of Riverhead, New York; and her brother, Louis "Skip" Estler of Orono, Maine; sisters-in-law, Sandra Johnson of Hallowell, Maine, and Karen H. Johnson of Minnesota; beloved nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, great-great-nephew, and many cherished friends and colleagues. Sue also leaves behind her dearly loved dogs, Tess and Fernie; and cats, Dude and Sam.
A celebration of Sue's life is planned for May 18, 2019, at 2 p.m. at the Wells Conference Center at the University of Maine, Orono.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in memory of Sue may be made to the Suzanne E. Estler, Ph.D., Student Support Fund by sending checks payable to the University of Maine Foundation, Two Alumni Place, Orono, ME 04469-5792, or online at
Published on April 12, 2019
View More
Send flowers
in memory of Suzanne
See more

Obituary published in


Print Guestbook

A place to share condolences and memories.

Share your condolences and special memories.
The guestbook expires on July 11, 2019.

Select an emblem

27 posts

Herman G. Weller
Apr 18, 2019
In all my experiences with Sue during my 15 years on the UMaine campus, she was totally professional, knowledgeable, thoughtful, helpful, and empathetic. That's an amazing combination! Thank you very much, Sue, for helping to make the campus a caring place.
Sandy Caron
Apr 17, 2019
Sue was such a good role model for so many. Her kindness, her warmth, and her inspiration were gifts to many. I will miss her. Feeling blessed for having known her.
Cathy Billings
Apr 17, 2019
Sue was a friend and a mentor, whose advice was always on point and greatly appreciated. Her capacity for caring about so many issues and taking action for righteousness was immense. She willl be greatly missed.
Naomi Jacobs
Apr 17, 2019
Sue was a compelling advocate for women at UMaine and in the community. Though I didn't know her well, I always enjoyed chatting when we crossed paths on campus -- she was so positive and enthusiastic, and had such a warm & wonderful smile. It is sad to hear of her passing so soon; she still had much to give and to share.
Roxanne McGreevy
Apr 17, 2019
You will be sorely missed, Sue. Rest in peace!
Susan Nolan Landry
Apr 16, 2019
Sue packed a lot of living and activism into her time with us. It's hard to imagine not seeing her at all the "usual" events; good to know her spirit will always be there.
gabrielle wellman
Apr 15, 2019
I am so sorry to hear of Sue's passing and send my condolences to her family and friends. I did not really know Sue but I do know that her activism for social justice is very important and has helped us all. I am grateful for her.
Lisa Neuman
Apr 14, 2019
Sue was an inspiration to me when I first arrived to teach at UMaine in 2003. I am saddened to hear of her passing. My condolences to her loved ones. We lost a bright light!.
Frank Hart
Apr 14, 2019
you will be remembered my sister !
John and Marcia Diamond
Apr 13, 2019
Heartbreaking to read of Sue's passing. We loved her and Paula and know their spirits are together again. Peace and love.
Apr 13, 2019
One of my points of light is gone. I am proud to have called this special, loving, brilliant woman my friend.
Kim McKeage
Apr 13, 2019
Sue was a smart, strong, fierce role model. I am so thankful to have known her and so sad that she's gone from us too soon.
Scott Delcourt
Apr 12, 2019
Sue was one of the most important mentors in my career at the University of Maine. She will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, Sue.
Jerry Smith
Apr 12, 2019
Always enjoyed seeing her around the ferry dock I always kidded hear about lobstering always waved to each other when we would pass I'n the boats she will be missed
Ed Rose
Apr 12, 2019
Sue was a very warm a d welcoming woman, whom along with Paula made me feel very welcome to Swans Island. I admired her positive spirit and the way she tackled life and her challenging illness. Sue made the world a better place and it is hard to imagine never being able to see her again. Her passion and spirit live on the Student Support Fund. Rest in peace Sue and I'm so glad you and Paula are reunited.
Peg Olson
Apr 12, 2019
As Sue said so often to me and my classmates at UMaine, “The devil is in the details!” Sue challenged and supported me from the day I approached her about my goals and attending grad school after being out of college for 25 years to the day I received my PhD many years later! She will be missed.
Julie Rothhaar-Sanders
Apr 12, 2019
Sue helped me get into grad school and helped me find a career I love. She was an amazing and inspirational woman and I am glad I had the opportunity to learn from her.
Laura and Danielle
Apr 12, 2019
Fantastic, Smart and Energetic Woman! Honored that Sue stood up for us at our wedding ceremony ❤ Until we see each other again friend.
Love Danielle & Laura
Sarah Lamstein
Apr 12, 2019
I'm so sorry for your loss, Sandra.
Dale McCormick
Apr 12, 2019
Sue lived her life well, and had a meaningful impact on many of us. She will be missed, and is an example of a life well-lived.
Sharon and Vic Fahrer
Apr 12, 2019
We saw Sue in Florida and always enjoyed being in her company.
Leah Hakkola
Apr 12, 2019
Sue was one of the first people I spent time with when I moved to Maine almost four years ago. She invited me to Swan's Island for the night and introduced me to lobstering (picture on her boat below). It was quite a treat and is still one of my favorite memories of Maine. Sue, you have touched the hearts of so many and will be dearly missed. May you rest in peace.
Kathy Walker
Apr 12, 2019
Sue and I share the same birthday and year, and she is gone way too soon. As a board member at Rape Response Services, Sue hired me to work at that agency, and I've always been grateful for her dedication to that cause, as well as so many other issues to which she devoted her time and talents. Rest in peace, my friend.
Sarah Paterson
Apr 12, 2019
Sue was an inspiration and I feel blessed to have known her.
Valerie Carter
Apr 12, 2019
Sue was a true force of nature, and a loving, compassionate person and advocate for justice and rights, especially gay rights and marriage equality. She will be missed by so many people whose lives she touched. Many years back, I consulted with her more than once regarding some difficulties I was dealing with at UMaine, and she was very supportive, in her enthusiastic and energetic way.