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Huffman, King Honored with Special Boilermaker Award

Susan Huffman and Martia King accepting Special Boilermaker Award

Susan Huffman, assistant director of on-campus housing for University Residences, and Martia Brawner King, director of student involvement for Purdue Student Activities and Organizations (SAO), have been recognized with 2021 Special Boilermaker Awards.  
Established by the Purdue Alumni Association in 1981, Special Boilermaker Awards recognize and honor faculty and staff who have contributed significantly to the improvement of quality of life and the betterment of the educational experience for a substantial number of students and whose life works have improved the public image of the university. Honorees are nominated by Purdue students, faculty, staff or alumni and are chosen by the Special Boilermaker Award committee. 
King and Huffman were publicly recognized and presented with a pewter locomotive keepsake during an on-field presentation at Purdue’s football game against Wisconsin, held October 23 in Ross-Ade Stadium. Their names will be permanently etched into the achievement obelisk on the Engineering Mall as well as a plaque displayed in Dauch Alumni Center.  
This year’s recognitions of King and Huffman continue a tradition of excellence displayed by individuals and organizations with the area of Student Life. Four individuals representing Student Life organizations have been recognized with Special Boilermaker Awards since 2019. King and Huffman join Denton Sederquist, assistant director of Residential Life (University Residences), and Margie Jones, assistant director of Student Involvement (SAO) as recent honorees.

Martia King accepting the Special Boilermaker awardMartia Brawner King

King leads SAO’s work to provide invaluable services for the more than 1,000 student organizations at Purdue. In this capacity, she supports students with opportunities to be involved with organizations, serves as a guide for student organizations and collaborates with campus partners to enhance the student experience.

“Martia is an individual who is not only focused and determined, but likeable and inclusive,” says Zane Reif, director of the Purdue Memorial Union. “She goes out of her way to engage people in thoughtful discussion and asks deliberate questions so she truly understands the people and situations she is working to assess. Martia has been a champion for students throughout the pandemic, handling student organization and event travel requests in addition to helping students peacefully protest on campus in response to social injustices.

During her time at Purdue, King has served as an advisor for numerous organizations including Purdue Student Government, the Student Fee Advisory Board and Fraternity, Sorority and Cooperative Life. There are countless ways King’s work as an advisor impacts Purdue students. Empowering students to enact change and having tough conversations about race, alcohol and regulations improve the ability of organizations to accomplish their goals and create an inclusive culture for their members.

It’s the individual attention to students that stands out, however. Having late-night conversations with students, relating personal experiences, connecting students with campus resources, helping students navigate troubling times in their lives and putting in countless late hours to support students are often thankless parts of King’s job, but areas where she has undoubtedly had an impact.

“Martia has a knack for challenging students to step beyond their comfort zone, be honest with themselves and get involved in something they are passionate about on campus,” says Heather Beasley, director of operations, Vice Provost for Student Life. “She has been a mentor to numerous students and young professionals. Some would tell you that they wouldn’t have continued if not for the support and challenging conversations they’ve had with Martia. She brings a sense of joy and comfort to a room, with a smile that is welcoming and contagious from the moment you meet her.”

Much of King’s work centers on helping Purdue students find connections in their areas of interest and then helping them make an impact through an organization.

“There are only a few things I have said absolutely no to students doing on campus,” King says. “Other than those few absolutes, it’s about finding what students want to do, figuring out how they can do it and then figuring how they can impact others by doing so. That’s the fun stuff. The groups I advise and work with have changed over the years, but I’ve applied the same connection, concern and affirmation.

“It’s a labor of love,” King says. “I do it because I care about students and their success.”

King also supports the Closing the Gap career advancement program, which was initiated in 2020 as an education and mentorship program focused on Black, Indigenous and other professionals of color looking to advance into senior leadership roles. She has served on regional boards as a member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrations (NASPA), is a member of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) and an honorary member of the Purdue Reamer Club, as voted by club members.

King holds a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies from Bowling Green State University (2002) and a Master of Education in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Wright State University (2004). She earned a doctorate in higher education leadership from Indiana State University in 2018.

Susan Huffman accepting Special Boilermaker AwardSusan Huffman

Huffman has dedicated nearly 40 years of service to Purdue University, the last 22 within University Residences. In her current role, Huffman provides critical services to students who are having academic or financial challenges, advising them on processes and helping connect them to resources that can provide solutions.

Mike Shettle, director of administration for University Residences, says Huffman’s personal investment in every interaction defines her service to the university.  

“Susan goes above and beyond by engaging the student in conversation to learn more about their background, goals, hopes and dreams,” Shettle says. “In each case, she takes a personal interest in their particular situation and offers extensive advice and resources to help them devise a plan to deal with their situation. Fair and firm in her interactions, she seeks win-win solutions in each. This often overlooked, but critical function clearly qualifies her as a ‘silent leader’ while preventing untold number of students from slipping through the cracks.” 

Barb Frazee, assistant vice provost for Student Life, adds that Huffman’s work provides crucial student support behind the scenes.  

“Susan has been an unsung hero to many students during her career in University Residences,” Frazee said. “She has helped students and their families work out payment plans and continue as Purdue students because of her diligence and compassion as she helped them navigate financial aid.” 

Huffman was part of the leadership team that founded University Residences’ Women’s Leadership Series in 2011 and continues to be part of the planning process for the event. The series helps women students connect with professional mentors and peers who are seeking ways to grow professionally and build their confidence. Since its inception, the series has provided learning and networking opportunities for more than 1,000 participants.  

Before working with University Residences, Huffman served as the coordinator of off-campus housing and assistant dean of students in the Office of the Dean of Students. It was in this role that she became an advisor for Alpha Lambda Delta, an honor society for first-year students. She continues to advise Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma, a merger of the Purdue chapters of two national honor societies. The two societies merged about 20 years ago. Huffman was named Alpha Lambda Delta’s National Advisor of the Year in 2018-19. Her service to the National Council of Alpha Lambda Delta included stints as president (2009-18), president-elect (2008-09) and vice president for chapter relations and expansion (2002-08).  Purdue’s chapters have won numerous national awards under Huffman’s guidance, the most recent being a 2021 Maintaining the Flame honor.

Huffman is highly sought after to accompany admissions recruiting trips, which have led to friendships around the country and helped numerous students and families choose Purdue. She also previously served as an advisor to the Purdue Student Government Senate and Purdue’s cooperative housing community.  

“I always enjoy connecting with students,” Huffman says. “I enjoy connecting with people in general and getting to know each one as an individual. I’ve developed a lot of really nice relationships with students over the years and that keeps fueling the future relationships too.” 

Part of Huffman’s job in University Residences used to include conducting tours of Cary Quadrangle for athletic recruits and their parents – often on short notice. As a result, she developed friendships with student-athletes and several Purdue head coaches, including Jeff Brohm (football) and Matt Painter (men’s basketball). Huffman and her husband, Dave, are loyal supporters of Purdue athletics, often supporting Boilermaker teams at home games and traveling to numerous events away from campus.

Huffman holds a doctorate in college student affairs from Purdue. She previously earned a master’s degree in counseling and guidance and a Bachelor of Science in Counseling and Psychology, both from Purdue.  

Visit this page to learn more about the Special Boilermaker Award.