Syracuse University Magazine


Suzanne Butler G'01

Spirited Support

After earning an M.B.A. degree from the Whitman School of Management, Suzanne Butler set out for Atlanta with few job prospects and contacts—but the certainty that she wouldn’t miss an opportunity to succeed in this new beginning. “I’ve always felt that I never want to be at the end of my life and say, ‘If only…,’” she says. Today, more than a decade later and based in Chicago, Butler oversees Kmart’s online efforts as its digital marketing guru. If you cruise the Internet, you’ve probably come across several of the hilarious videos that are part of the company’s digital marketing strategy, such as last year’s “Big Gas Savings,” “Ship My Pants,” and “Show Your Joe,” which together share close to 50 million views on YouTube.

Butler, a Syracuse native, believes going to SU was the key to her success in combination with her tenacity. Her love for the school drove her to become president of the SU Alumni Club of Atlanta first, and later the SU Alumni Club of Chicago. “I got to where I am today because of Syracuse University,” she says.

The youngest of four, Butler is the only one in her family to attend college, earning a B.A. degree in communication from the University at Buffalo in 1994. But Butler believed graduate school was essential to progress in her career. After two years as a part-time student and one as a full-time, Butler completed her M.B.A. degree in marketing and landed in Atlanta, where she supervised the Delta Airlines-Coca-Cola marketing partnership as senior account manager for the flight carrier. During that time, Butler started to engage with SU alumni, looking to bring to Georgia’s biggest city the spirit of bonding and mutual support of her time at SU. “Within a couple years of living in Atlanta, I heard about the SU alumni club and wanted to get involved,” she says. “I missed that Syracuse camaraderie.” 

In 2006, looking for a change in venue and career growth, Butler moved to Chicago, attracted by its urban spirit. And the move paid off. Two years ago, Butler was promoted to her current job, revolutionizing Kmart’s marketing strategies by using social media platforms and humor. “I’ve been able to lead Kmart in different directions than they’ve taken in the past,” Butler says. “A couple of years ago, we weren’t doing the kind of boundary-pushing digital work we are now.”

Butler has directed the SU Alumni Club of Chicago for about the same time she’s worked with Kmart. As club president, Butler organizes all sorts of events—game-watching get-togethers, architecture cruises, talks with professors—to reconnect the alumni population in the Windy City to SU. Last year, the club brought in Otto the Orange for an SU-Georgetown men’s basketball game. Otto also visited in March to attend another game-watching gathering. But Butler says the alumni club isn’t just about sports. “It’s exciting that there are so many people across the United States who have an affinity for Syracuse,” she says. “And we try to help re-engage those people so they don’t lose that connection. Our job is to be that bridge.”     —Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro