Gillette woman earns lifetime award

Written by on October 6, 2017

Press Release – The Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues will recognize Susan B. Knesel of Gillette with its 2017 “Governor’s Woman of Distinction Award” at an Oct. 14 luncheon at Gillette College. The 12:30 p.m. event will follow the Council’s fall quarterly meeting.

According to Susan Peck of Lovell, WCWI’s Home and Community committee chair, the recently renamed award  is “a once-in-a-lifetime honor for the recipient’s impact on women and/or families in the areas of education, employment practices, community outreach, health and wellness or legal issues.” Area residents are invited to make reservations for the no-host luncheon by contacting Chava Case at the Wyoming Business Council at 307-777-2800 in Cheyenne.

A former “Campbell County Woman of Distinction” and recent Campbell County Public Library System retiree, Knesel was nominated twice for WCWI’s 2017 award, both by CCPL Youth Services Coordinator Janet S. Tharp and WCWI member Laurel Vicklund of Gillette. Letters of support, detailing her contributions and community impact were provided by Linda S. Jennings and  CCPL Executive Director Terri Lesley.

“Sue has been a tireless advocate for youth, women, families, underrepresented citizens and more. She has developed many programs, putting much of her time and talent to work to advance literacy, improve community services and promote good government,” Lesley said. “Having observed Sue in action for the last 20 years, I’ve often asked myself how one woman can do so much.”

As described by her former colleagues, Knesel’s career accomplishments include introducing cutting edge literacy programs for preschoolers and toddlers, such as “Families and Jammies” story times accommodating working parents; a story telling program for third graders; an “Early Literacy Kit” collection  for daycare providers and parents; and summer reading programs.

“Sue procured a nutrition grant to provide summer meals to students and community grants to bring popular authors to Campbell County. They provided presentations and writing workshops for fifth grade, junior high and high school students. She carved out library space for tweens and enhanced library programming with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM),” Lesley said. “The teen room became a popular hangout and circulation grew by 36 percent in five years.”

In the area of educational impact, Knesel’s volunteer service includes the Juvenile Services Partnership group, three school board committees, Reconsideration committee for challenged materials and books,  testifying at Reconsideration hearings and the school board to promote technology in the classroom, Citizens Advisory Council Reading , and guest lecturing in Gillette College classes for children’s and young adult literature classes.

Her community outreach involvement includes 30 years on the Campbell County Children’s Festival Board, membership on the original Evenstart Board and advocacy for community services when the program became Family Literacy, eight years on the Wyoming Library Association Legislative Committee, co-writing Bottom Line…Libraries Lead to Learning for the State Legislature, coordinating the recording and distribution of the book on cassettes to legislators to request funding for certified personnel for school libraries and various positions with the Wyoming Library Association, such as 2010 president, Youth Services section chair, Indian Paintbrush and Soaring Eagle book awards committees, helping write bylaws and developing the partnership with the Wyoming State Reading Council. In response to a challenge from Wyoming First Lady Carol Mead, Knesel recently led an effort that helped develop the “Eat, Read, Grow” program at six Title I schools in the county.

In addition, Knesel wrote successful grants for the Youth Emergency Services House, Westwood Alternative High School and Gillette Abuse Refuse Foundation; served on the Community Coalition Against Underage Drinking; co-sponsored band concerts and dances in the community for teens; wrote a grant for the Department of Family Services to provide backpacks with reading kits for the Children’s Developmental Services of Campbell County; worked with the hospital to introduce babysitter classes; and taught for the DFS Childcare Licensing through the STAR program to childcare providers.

Among her previous awards are Campbell County Woman of Distinction, “10 Who Made a Difference” for the teen programs, CCSD Friend of Education, Campbell County Employee of the Month and Gillette Business and Professional Women recognized in conjunction with National Women’s History Month: Women in the Millennium. “She has done more than anyone I know to advance community in Campbell County. She believes in supporting all community efforts and will often be seen throughout the year at weekend fundraisers,”  Jennings wrote in her support letter.

WCWI is a 13-member volunteer council with representation from each of Wyoming’s nine judicial districts, four at-large members and one ex-officio member from WBC. Members are appointment by the Governor.

Previous recipients of what is now the “Governor’s Woman of Distinction Award” include, from Baggs: Linda Fleming (2010); from Casper: Bev Dye (2012), Ann Robinson (2006) and Oralia Mercado (2000); from Cheyenne:  Ann Redman(2016), Kathy Wright (2014), Willadeen Chamberlin (2007) and Mary K. Schwope (2001); from Ethete: Frances “Merle” Haas (2005); from Jackson: Mickey Babcock (2009) and Cindy Knight (2003); from Evanston: Denice Wheeler (2002); from Laramie: Connie M. Coca (2008); from Riverton: Lynne McAuliffe (2013) and Dessie Bebout (2011); and from Rock Springs: Kayne Pyatt (2004).

WCWI’s quarterly meetings are open to the public. For more information about events and activities, visit WCWI’s website at or Facebook page at


About the Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues: WCWI is a 13-member council with volunteer members appointed by the governor, including one member from each of the nine Judicial Districts, four at-large members, and one ex-officio member from the Wyoming Business Council. For more information, contact Chava Case at 307-777-2823 or or visit, or

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