(Colulmbia-WIS) February 2, 2006 - Susan Aude, respected news anchor for WIS Television for more than a quarter century, announced her retirement Thursday.
As reported on WIS News 10 at 6:00, Aude has decided to leave work for health reasons. She has been off the air for six months, recovering from a serious hip fracture.
"It's time to slow down a bit and make staying healthy a priority, so it's time to hang up the ol' microphone," she said.
Of Aude's departure, WIS Senior Vice President and General Manager Mel Stebbins said, "Her unmatched credibility has been well earned over the years through professional journalism and flawless presentation. She accomplished all this through hard work and grace under pressure."
WIS News Director Tina Luque-Blacklocke added, "Susan is the heart and soul of this newsroom. The hundreds of people who've worked with her over the years have become better journalists and better people because of her integrity and humanity."
Aude worked her entire broadcasting career at WIS, the NBC affiliate in Columbia, starting as a weekend weather anchor shortly after she received a graduate degree from the University of South Carolina in 1978. "When I first came through the doors of WIS more than 27 years ago, I never dreamed what a wonderful career and life I would have as a result," Aude said.
What television viewers immediately noticed about Susan Aude was that she used a wheelchair, the result of a highway crash during her junior year in college that left her unable to walk. But it did not take long for WIS viewers to also notice her talents as a reporter and communicator, and Aude quickly rose to become a primary anchor at the station, appearing weeknights on the station's most-watched evening newscasts.
As Stebbins put it, "Her disability became invisible because of her enormous presence and enthusiasm."
In a recent letter to Hayne Hipp, chairman of the station's longtime corporate parent, Liberty Corporation, Aude wrote, "Being in a wheelchair, I know what it's like for people when others feel uncomfortable around you. But because of WIS all those things became non-issues for me. People come right up to you, they chat with you, they hug you, they feel like they know you. How blessed I have been to have that outpouring of kindness directed my way all these years."
Luque-Blacklocke paid tribute to Aude as a role model, saying "She was a pioneer for women in journalism and for people with disabilities who aspire to do great things. They knew it was possible because of her."
Susan Aude's career at WIS spanned four decades, and included momentous events such as Hurricane Hugo, seven Presidential elections, the September 11th terrorist attacks and the funeral of Senator Strom Thurmond.
One of her proudest moments on the air involved an event she participated in, the 1996 Olympic torch relay. She was one of many South Carolinians who carried the Olympic flame through the streets of Columbia, but Aude propelled herself in her wheelchair, the torch attached with a special bracket.
Aude's physical courage and journalistic integrity won her the admiration, awe and affection of thousands of viewers in the state, and she was recognized with many honors during her career. Among them, the Masters Award for lifetime achievement from the South Carolina Association of Broadcasters in 2000. The WIS 6:00pm newscast, co-anchored by Aude, won the Emmy Award for Best Newscast from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Southeast Region, in both 2003 and 2005. In 1998, Aude was named to the University of South Carolina College of Journalism's "Diamond Circle", joining a national group of esteemed individuals chosen for outstanding contributions to their field. The Governor's Commission on Women honored her with its 2001 Woman of Achievement Award which is presented for "remarkable accomplishments and commitment to our state".
Aude's inspiring life and accomplishments have been the subject of stories in Good Housekeeping and Ms magazines, as well as on CNN and Lifetime cable channels and Sally Jesse Raphael. Susan is also known for her community involvement and has received numerous humanitarian awards. She has been a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer, member of the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council's Luncheon Club, and a frequently requested speaker.
Looking back on her career this week, Aude wrote, "This is a huge turning point. More than half my life has been spent working at WIS. When I first came through the doors of WIS more than 27 years ago I never dreamed what a wonderful career and life I would have as a result. I've had the opportunity to cover lots of interesting people and fascinating events but the memories I take with me are the most precious: those of all my dedicated and hard working friends at the station and a relationship with WIS viewers that I prize with all my heart. I cannot say thank you enough for the hundreds of thoughtful, kind things WIS viewers have said and done throughout the years. They made my life special in ways I could never have imagined.
"For now, I'm just concentrating on getting my energy and stamina up to speed then I'll see what life has in store for the next chapter of my life. It's been great so far and I'm counting on that continuing."
News Director Tina Luque-Blacklocke said of Aude's departure, "We'll miss her experience, her commitment and her spark. She has a devilish sense of humor, and we've often needed that, too."
General Manager Mel Stebbins saluted Aude's contributions to the station and the community, adding, "She and she alone reached the decision to retire for the sake of her health with predictable courage. Susan is revered and will remain part of the WIS family forever."