As the house mom for the Chi Omega sorority, Sue Volz has been a second mother to hundreds of female University students for the past eight years.
Better known to the 74 members of the sorority who live in the house every year as “Mama Sue,” Volz governs the 39-bedroom house with hugs and a warm smile.
And she seems to be absolutely adored by her residents.
“Oh, Mama Sue?” gushed one resident, stopped as she was leaving the sorority house. “She’s great, you’ll love her.”
With a big smile, Mama Sue told of the first meeting with this year’s pledge class.
“I came out of the kitchen, and they started whispering,” she said, her voice dropping to a stage whisper. “‘That’s Mama Sue! That’s Mama Sue!’”
Growing up in Kentucky with 14 brothers and sisters, Mama Sue is used to a big family. Most of her siblings still live near where they grew up, and she said she spends two months every summer at a second house she owns in Kentucky.
And although she lives in the sorority house, Mama Sue is married, with a son and five grandchildren.
“A married house mom, that’s kind of rare,” she said, as if remarking on an unusual bird on the sorority house’s large front lawn.
Her husband, Bill Volz — “Papa Sue” to the girls of the house — lives at the couple’s home in Ypsilanti with their antique Mercedes and six Studebakers, a vintage automobile. And though retired, he still works two weeks of each month doing maintenance for the sorority house.
“So I do employ my husband, too,” Mama Sue said with a laugh.
Her grandchildren, all between the ages of three and 12, sometimes stay on the weekends, too — but only one at a time, she said.
Mama Sue said she takes a lot of pride in being a mother to her residents, and she has many stories to tell about those with whom she has been especially close.
“I think the greatest accomplishment I have felt here is I had one girl, she was very troubled . . . and one day, I hugged her. And she whirled around and said, ‘Don’t you ever touch me again!’ ” Mama Sue said. “When we left (for the summer) and came back in August, she comes in the back door, flying, running up to hug me. And I just saw the change that I made in her life,” Mama Sue said, as she wiped the corners of her eyes.
Mama Sue said she doesn’t plan on leaving Chi Omega soon, but when she does, she said she hopes to continue to surround herself with college students.
“I eventually would like to move to Kentucky and go to the University of Kentucky,” she said. “That’s my dream, to go back home. And I could be closer to family.”