Despite losing her father at age 15 to a heart attack and her mother at age 17 to cancer, Susan Kost wouldn’t describe her life as tragic. She calls herself and her two sisters “classic overachievers.” Though certainly difficult, they stuck together, put themselves through college, and have established successful careers. Ms. Kost, for example, currently serves as chief marketing officer for Deloitte’s global tax and legal business.
“My sisters’ and my lives aren’t tragic,” Ms. Kost said. “Losing our parents was hard, but we would not have accomplished what we did without that experience.”
For Ms. Kost, the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol evoked similar emotions of anxiety and despair.
“It was devastating to watch,” she said. “That stunned sense of disbelief resembled how I felt when I lost my parents. I asked myself, ‘Now what? Where do I go from here?’ Many Americans were wondering the same thing about our country after the attack on the Capitol.”
Just two weeks later, Amanda Gorman read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden. In that moment, Ms. Kost felt a new-found sense of perseverance and optimism for the nation. Every next generation brings energy, determination, and creativity to the table, encapsulating our country’s essence of continued strength. Ms. Gorman’s speech was a good reminder that the United States is an ever-evolving work in progress.
“The poem was so authentic. It didn’t gloss over what happened but instead wove that into the fabric of who we are,” Ms. Kost said. “It reminded me so much of my own experience that had made me stronger.”
Ms. Kost realizes her life could have taken a drastically different direction had she not finished college and specifically studied business. She earned a B.S. in psychology with a minor in business from John Carroll University in 1993 and an MBA from the University of Georgia in 2002.
“There’s a business side to everything, be it art, sports, or even medicine,” she said. “Business is an important foundation for anyone’s education.”
As part of its WorldClass initiative, Deloitte has vowed to positively impact 50 million futures by 2030 through investments in education. Based on Deloitte’s commitment as well as her own life experience, Ms. Kost decided to fund a scholarship geared toward undergraduate students who have faced adversity and are paying their way through school. Plus, Deloitte matches employee contributions to higher education dollar-for-dollar, further increasing the scholarship’s reach. Ms. Kost approached the institution in the company’s backyard with a highly diverse student body: the Robinson College of Business. The award’s name? The Hill We Climb Scholarship, in a nod to Amanda Gorman’s poem as well as the metaphorical mountain many low-income students must scale.
“The intended scholarship recipients have a mountain to climb,” Ms. Kost said. “The hill before them might seem insurmountable, but they’ll get there. It doesn’t matter where you start. It only matters where you finish.”