Remembering Elsie “Mom” Sutton


“Mom” Sutton, as she was known to all, served at Southeastern from 1951 to 2013. She served by working in the kitchen for twenty-four years, then took over supervising the cleaning of the college. Mom Sutton was there as soon as students moved out, preparing the dorms for the next semester. She did this until she was 85 years old. Afterward, she still came on Tuesday mornings and served coffee and cookies to the SEBC Community Bible Study.

It would be impossible to give an exhaustive list of all Mom has done at SEBC over the years. In so many ways she was a blessing to the students, faculty and staff. She was truly a treasure. There is no doubt she heard the words from Matthew 25:21 … well done good and faithful servant … from her Lord and Savior.

Below are comments from current and former Southeastern Bible College Presidents.

Please also add your comments and stories using the form at the bottom of the page.

Alexander Granados, Th.M., Ph.D.
President of Southeastern Bible College (2014 – )

I praise the Lord for what He did in and through Elsie “Mom” Sutton. She was a servant who did her work with an eye single to God’s glory and that is why her life and ministry are an example of faithfulness.

For over 50 years she was our co-laborer and friend at Southeastern Bible College. Her humble teachable spirit made it a joy to serve with her. Her passion for and commitment to the gospel, revealed her love for God, His word and His people. What impressed me the most about Mom Sutton was how she demonstrated her spiritual character and values through an unreserved worship of God and a pursuit of Christ-likeness in word, deed and attitude.

She was a precious model of devotion embodying Joshua 1:8 – This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. I am grateful for her palpable contribution to our academic and spiritual development at Southeastern Bible College. She taught us to be caretakers, guards, guides, seekers, feeders, and lovers of God’s flock.

The Lover and Savior of her soul has called her home and she is at rest. Psalm 116:15 – Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.

Don Hawkins, D. Min.
President of Southeastern Bible College (2001 – 2014)
Alumnus 1967

My first contact with Mom Sutton and her husband Pop came when I entered Southeastern as a freshman in the fall of 1963. They had already established themselves as key members of the Southeastern team. Pop oversaw maintenance of the ten-acre Southside campus, and Mom headed up food service. Both were highly respected, and both were diligent and hard-working in their service. Meals were served family-style, and a number of students worked for Mom in the kitchen and dining area, as did a number for Pop.

One memory about Mom stands out to me. In my second or third year, a small but vocal number of students confronted Mom, griping about the food. Mom very graciously responded to these complaints, and I can’t help thinking about two things—her calm in the face of criticism and the terrific job she did to stretch a tight budget and prepare quality meals for us students.

When Kathy and I returned to Southeastern in 2001 to begin my 13-year service as president, Pop had been called on to heaven, but Mom had continued serving the college, as she had in a variety of ways over the years.  At that time, at the age of 86, she was serving refreshments to the president’s Tuesday morning Bible class. She continued this service until she finally had to step down at the age of 96!

Shortly before that occurred, a local television crew came out to produce a feature on Mom and her years of service.  Cameras recorded her cheerful smile, her diligent spirit, and her quiet yet gracious interaction with those who attended the class. The final shot in the televised feature was of Mom, well into her nineties, driving off campus toward home!

Now that she is truly home, with the Savior she loved and reunited with Pop, it is most fitting that we recognize the faithful decades of service to the college, the love of students so many have reflected in Facebook posts, and the incredible impact she (and her partner Pop) have had on the history of Southeastern.

John D. Talley, D. Min.
President of Southeastern Bible College (1988 – 2000)
Alumnus 1963

My memories of Mom span almost 60 years.  First, Bette and I, came to SEBC as students.  Mom ran the cafeteria, cooking meals for the on-campus students on the old Pawnee campus while Pop was the head of maintenance.  In 1977 when I joined the faculty she was in charge of housekeeping.  She taught her student help to clean windows with vinegar and old newspapers in order to save the College money.  Though I assured her the budget could handle cleaning supplies, Mom persisted in using vinegar and newspapers.

When I taught the President’s Monday night/Tuesday morning Bible studies, Mom was responsible for refreshments.  Finally, when Mom could no longer drive Bette and I would often pick her up for church.  Whether she was the cook, in charge of housekeeping or refreshments, Elsie Sutton had a way of working her way into the hearts of people around her, thus the title “Mom Sutton”.

When we received the call that Mom had gone to glory, I became emotional and the only words that came out of my mouth were, “Man, is she going to get a bunch of rewards!”

We loved and appreciated her and will miss her greatly.

On behalf of the family of Alden Gannett, D. Th.,
President of Southeastern Bible College (1960-1969) & (1972 – 1981) 

Ron Gannett, Alumnus 1971
Special Assistant to the President, Dallas Theological Seminary

My first memory of Mom and Pop Sutton was their invitation to the new president and his family in 1960 to share dinner in their modest mobile home tucked up above the old campus.  It was the campus manager and cook who reached out to the new leader to show love and make his young family feel welcomed.

My father was always appreciative of her attention to his needs.  She wanted to make sure that Dr. Gannett was cared for.  He would tower over her with a hug and brag to anyone listening about her meaningful role at the college.  Her humble spirit would brush it off, but we all knew she was like the poor widow in the Temple who gave everything she had and captured the attention of our Lord.

At college gatherings or conferences, I would see Mom lingering around the edges of the crowd in her humble way.  But, it never worked.  Her gracious spirit created a magnetism, which drew people to her automatically.  The event was not complete without a word or hug from Mom.  She never taught a course but her sacrifice and love educated us all.

When I think of her, even now, my mind can only see that constant smile on her face and the twinkle in her eye to know how you are doing.  I can only imagine the fruit we will see in heaven resulting from her labors of love.  How many folks will be there praising the Lord because they knew her or were touched by someone she loved?  If I listen carefully, I think I can hear the bells of heaven ringing with joy.

I know that every member of the Gannett Family joins me in thanking our Lord for allowing our lives to be graced by His dear servant, Mom Sutton.

  • Janice Y. Cripe
    Posted at 16:40h, 06 October Reply

    What precious memories I have of working with Mom Sutton. I learned so much in the kitchen. Her life was a special example of – as I said before – words can not express it. She was indeed a blessing to all even after we left college. Praying for her wonderful family! Jan Cripe 1961

  • Dr. Wilfred and Shirley Johnson
    Posted at 17:00h, 06 October Reply

    I never complained of Mom’s cooking. I gained about 25 pounds during my time at SEBC. Shirley and I were good friends of Mom and Pop way after our school days. She always sent us a Christmas card with a hand written note. Pop taught me a lot of things as I worked with him on a work scholarship. “You’ll need this on the mission field” was his constant reminder. We loved Mom and will remember here here until we see her there.

  • Dennis Kirkland
    Posted at 17:24h, 06 October Reply

    I met Mom Sutton when I became a student in January of 1985. Her warm, gentle, and kind spirit was always an inspiration. She knew I was interested in serving as a missionary and faithfully encouraged me to stay focused on missions. When my wife and I left for Puerto Rico in 1988, we were humbled that Mom began supporting us with $10 per month. She was faithful to invest in us for 20+ years and her “widow’s mite” was always precious. Her reward from the Master must be vast!
    Dennis and Lora Kirkland
    Biblical Ministries Worldwide

  • Delores Callahan Vega
    Posted at 18:39h, 06 October Reply

    Before I came to Southeastern as a student I had already gotten to know Mom and Pop Sutton and their family. They picked me up for church each Sunday, we all attended East Lake Alliance Church. Moms food was always delicious but I really enjoyed Sunday night dinner, it was amazing what she could do with peanut butter, raisins and carrots. Once while I was a student we had a big snow and the parking lot turned to ice. I could not walk across the ice so Pop made cleats for the heels of my shoes and I could then walk to class (I wore leg braces, some of you may know). Mom had my Sunday School class over to make taffy and I remember what a wonderful devotion their testimony provided to all of us. In 2004 my grand- daughter met Daniel at her place of work. She told me Daniel was looking for a car for his Mom. They bought my car for Mom to drive. The day I delivered the car to her was the last time I saw dear Mom and got to enjoy her sweet smile. My memories of both Mom and Pop are precious and their daughter, Grace, was a dear friend.

  • Dr. Ron D. Ross, 1971
    Posted at 05:55h, 07 October Reply

    As an incoming Freshman, I had the honor of meeting Mom Sutton in 1963, as I worked in Maintence with Pop Sutton. What an honor to be working with two of God’s choice servants. My college experience was shaped by the “servant attitude” of Mom & Pop Sutton for which I am eternally grateful.

  • Jane Goad Bayse
    Posted at 11:26h, 07 October Reply

    Dr. Talley, I was one of I’m sure many handlers of the vinegar and newspaper routine in cleaning the windows at the school. I’ve always said that Mom Sutton was one of the few women that I had difficulty in keeping up with. This was true even in cleaning the guys’ door rooms in the summer, in which I participated for several summers, even when we got to the bathtubs, where “you could grow corn”.
    Mom even set up a schedule where a group of us would “ladysit” with an elderly lady in Mountain Brook, and get paid just for staying the night. Yes, I agree that she is now experiencing the rewards of a life well lived, filled with serving her Lord and helping countless SEBC students. I will miss her.

  • Elise Rice
    Posted at 15:24h, 07 October Reply

    What a privilege to know a great woman of faith. All my life I knew her as she is for whom I am named. She was so dear to my mom while at SEBC and when I was there I was able to see her weekly as she would help out with Dr. Hawkin’s BIble study. Her smile could chear you up if you were down. She always had an encouraging word. After I married my husband would tell me, “While in the states we need to visit Mom Sutton.” Everytime we came to the states we would make a point to see her no matter how busy our schedule may have been. She loved my mom so much and continued that love for my brother and sisters and extended it to my husband a little boys. She will be missed. We will miss those special times. I am praying for all of the family! She now is rejoicing with Pop and “Äunt”Grace.

  • Tanya Ensell
    Posted at 19:41h, 07 October Reply

    I met “mom” Sutton while attending graduate school there at Southeastern. Such a picture of a woman who demonstrated such a love for God and others. She invited me to visit with here in her adorable, quaint and cozy home and attend her friendly country church. Thank you “mom” Sutton for your faithful and loving spirit you shared throughout your life.

  • Linda Erwin
    Posted at 20:41h, 07 October Reply

    Mom Sutton gave me my first taste of grits!! She told me how to eat them…with butter and salt & pepper. MMMmmm! Love em! I stayed with Mom overnight a couple of years ago. She shared with me stories from her early life (ancient history to me!) I helped her address envelopes to the hundreds of former students and friends she had known. She had an incredible prayer list and she prayed every day!! What a blessing to spend time with her. I will cherish that time until I see her again!

  • Tammi Muterspaw Rhoney
    Posted at 15:35h, 08 October Reply

    I was a student at SEBC for 3 years (1989-91) and Mom became my good friend. She had some of us girls from the college over to spend the night at her house a few times. I remember her sweet, humble, gentle spirit, her smile, kindness and graciousness. After I graduated from SEBC in 1991 and left B’ham, Mom and I continued to correspond via mail. I received a beautiful wedding gift from her prior to my marriage in 1996 that I still keep. It is a beautiful slicer with a crystal handle. I became chronically ill in 1993 and was never able to get back to B’ham to see Mom before she died, but I will always remember her and the fun times we had. She would always say, “We have to trust in Him” and I remember that to this day. 🙂

  • Peggy Reynolds Bechtle
    Posted at 07:00h, 16 October Reply

    I was a student at Southeastern from 1965-69 and Mom and Pop Sutton befriended me as they did all of the students. I am so grateful for the friendship and love that they gave to me while a student at SBC. Mom and I continued to correspond throughout the years and I was continually amazed at all she did throughout her life and into her 90’s! She was a dear woman of God and a truly a servant of the Lord. I look forward to seeing her again in heaven!

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