Emmy-winning anchor got TV break in Hawaii


POSTED: Monday, June 01, 2009

During the 1970s there were a few women anchoring the national or local news, but being a female sportscaster was almost unheard of. KITV News Director Stewart Chiefet took a chance on a University of Florida journalism graduate, an opportunity that turned into a 25-year run as a broadcaster in both Honolulu and Seattle. Today, Susan Hutchison, an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, is using her experience and communication skills helping support worthwhile causes globally.

Hutchison was born at Travis Air Force Base in California, the daughter of a 33-year Air Force Veteran. As with many children of parents in the military, she's lived in many places, but the majority of her years growing up was in the Washington, D.C., area where she listened to Warner Wolf cover sports and felt a calling to broadcasting. As a fan of sports, it was natural for her to write a daily sports column for her college newspaper.

Hutchison married her high school sweetheart, Andy, now a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel. In the late 1970s he was called to active duty at Kaneohe, where Susan quickly fell in love with Hawaii.

“;The air is just perfect, a perfect amount of humidity and temperature. A beautiful, gentle place,”; she said.

In 1978 Hutchison visited KITV, where Chiefet noted her background and came up with the idea of having her handle the station's sportscasts. “;She is one of my proudest finds,”; he said.

“;It was a revolutionary idea,”; Hutchison said. “;Stewart took a gamble on me. I had no broadcast experience.”;

Hutchison was thrust onto the scene, covering events from high school and university teams to the Hula Bowl and PGA tournaments.

“;They were impressed I could pronounce all the sports names,”; she said, glad for a foot in the door. “;There are so many broadcasting greats who got their start in sports. It was a normal way to get started in the business.”;

She initially covered weekend sports for the station and moved over to anchoring the weekend news with Bill Browning and Chris Allen. In a short amount of time, Hutchison became the primary anchor working weekdays alongside Jack Hawkins, Larry Price and Paul Guanzon.

During her years at KITV, she also worked with Don Rockwell, Candy Fleece, Matt Levi, Emerald Yeh and Emme Tomimbang.

“;A good way to break into the business is to start in a small market. You end up doing everything you don't get to do in other larger markets. I edited, wrote newscasts, reported, did stand-ups, produced. You get lots of opportunities to do lots of different jobs,”; she said.

It proved to be a great training ground for her next opportunity in the news business.

DURING THE WINTER of 1980, KIRO executive Ken Hatch from Seattle's CBS station was visiting Hawaii and spotted Hutchison. She was offered a job at the Washington station and on Jan. 15, 1981, anchored her first Seattle newscast. While at KIRO, Hutchison presided over the highest-rated newscasts in Seattle, receiving several awards as well as earning five news Emmys for her work.

“;Susan was celebrating her 10th anniversary on the air in Seattle; she called me to thank me for giving her her first on-air break. She's a real class act,”; said Chiefet.

During her broadcasting career, Hutchison has interviewed U.S. Presidents Carter and Reagan, the Rev. Billy Graham and former first lady Laura Bush.

For the past six years Hutchison has served as executive director for the Charles Simonyi Fund for the Arts and Sciences, a philanthropic foundation. She's responsible for managing $95 million in foundation investments, as well as $7 million per year grant-making for arts and sciences throughout this country and Europe. Hutchison also chairs the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and is a board member for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Seattle Art Museum and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center of Seattle. As a familiar face in the Seattle area for more than 25 years, she has represented many organizations and companies as a spokeswoman and video presenter. She has also taught managerial communications as an adjunct professor at Seattle Pacific University in the MBA program.

Hutchison still visits Hawaii, returning as recently as last year.

“;I love the people of Hawaii; there is a sense of substance you don't get in other resort communities, the heritage, the love of the land, island ways. Hawaii is more than a tourist destination. It's a lifestyle,”; said Hutchison.