ASU Alum Named Distinguished Alumna of the Year

News Date
janet sutton
​​By Hazel Scott/ASU

Alabama State University alumna Janet Sutton has been selected to receive the 2020 Legacy of Leaders Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award from the National Black College Alumni (NBCA) Hall  of Fame Foundation.

The honor will be presented at the Legacy of Leaders Alumni Awards Recognition event on Friday, Sept. 25, during the Hall of Fame Weekend (Sept. 23-27) in Atlanta, Ga. NBCA recognizes Sutton for her track record of distinguishing herself professionally, bringing honor to her alma mater (ASU), as well as making  significant contributions  of time and/or philanthropy to her alma mater and her community.

“It’s an honor to receive this recognition. It’s fantastic,” Sutton exclaimed. “Alabama State has given me so much. ASU is my home. I spent so many years on its campus.” 

Sutton grew up in Montgomery, where she graduated from Alabama State Teachers College Laboratory High School. She attained her B.S. degree (’60) from Alabama State Teachers College, now known as Alabama State University, and her MBA degree from Fordham University in New York, N.Y. 

Since then, Sutton has shown an unwavering devotion to her alma mater. She was the Chair of the Alabama State University Foundation Inc. Board of Directors and the first female to become president of the ASU National Alumni Association Inc. and the first president to serve four terms.  For 25 years, Sutton has been successful in securing alumni from across the country to return to ASU once a year to speak with students about their education, career and network opportunities during Career Day.

“On Career Day, we discuss with students life in the real world and what to expect once they enter the workforce. We are humbled to have had the opportunity to give back to these young scholars,” Sutton said, noting she got the program off the ground with the help of a committee of other alumni she formed. “It was something I looked forward to each year. It required a lot of planning for that one day. The University was absolutely fantastic in assisting in the things we needed to do to make this program successful.”

Sutton, who now lives in Georgia, said a year ago she had to give up her leadership role because of her husband’s health. She met her husband Willie at ASU and they were married in 1966.  

She has established scholarships at ASU to assist financially challenged students and as the past president of the New York Metro Alumni Chapter, she was the first in her chapter to have students fly from New York to Alabama to attend the ASU Connection Day program.  For her notable contributions to her community and to ASU, Sutton received ASU’s prestigious Spirit of Tullibody Award. 

Sutton retired from International Business Machine (IBM) where she held several positions including positions in marketing for more than 25 years. After her retirement, she served as a substitute English teacher for eight years at Malcolm Xi Shabazz High School in Newark, N.J.  

When coupled with her professional accomplishments, Sutton’s community involvement speaks volumes for her merit in demonstrating extraordinary public service.  She served as the community team leader for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Henry County, Ga., and neighborhood team leader – on the ground team – for President Barack Obama from 2008-2012.

In addition to her 2020 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award, Sutton has received numerous awards for her volunteerism and remains active in several community-based organizations, including the Atlanta Alumni Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.,  and a Georgia organization called Platinum, a group of women who do charitable work in their area.  

Although she has retired, the only thing that has slowed her down is the pandemic.

“We live in unsettling times because of COVID-19.  Staying safe, I hope to continue my charitable and volunteer work because there are a lot of people out there who still need help. If God is willing, I hope to do just that,” Sutton emphasized.

Sutton encourages young people to persist in their educational journey.

“Try to get an education because you can learn how to do so many more things. Be assertive. You just can’t sit back and wait for somebody to hand you something; you must work for it yourself. And, most importantly, we should encourage students to tap into the help that ASU provides,” she said.


The nonprofit National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation, which was founded in 1986 by member of the National Council of Alumni Associations, assists alumni associations and other organizations as they aim to ensure the survival and stability of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).