After spending almost 40 years with the organization as a volunteer and a staff member, Chief Accreditation Officer (CAO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) Dr. Joe Sussman will retire from ABET as of Jan. 31, 2024. During Sussman’s career, he held numerous volunteer positions and later joined staff as the CAO and CIO.
Sussman received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. He accepted positions at Singer Sewing Machine Company and Smith Corona Marchant Co., but wanted to work in a more “jazzed up” industry like healthcare. For 26 years, Sussman worked at Bayer AG, where he led many of the company’s quality, manufacturing and IT efforts before retiring as a senior business executive.
Sussman’s Impact on STEM Accreditation
Sussman started as a program evaluator in 1987, eventually working his way to the Chair position of the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) in 1999. In recognition of his many contributions as a volunteer expert, he received the ABET Fellow Award in 2002, and later the Linton E. Grinter Distinguished Service Award in 2015. The latter award recognizes individuals whose commitment and impact has made ABET a better organization.
Sussman was instrumental in changing the future of the ABET accreditation process as a member of the EAC leadership when it introduced ABET’s revolutionary Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC2000). EC2000 focused on ensuring academic programs began measuring what students in ABET-accredited STEM programs learned rather than what they were taught. ABET began phasing in EC2000 during the 1998-1999 accreditation cycle before being fully implemented during the 2001 cycle.
As a member of the ABET Board of Directors, Sussman was part of the group that encouraged ABET to accredit international programs and witnessed the first fully accredited non-U.S. programs during the 1997-98 accreditation cycle.
Current Engineering Accreditation Commission Adjunct Director Dr. Dayne Aldridge was able to work with Sussman both as volunteers and on ABET staff. “In both of those roles, what was so rewarding in working with Joe was his ability to focus on what needed to be done and sort through the options, people’s opinions, etc. and help the group focus on going down a specific path, trying it and recognizing you may have to make adjustments as you go along,” Aldridge remarked. “He was very willing to do that, very open to that path of going forward.”
As CAO/CIO at ABET, Sussman oversaw the development of ABET’s Accreditation Management System (AMS). This new automated system manages all aspects of the accreditation process – from assigning evaluators to managing team documentation during program reviews to maintaining historical records on thousands of accreditation actions.
As for the future, Sussman and his wife, Sari, are two of the founders of an institution currently being constructed in New York City called the Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). Unlike typical retirement communities, CCRC offers lifelong care to its residents. As residents need more assistance, the community adapts to meet their needs, enabling them to stay in place.
His sense of humor and connection with his coworkers shined throughout his closing comments to the staff: “If you call me in the middle of the night, it better be important! But I’ll still accept the call.”