Before Susan ’68 and Phil ’69 Hagenah fell in love — with the University of Arizona and with each other — they both fell for Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.
As a boy, Phil got out of Chicago every year for spring training in Scottsdale with his dad, who worked for the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
“I came out for about two or three weeks after winter in Chicago,” Phil says. “I’d hop off the plane and walk out into this glorious Sonoran Desert. I was hooked from an early age.”
Susan’s epiphany came a little later. In the summer before her senior year of high school, her family moved from Indiana to a Chicago suburb. That same summer, she says, she visited cousins living in Phoenix, fell in love with Arizona, and made a plan to go to the Southwest for college.
“Having already moved once and left all my friends behind, I had no qualms about doing it again for college,” she says. “I was sick of the Midwest and winters.” So off she went to Tucson and the University of Arizona.
Phil arrived a year later. His parents had wanted him to head east, but he persuaded them that the Wildcats’ business offerings would serve him well for his plan to go into advertising.
It took a while for the two to meet. Even in those days the school was big, and they were both busy with school and friends.
“I got my BS in social administration from what was then the Business and Public Administration College, now Eller,” Susan says. “My favorite class was Government with Dr. Conrad Joyner, who was absolutely fascinating.”
Professor Joyner’s lectures were so extraordinary that hordes of students who weren’t even in the class regularly showed up to hear them. Phil, a marketing major, was one of them.
But it was the world of fraternities and sororities that ultimately got the love birds together. Susan, then Susan Shook, was a Pi Beta Phi, and Phil was with Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“There were plenty of Greek parties,” Susan says, and “I dated many of his fraternity brothers!”
The two didn’t really click until Susan was a senior and Phil was a junior. “We were both at the Bay Horse Tavern [on Grant Road], and I joined a group of those guys at a table. Phil just caught my eye. He called the next day to ask me out.”
“I met her in a semi-dive,” Phil chuckles. “I just got lucky. I don’t think I ever dated anyone else again, just her.”
In those days there were strict rules for courting couples. But sweet romance blossomed anyway.
“The most romantic place for me was the front patio at the Pi Phi house,” Susan remembers. “It’s where we got to kiss and embrace — along with many other couples — as we said goodnight before ‘closing hour.’”
Despite the mandatory curfews, “We dated all my senior year. We were committed.”
After she graduated with the class of 1968, Susan went off to fly with American Airlines. “I was a flight attendant for about a year and loved it. We traveled to Rio de Janeiro, to Rome and all over the country.”
While she was flying the world, Phil hit the books, preparing for his career in advertising. “The UA absolutely helped me,” he says. “The courses were good, and I got a couple of internships. They were so important and so difficult to get. I learned about ad agencies and how they work. The biggest thing I learned was the art of collaboration.”
After he graduated in 1969, he and Susan got married. As Susan remembers, “Many, many of our friends got married immediately after graduation. And, as an aside, they are all still married and still friends of ours.”
The couple settled in Chicago. Susan still worked for American Airlines, but she was grounded.
“You could not be a married flight attendant then,” she recalls. Forced to take off her wings, she worked in reservations for the airline.
Phil happily dug into Chicago’s buzzing world of advertising, including a long run at prestigious Foote, Cone & Belding.
After 12 years in Chicago, Susan and Phil began to pine for the desert. They had three little girls by then, and Phil tired of traveling for work and wanted to spend more time with his wife and daughters. He persuaded his company to send him down to the FCB Phoenix office. Before long, he got the bug to start his own business.
“Me and a couple of guys started a film production company, Film House,” Phil says. They got into television advertising, with Barry Goldwater’s final campaign as one of their first projects. And they landed other big projects such as United Airlines, P&G, Kraft Foods and many more, including some Super Bowl spots.
In addition, Film House had a wonderful eight-year run with the well known “Lute & Bill” commercials for Bank One.
He loved the work, but he’s retired now after what he calls “a good 38-year run.”
Today, Susan and Phil are busy with their big family: three daughters, three sons-in-law and eight grandchildren. And they also are active philanthropists. Phil recently jumped into the world of art and joined the board of Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. The University of Arizona, where they first fell in love, remains close to their hearts.
They are generous donors to the university, especially supporting scholarships and students in Eller. “We are fortunate that we can do that.”
Phil also enjoys mentoring Eller’s marketing and advertising students.
“They seem to enjoy the crazy advertising stories I experienced,” he says with a laugh.