Susie Bixler makes friends fast
By Jen Bingham
It’s a common joke among her friends: Susie Bixler can kick up friendships instantly with complete strangers. “We’ll be at an event and the person I was talking to will walk away, and my friends will say, ‘I didn’t know you knew so-and-so,’ and I’ll say, ‘I never met her in my life. I just started talking,’” Bixler says. “They make fun of me for that, but it’s just my personality.”
And indeed, she has an instant warmth and a welcoming rapport that even makes a conference room in January seem cozy and inviting.
Bixler brings her hallmark warmth and desire for connectedness to her job as well. Twenty-nine years ago, she took her first job out of college as a child life specialist at St. Francis Hospital. The hospital name has since changed — it’s now known as Franciscan St. Francis Health – Indianapolis — and so has Bixler’s position. She serves as the health marketing director.
“Right now my main responsibility is to oversee the marketing for our Franciscan physician network,” she explains. “We have about 240 providers in probably 88 locations just in the central Indiana region, and I also serve on the corporate marketing board, so I help with the overall branding and awareness of Franciscan St. Francis.”
Her favorite part of the job, she says, comes as no surprise: She most enjoys “meeting the new doctors as they’re coming on board, helping them build their patient volume,” she says. “You get to really learn about them more personally.”
All in the Family
Her interpersonal warmth, Bixler explains, runs in her family. “My dad was like that, and he’d embarrass us in church,” she recalls. “The minister would say, ‘Does anyone have anything to say?’ My dad would stand up and turn around to the congregation. He had nothing to say, but he was going to come up with something. We would die. That’s one of my favorite memories, and the minister would just start laughing.”
Her father’s gregariousness taught Bixler how to connect with people.
“It’s just relationship building,” she says. “I totally get it. If you met the rest of my family and my siblings, you’d just shake your head. Both of my parents were very outgoing, and they both had humor. All five of us (kids) inherited that, so we’re very, very lucky.”
Bixler remains close with her three brothers and younger sister despite the fact that all the children moved away from Evansville, where they were brought up. “Both our parents have passed away, so we lost that focal point where everybody goes,” she says. “I do a lot of road tripping.”
Bixler looks back on her childhood with nostalgia. “I grew up out on the west side of Evansville, the country side of Evansville,” she says. “I had the best of both worlds. We went to nice dinners and then we turned around and had hay rides and bonfires and big volleyball parties, and everybody always came to our house.”
At 52, Bixler is now the mother of two girls. Stephanie, her oldest, is 23 and a recent college graduate. Nicole, 18, is a senior at Southport High School.
High school activities keep Bixler busy. “Right now, with Nicole being a senior, I have been helping with Southport High School’s Adult Athletic Booster Club,” she says. “We do all kinds of fundraisers.”
On the Community Front
She just finished her first year on the Johnson County Community Foundation board, and she served as a board member for the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce for 11 years, stepping up as president in 2006. She is now on the Greenwood chamber’s nominating committee.
“Susie Bixler has to be the most positive and supportive person I’ve ever served with on volunteer boards,” says Paul St. Pierre, president of Wilson St. Pierre Funeral Service & Crematory, who served on the chamber board with her. “She can see what others don’t, and (she) gives of her time with no expectation of anything in return. This unselfish caring is why she is so admired by her peers.”
Despite her many accomplishments so far, Bixler says she still wants to do more. “I would like to do more volunteer work in the community, especially with kids,” she says. “I want to make a difference.”
She loves to travel. This year, she plans to visit Cancun with Nicole and longtime friend Catherine Bowie and her daughter, Jackie.
“Our girls are friends,” says Bowie. “They started hanging around together when they were in junior high, so we’ve (Bixler and Bowie) known each other through that, through school and volleyball and other sporting events. Our girls are really close, so we became very close. We all take vacations together.”
Bowie sees Bixler as a community leader. “People just love her wherever she goes,” Bowie says. “She just has that magnetic personality, which is refreshing.”