Having started her career as a division secretary and procurement assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency in 1959, and later serving as a secretary in the aerospace division of Minneapolis-Honeywell from 1962 to 1963, Frances “Fran” Hammer Sutton left her career to follow her husband, Thomas Townsend Sutton, who was in the U.S. Coast Guard. When they moved to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Ms. Sutton decided it was time to pursue her dream of attending college. At the suggestion of a friend, she joined a computer course at a local community college and achieved the highest grade in the class. Seeking to further her knowledge of computers in order to return to the secretarial field, Ms. Sutton continued her studies at the College of The Albemarle, where she achieved a Cummings scholarship for having the highest GPA in the freshman class in 1983 and earned an Associate of Applied Science in data processing in 1984.
Transferring to Elizabeth City State University, Ms. Sutton was awarded a chancellor’s achievement scholarship in 1984 and went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science in computer science in 1987. During this time, she joined the Watermark Association of Artisans, where she served as a database management system consultant from 1986 to 1987. Following her graduation, a former professor reached out and offered her a position at the College of The Albemarle, which she accepted. Ms. Sutton served as an instructor of computer science at the college from 1987 until 2003.
In addition to her teaching position, Ms. Sutton spent more than a decade employed by the U.S. Coast Guard, after a friend of her husband’s encouraged her to apply for a position. Over the course of her tenure there, from 1990 to 2006, she worked as a database administrator, computer analyst and programmer as well as the head of quality control and testing. She continued to further her education during this time and earned a Master of Science in quality systems management from the National Graduate School of Quality Management in 2004. Ms. Sutton attributes much of her success to making the decision to attend college at a later age and she feels it is important to let others know that it is never too late to chase your dreams.
Alongside her primary career responsibilities, Ms. Sutton has been very active within her community as well. In 1982, she volunteered as a campaign worker for the “Winnie Wood for State Senate” campaign and has also spent time as a member, vice president and president of her local camping club. Still very involved, even in her retirement, Ms. Sutton currently holds the position of vice president for her local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
For her decades of excellence, Ms. Sutton has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades, including induction into the Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society and Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society. She was previously featured in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, Who’s Who in Media and Communication, and Who’s Who of American Women, and has also been presented with the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor conferred by Marquis Who’s Who. Above everything, she cites the highlight of her career as being assigned to lead the programming effort for Y2K for the Coast Guard base where she was employed.
Born in Hillsboro, Maryland, to father Arthur Walter Hammer and mother Mary Catherine Coulby, Ms. Sutton spent 25 years happily married to her husband Thomas before his untimely passing from cancer. She is the proud mother of three children — Thomas Arthur, an electrical engineer; Steven John, a state forest ranger; and Michael David, an architect — through whom she has six wonderful grandchildren. Her grandchildren’s interests range from English to engineering along with math and inventing. In her free time, Ms. Sutton enjoys reading, needlecrafts, designing clothing and camping in Florida during the winter.