Susan D. Whiting, 1978
B.A., Denison University
President and Chief Operating Officer
Nielsen Media Research
Citation awarded June, 2003
After graduating cum laude from Denison with a major in Economics, Susan headed back home to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin without a job but with a determination to find one that was interesting, utilized what she had learned in college, and entailed some travel. One of the resumes she had sent out resulted in a mid-summer phone call from Chicago-based ACNielsen Co., inviting her to interview for a newly established management training position. The resulting job launched her on a 24-year path to the presidency she now holds.
Her introduction to Nielsen was a year-long intensive management-development program, learning every area of operations and sales in the company. Upon completion of the program, she moved from Chicago to New York City, just in time for the beginning of Nielsen’s cable television business. Through a combination of hard work and luck, as she puts it, Susan established herself as a trailblazer in the field of television research and audience measurement. She was instrumental in the effort to break out cable numbers and present them separately from broadcast networks, an act that significantly altered the composition of the television landscape. The result was the creation of Nielsen Homevideo Index (NHI) in 1980, a unit that provides a measurement of cable, pay cable, VCRs, DVDs, satellite dishes, and other new technologies. She has continued to innovate as the industry has evolved, designing and building new services that enable Nielsen clients to grow their businesses. Susan’s mentoring skills are evidenced by the large number of TV professionals who began careers working for her and are now in key roles at virtually every major cable network. For her contributions, Susan has been recognized by numerous industry organizations. In 2003, she was named “O1 of the Most Powerful Women in Television” by Electronic Media; Multichannel News named Susan one of its Wonder Women.
Susan is active in professional associations, having served as treasurer, vice president, and president of the New York Radio & TV Research Committee, her industry’s volunteer organization. She also served as a Board Member of the Advertising Research Foundation in 2000-01 and is a Board Member of the International Radio and Television Society.
Outside her profession, she is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, a Board Member of the Bauen Camp for the Arts, past president of the Delta Gamma Alumnae of New York, and has been active in various volunteer organizations. In 1997, the International Women’s Forum honored her career accomplishments and her mentoring skills by naming her a “Woman Who Makes A Difference.” She is currently past-president of the Connecticut Women’s Forum and has just completed her first year as a Member-at-Large of Denison’s Alumni Council.