About the First Lady

Susan Kneten, who currently serves as Barton College’s “First Lady,” is an accomplished professional in her own right.  A graduate in geology from TCU, Mrs. Kneten began her professional work developing commercial oil and gas prospects in Texas, Appalachia, Pennsylvania, and the Gulf of Mexico for ARCO Oil and Gas.  She then went out on her own and began a consulting business for regional and national firms engaged in petroleum exploration.

After several years of consulting, she established and became president of her own oil and gas exploration company.  For twelve years, she developed prospects, drilled oil and gas wells, and managed production in the north Texas oil fields.  Her company was also involved in farm-outs from major companies, wildcat exploration, and consulting with foreign investors.

Mrs. Kneten was the first female voting member of the Fort Worth Petroleum Club.  This accomplishment reflects earlier pioneering career activities for women such as being the first female teller in a downtown bank.  She has frequently found herself quietly leading the way for competent professional women and takes pride in making a difference for women in the professional workplace.

Mrs. Kneten sold her oil and gas interests in 1998, and became actively engaged in the academic enterprise.  When her husband, Norval, accepted the position of Vice President for Academic Affairs at Nebraska Wesleyan University, she became an active part of campus life and focused on creating and developing community among the faculty.  Her creative abilities in this area were recognized nationally by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) when she was appointed a member of the Chief Academic Officers Spouses’ Task Force.  In that capacity, she mentored the spouses of new CAO’s and participated in planning educational and social programs for national CIC meetings.

More recently, she is fully employed as a presidential spouse at Barton College with specific contractual duties outlined by the Board of Trustees.  These duties include advancement responsibilities, community relations, and representing the Office of the President on various boards including the Barton College/Wilson Symphony Orchestra, Friends of the Hackney Library, Friends of Visual Arts, and Theatre at Barton.  She hosts dozens of events annually, supervises the use of the president’s home, and participates in multiple planning activities.  She is a past member of the CIC Presidents’ Spouses’ Task Force, where she mentored spouses of new presidents and participated in planning and delivering programs at the national meetings.

Susan and Norval Kneten have three children and four grandchildren, all of whom live in Texas.  Their oldest son, Craig Kneten, a family practice physician, is married to Rita Case Kneten, and they have two children, Forrest and Alexandria.  Another son, Chapman Mays, a computer science engineer consultant, is married to Letty McDonnell Mays, and they have one child, Annabelle.  Their daughter, Emily Mays Harman, lives in Alpine, Texas, where she works as a studio artist and trains donkeys. Emily most recently established “Nice Bread,” an organic bakery. Emily’s daughter, Helen, is enrolled at St. Stephens Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, and lives in Alpine during the boarding school vacations.