Skip to main content
External Recognition

Susan Toplikar, Former Art + Design Faculty, Dies

Susan Toplikar

Republished from the News & Observer.

Susan Margaret Toplikar, passionate teacher, gifted artist, and dedicated community-arts activist, passed away July 20, 2020, from complications associated with Parkinson’s disease. Susan was born in 1952 and raised in the hardscrabble working-class neighborhoods of Kansas City, Missouri. She showed an early flair for drawing and attended classes and studio sessions at the K.C. Art Institute. After high school, she enrolled at UMKC (undergrad) and Washington University (grad), majoring in Fine Arts at both institutions. Upon graduation, she was offered a position in the design foundation program at the School of Design, NC State University, which she eagerly accepted. Susan took great pride in being a member of the legendary design fundamental program at NCSU, a curriculum that rose to national prominence and sent aspiring design professionals across North Carolina and the nation. Susan was much loved by her students; she asked them to be curious, to be playful, and to be risk-takers. They came to realize that the journey is the destination; that the act of creative problem solving is a path to discovery on its own. Students were inspired by Susan’s courage and resolve; they admired her as a role model, especially females desiring a career in the design profession. She retired from NCSU as Professor Emeritus after 33 years in the classroom and was, at the time, the longest-tenured female faculty member at the School.

In addition to teaching, Susan maintained a rigorous studio presence. She was very prolific, creating works in the studio when she wasn’t in the classroom, and completed an astonishing body of work. Susan was a doer and a maker; she could draw like an angel, possessed a magical sense of color, and was a master of fluid, gestural expression. Her works have been exhibited at the AIR Gallery in New York City, the School of Design Gallery, the North Carolina Museum of Art, Meredith College, the New Orleans Museum of Art, SECCA, and many other venues. Additionally, her work is in numerous private and public collections.

In 1986 Susan married Mike Cindric, her life partner and soul mate. Together they forged a rich and rewarding life as artists and designers. They worked independently, sharing side-by-side studios, offering support and encouragement to one another; and collectively, collaborating on public art projects and larger commissions.

Quiet and unassuming, kind and gentle; Susan had a heart of gold … and a fierce determination to succeed by whispering in a world that is dominated by those who shout the loudest. ‘Blessed are the meek ………..’.

Susan is survived by her brother, Daniel, her husband, Mike, and Mike’s son Mark. The family would like to thank Ne Ne Ekine, who provided patient, empathetic, and compassionate caregiving during Susan’s 4-year journey through the hell of Parkinson’s. A celebration of her life will be scheduled at a later date when the pandemic subsides and public gatherings are once again permitted.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store. Published in The News and Observer on Jul. 23, 2020.

Share your memories of Susan

Susan Toplikar taught, trained, and mentored rising artists, designers, and architects for over 30 years at the College of Design at NC State University. We are inviting former students, artists, friends, and colleagues to submit brief 500-word remembrances that will be published on the College of Design website to coincide with her birthday in October of this year. We encourage you to think of not only the qualities that made Susan an exceptional professor but also sharing specific anecdotes or instances you recall in her classes and studios.