STL’s Mathieu surprised with FIRST volunteer award

This story originally appeared on RealTime/STL.

In 2001, Susie Mathieu agreed to help her brother with a weekend project. Saturday night, Mathieu was honored with the FIRST Champion Volunteer of the Year award for her work toward that “weekend” project.

Thirteen years ago, venture capitalist and St. Louis native John Doerr called his sister and asked why his alma mater, Chaminade College Preparatory School, was not involved in FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Mathieu, who spent 20 years with the St. Louis Blues then another five with the National Hockey League and NHL Players Association, had never heard of the robotics program. The siblings made a deal: Mathieu would volunteer for “a weekend of event management,” and Doerr would fund St. Louis’ first FIRST event.

“It’s become a full-time volunteer position,” she said after receiving the award.

Mathieu is credited with helping to bring FIRST Championship to St. Louis in 2011, then helping to keep it here, one three-year deal at a time. The FIRST Championship will be in St. Louis through at least 2017. Several supporters and potential investors attended last week’s event, and Mathieu scurried from Saturday’s surprise awards ceremony to meet with them.

“Getting the championship to St. Louis, I think, was a perfect storm,” she said, calling the response from the city “overwhelming.”

“Look at what’s going on in the city: Ballpark Village opened, the Arch grounds project — there are so many vibrant things that really help sell our city. Plus, it’s natural Midwestern friendliness.”

The Business Journal reports that this year’s event brought about $24 million to the city.

Mathieu doesn’t accept much credit for FIRST’s St. Louis stay, or even for the award. “It’s because of all of you that I got this,” she told a volunteer who stopped to congratulate her on the award she carried.

“We have a really good group,” she said. “This shouldn’t be an individual award. This is earned by everybody in our (FIRST Tech Challenge) region.”

Mathieu was appointed to FIRST’s executive advisory board in October. She’s also a partner at Spirit Hockey LLC.