“Gløgg in the drapes”
Susan Meyer appointed New Honorary Consul for Illinois
The Norwegian American
Growing up on the East Coast, Susan Meyer was surrounded by Norwegian. Paternally, her Uncle Gary married a Norwegian, Lise, who was from Tønsberg, south of Oslo between the capital and Arendal. They raised their sons, Lars and Per, as bilingual dual citizens. Meyer’s mother, Ann, has her paternal roots in the village of Fjære, near Grimstad on the southern coast of Norway. Both her parents were from the same town on Long Island, and the extended families knew each other.
“Whenever we had family reunions, on both sides of the family, if we were with the Christiansens, the relatives would speak Norwegian,” Meyer said. “If we were with the Meyers—and sometimes they were together, because both families were from Long Island—my cousins Lars and Per, would speak Norwegian. So, it was always part of our family time together.
“Of course, there were numerous Scandinavian influences in our home, from the candles to the setting of the table and growing up with outdoor activities. At Christmastime, we kept many of the Christmas traditions. My mom always said, ‘It’s not Christmas until the gløgg is in the drapes.’ We always had a pot of gløgg on the stove during the holidays. The idea is that you’d come into the home and it would be a warm space to be.”
All these years later, is it a surprise that Meyer is the Norwegian honorary consul for Illinois, tasked in part to make things “comfortable,” “warm,” “feeling like home” for Norwegian businesses that may want to expand to Illinois and Norwegian Americans who might require services? Her father, Clifford, was an engineer and architect, who worked for the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics building nuclear submarines. When he received new projects, the family moved—19 times total—so Meyer knows the comfort of having a base.
Meyer replaces Paul Anderson, who served as consul for 20 years.
“Harriet Berg (the consul general in New York) called out of the blue, letting me know that Paul was retiring from the consul position,” explained Meyer, who has lived in Chicago for almost 30 years. “I had no idea. She asked if I would be interested in being considered for the position. Obviously, I was honored and humbled, said ‘yes, thank you very much.’”
Since 2017, Meyer has been the team leader for Trademark, Copyright, Media and Advertising Group in the 170 lawyer firm Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, PC. An officer there, Meyer practices corporate, intellectual property, and franchise law.
In 1986, she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from State University of New York-Stony Brook, where she was on the dean’s list and received the Outstanding Undergraduate Achievement Award. She earned her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1994. She was on the dean’s list, president of the Women in Law Student Organization and finalist in the ABA/John Marshall National Criminal Justice Trial Competition. She is listed in the 2019 and 2020 The Best Lawyers in America: Franchise Law and 2017-2018 Who’s Who Legal: Franchise.
In 2006, she took Norwegian classes at night, while working full time as an attorney. Visiting Norway a few times, she experienced what hyggelig is: a sense of warmth and coziness.
“I took our family on a trip to Norway in 2007,” said Meyer, who is married to attorney Charles Valente, with two daughters and a son. “It was interesting for me, because I stepped off the plane, and it felt like home. There was a visceral feeling of being in Norway and feeling very much at home. We discovered the natural beauty of Norway and, importantly, boller, the cardamom buns. We visited Fjære and Grimstad.
“Then 10 years later, my aunt, Karin, wanted to see where her family was from (Norway and Sweden), so we took another family heritage trip with my aunt and my cousins and went back to Grimstad and Oslo and got a chance to drive around Norway a bit. We had a wonderful time. It was great to see the sights again through their eyes.”
She also visited Harstad, above the Arctic Circle, where the family of an exchange student the Meyers hosted lived. Moreover, Meyer has made numerous business trips to Norway.
There are three Norwegian consul generals in the United States, headquartered in New York, San Francisco, and Houston, representing segments of the country. Berg covers the East Coast to Illinois.
“That’s a career mission and position,” explained Meyer. “She has a staff. They can issue passports and visas, and they have the biometric machines (fingerprint scanners). Our office is an honorary consulate. It is made up of basically two pieces: the consular functions and the diplomatic relations. The consular duties include things like assisting with visas, providing information, helping make appointments, and notarizing documents. The diplomatic portion is more facilitating the development of the cultural, educational, and business relations between Norway and the United States.”
She thinks the diplomatic part is more fun. Two pages of her curriculum vitae are devoted to Norwegian-related activities. She is committed to creating connections, networking, innovations, and she has an interest in advancing and expanding women’s businesses internationally.
Meyer has assisted established companies and startups manage growth for over 25 years. She was president of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Chicago from 2014 to 2017. Her firm, Greensfelder, is a corporate member of the Norwegian-American Defense and Homeland Security Industry Council (NADIC), an offshoot of NACC Mid-Atlantic (D.C.), an “international trade organization strengthening Norwegian-American defense industry business and research cooperation,” and she is on the board of Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global (WEGG).
“I bring passion, connections, a desire to support Norwegian interests in the area,” she said. “For several years, I’ve had an international practice, primarily focused on Scandinavia, Norwegian companies that have expanded to the United States, or startups trying to get a foothold here. Intellectual property touches every business, whether it’s a small family owned business or a multinational. A lot of Norway’s values and priorities align with what I have been advocating and supporting in my practice for decades now. I’m just eager to serve and happy to help in any way that I can. One of the things that I think is the most fun part of my job is making connections. I’ll meet somebody and hear a project that they’re working on and remember someone else who’s got a similar connection or synergy. I think that skill set is useful and helpful in dealing with the position as consul. I’m happy to bring my network to the table and try to assist people in that way.”
NACC is another place where she found that hyggelig.
“A friend of mine introduced me to the chamber,” said Meyer. “When I went to the first meeting it was such a warm welcome. The Norwegian community in Chicago has a long tradition. They honor those traditions. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know them, to work with them and to serve them as president for four years. At the time, the law firm I worked at had offices in Chicago, in New York and D.C. That gave me the opportunity to attend activities, events and board meetings in these other cities and expand my network.”
That connection led to NADIC.
“They noticed a lot of the defense companies had a very similar agenda, purpose, challenges and opportunities so they created a separate organization,” said Meyer. “A lot of the same people are active and aligned with NAAC Mid-Atlantic and NADIC. They have cooperative programming. NADIC has grown so much over the years. It’s a very dynamic, exciting group. They have a spring conference every year that has grown from being in a very small space to a very large space. It is a premier event.
“They have delegations come over from Norway. Recently, they created a ‘Hacking for Allies’ program, with an incubator in Palo Alto, [Calif.]. I was honored to be invited to participate in that program, where they brought four Norwegian companies with innovative, creative solutions to challenges in the military, as well as the public sector. That has been a very exciting process. I give a lot of credit to NADIC for their innovation. It mirrors what modern Norway is doing in terms of innovation, helping startups, and really trying to be cutting edge in terms of development and innovation.
“Norway is working closely with a lot of companies, municipalities, states, and counties in the United States to try to foster and share that technology and those good ideas. Norway truly does believe in combating climate change and overcoming the world’s dependence on oil. Even though Norway is the beneficiary of the oil fund, they’re not investing in fossil-fuel technology anymore. They are using the offsets to counteract the footprint of the impact that the oil fund is having on the world. Norway is doing what they’re talking about. They’re taking very strong initiatives to make those changes in the world. It’s a value and priority and very easy to support.”
Another NACC networking branch extended to WEGG. Vigdis Eriksen of Eriksen Translations introduced Meyer to Laurel Delaney, president of Globetrade, a management consulting firm focused on helping companies grow internationally.
“Laurel and I just connected,” said Meyer. “She told me that the mission for WEGG is to educate, inspire and nurture women business owners to take their companies global. What’s not to love about that? I am happy to serve on the board. I am one of the WEGG specialists. I assist companies that are interested in taking their companies to the next level or taking them internationally. It all works very closely together. I’ve given presentations to WEGG on intellectual property and assisted in counseling others. It’s a very dynamic, inspiring and impressive group of people.
“In January, Ambassador Kåre Aas spoke at ‘A Nordic Perspective: Delivering on Women’s Economic Empowerment’ at the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus meeting in Congress. He said, ‘Gender equality is smart economics. The economic empowerment of women should be at the very top of every domestic strategy for economic growth.’”
In Meyer’s office in Chicago, the gløgg is in the drapes.
This article originally appeared in the May 8, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.