Susan Abbott, an executive at McCormick & Co. and a leader in the spice industry, died of breast cancer Friday at Brightwood Center in Lutherville. The Cockeysville resident was 54.
In her 32 years with the Baltimore-area grocery products company, Ms. Abbott became the senior technical supervisor at its spice mill and headed its quality assurance program. She was most recently McCormick's vice president for regulatory and environmental affairs, and was the first female president of the American Spice Trade Association.
Born in Baltimore and raised in the Murray Hill section of Baltimore County, she attended Baltimore Academy of the Visitation in Roland Park before her 1966 graduation from Notre Dame Preparatory School.
Ms. Abbott earned a degree in chemistry from the old St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg and a master's degree in engineering administration from George Washington University. At her death she was a doctoral candidate in policy sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
She joined McCormick in May 1970, in a job testing the purity of cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and other spices and grocery products at McCormick's old Light Street plant in the Inner Harbor.
She was named a supervisor in quality control in 1976 and a technical services manager three years later. In 1987, she was named vice president of quality assurance and several years later became vice president for regulatory and environmental affairs. In this capacity, she worked with the federal Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"Susan had an intimate knowledge of spice and herbs," said Carroll deS. Nordhoff, McCormick's executive vice president. "She also had an ability to bore in on a problem with great business judgment."
Colleagues said that when she was placed in charge of quality assurance, Ms. Abbott became the first woman to head a business function at McCormick.
"Susan was a remarkable and caring human being. Her first thoughts were always for others. She was beloved by employees across this organization," said Karen Weatherholtz, senior vice president for human relations and a friend for 25 years. "She was such a professional, a mentor to a number of employees, and certainly to women."
In 1998, Ms. Abbott was named woman of the year by Women in Flavor and Fragrance, a national group based in New Jersey. That same year she was named president of the Washington-based American Spice Trade Association. She spoke on spice-related issues in India, among other places, and testified before a U.S. Senate committee on regulatory matters in 1999.
Friends said she relaxed by riding her horse, Smiler, at St. Timothy's School in Stevenson. She also delighted in the observance of Halloween and decorated a room in her home with pumpkin pictures. On Oct. 31, she donned a costume and delivered candy to her co-workers, and to cancer patients, nurses and physicians at St. Joseph Medical Center.
Working on behalf of the mentally disabled, she was a board member of The Arc of Baltimore. She also served on the Essex Community College Foundation and Baltimore County Leadership Program, and sat on the executive advisory board of the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 103 Church Lane, Cockeysville, where she was a member.
Survivors include her husband of seven years, Roy K. Langhans; two brothers, Thomas G. Abbott Jr. of Berwyn, Pa., and Scott C. Abbott of Timonium; a stepson, Michael Langhans of Huntington Beach, Calif.; and a stepdaughter, Melanie Langhans of Baldwin.