Sue Cobb

An extraordinary life

By Deserae E. del Campo

An extraordinary life

By Deserae E. del Campo
Sue Cobb shares the most momentous moments of her life in her latest memoir

The beginning of each chapter in Sue Cobb’s latest memoir, The Lady of Silk and Steel, From Everest to Embassies, begins with an inspirational quote. Her favorite, by Anais Nin, starts at the beginning of Chapter 1: “Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

“This quote conveys a life lesson that I tried to communicate throughout the book,” said Cobb via Zoom from her home in South Florida. “Many opportunities come along in life and they all carry some type of risk, so it’s all about analyzing the risks and being willing and able to say ‘yes’.”

Her latest book shares the rags-to-riches story of a woman who grew up on a small farm in California and who boldly said “yes” to many opportunities that came her way.

Sue Cobb and FamilyFrom earning a degree at Stanford University to becoming a national champion downhill skier and a successful attorney who graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1978 at the age of 41, Cobb learned to balance family life and her professional endeavors. Her most notable and remarkable effort was in 1988: to become the first U.S. woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.

She came very close, but the polar jet stream descended and basically wiped the team off the mountain. Even so, Cobb says: “Crossing China and climbing Mt. Everest was in some ways a life-changing event. It was so hard, so dramatic, and so intense.”

The full account of her climb is told in her first book, The Edge of Everest.

It was during the COVID-19 quarantine when Cobb decided to put her life’s adventures into a second book. “It was written during a time when I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. I knew that I had free time and I wanted to write this for my grandchildren,” she recalls.  

The term “the lady of silk and steel” was coined during her tenure as United States Ambassador by the Prime Minister of Jamaica, and it has stuck with Cobb ever since. The U.S. Department of State presents the Sue M. Cobb Award annually in a worldwide competition, which selects the top ranked non-career U.S. ambassador who has (in the previous year) excelled on the world stage.

Cobb’s husband, Charles E. Cobb, Jr., is also a former U.S. ambassador having served in that capacity in Iceland. Together the Cobbs are the only married couple in U.S. history to serve as ambassadors. Chuck Cobb is a deeply committed, long-standing member and former Chair of the University of Miami Board of Trustees.

Cobb says she is proud of her 61-year marriage with her husband. They have two sons and seven grandchildren. “I’ve had many mentors throughout the years, but my husband is one of the most supportive and inspirational people in my life. We continue to have dinner together every night, usually discussing our family, business matters, and international affairs. I have learned a lot from him…he’s a very knowledgeable and accomplished person.”

Along with her many life adventures and serving as U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, Cobb also served as CEO of the Florida Lottery and later as Secretary of State of Florida. At Greenberg Traurig she practiced litigation and appellate work until she was diverted to find the firm’s new Public Finance Department. Cobb has also served on numerous local boards including the Goodwill Industries of South Florida, United Way of Miami-Dade County, the Zoological Society of Florida, the Miami-Dade County Super Bowl Committee, and served three terms as Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Miami.

Looking back, Cobb says it was difficult to balance work and home life while raising her family and focusing on building a successful professional career. “Overall, it is an achievement of some magnitude especially when you consider the many twists and turns of life,” said Cobb. “My family has given me such a secure foundation that when I had opportunities that were exciting and challenging, I was able to do them and be supported along the way.

“I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way and count the University of Miami community as part of the extended family that has been of significant support to me,” adds Cobb.