By Suzi Carter
As we all gather here together on this beautiful spring day, the wonders of nature are going on before us. Do you take notice? Look around you. Feel... as the soft wind caresses your cheek. Look... as the rich, jade leaves dance upon their limbs. Smell... as the flowers emit their delightful fragrances. Listen... as the lively birds sing to the tune of your heart. Taste... taste, the sweetness of spring.
All around us, these little majestic miracles take place without our conscious consent. For nature needs no agreement. As a JMU community, we are fortunate enough to have one of these subtle miracles grace our halls and campus everyday, and her name is Debrah Brawn.
If we listen closely enough, we can hear as the birds return from their winter migration, another seemingly inborn facet of nature we often do not carefully examine. How do these birds know where they are going? Why do they go? How do they know once they have arrived at their destination? Birds' plights are guided by an intuition they do not realize nor can they explain. They fly south using the intuition they were born with as well as the soft air that surrounds them. To the students that cross Debbie's path, she is like the intuition and air that unknowingly sustain, support and guide them through their individual, unique college experiences, empowering them to do more and go farther than they every could have imagined.
"She really sees into students. She sees potential in students. She's really good at that. And I feel like I've learned so much from her about not only interacting with students, but just so much of what college is. And I've learned so much the lost couple months working with her and interacting with her almost everyday. There's so much you can learn working in this wonderful environment, college. You're constantly, you know, a catalyst and recipient of change and of knowledge. I feel that I've learned that through how she interacts."
The students of James Madison University are like the birds of our community. As human beings, we may not have the intuition to know exactly where we are going as the birds do. However, many a time, students do not know exactly where they are heading or exactly how they will get there. Ms. Debbie Brawn acts like the intuition that provides guidance for her students and coworkers. She inspires those of whom she comes into contact with to find their own direction. At the end of their migration, these students may not even realize that she has sustained them during their plights, for Debbie is so discreet and empowering in her ways. It is this quiet leadership, these subtle selfless acts, that make Debbie Brawn who she is and, thus, so deserving of today's All Together One recognition.
Debbie brings personal attention and care to all that she does. As a Student Orientation Director, many of the students that work with her will describe her as their mom away from home. And even still, Debbie's contributions to the JMU campus lie not simply in her seemingly innate ability to inspire her staff alone. On a grander scale, as her director, Lee Ward, has stated, "She brings people and ideas together so that freshmen can learn more and develop more confidently." Anyone who has worked with or known Debbie Brawn will agree that there are few others on this campus who has as much modest intelligence, passion and true concern as Debbie has which allows her to motivate others using her quiet but diverse leadership skills.
Picture a flock of birds soaring overhead as they come together to form a majestic "V" like shape. Just as birds naturally fly in this "V," Debbie Brawn acts as the natural, almost invisible force bonding together a "seamless experience for freshmen and the Freshman Orientation staff." - Lee Ward
Jeana Upschutte tells us, "I have seen more faith in the eyes of Debbie Brawn for her staff than I have seen in any of my supervisors. That confidence has reflected back onto me and everyone else." Whether she is training Orientation Program Assistants, providing a positive, safe environment to talk openly, or simply offering her warm, sincere smile, this soft-spoken, thoughtful woman brings confidence and humanness to effective teamwork.
"I think that she takes the personal time and the personal interest in every student. I've seen her definitely as a quiet leader. She's here not only to do her job, but to help improve the quality of students' life, but not only as students, but as people."
In the program handed out at the 250th birthday celebration for James Madison, it was written, "The anniversary of James Madison is especially meaningful because it honors a man whose ideas and accomplishments so completely surround and sustain us today. In fact, what Madison created has become like air to us-essential and ever present, yet imperceptible. And to acknowledge what sustains us is a rare chance to observe what we all have in common."
This commonality of air that is presented above greatly symbolizes Debbie Brawn through the way in which she interacts with others and through the legacy she has already begun to leave here at James Madison University. In our community, the students are the birds: visible and tangible, while Debbie is the air: imperceptible and empowering. It is our wind, Debbie Brawn, that allows our birds, the JMU students, to grow, succeed, and soar. All of us share a humanity with the world around us and Debbie Brawn breaths humanity into all that she does.
The JMU community would like to thank Debrah Brawn!