Eastern Mennonite University

Summer 2008

Beryl Brubaker Retires After 37 Years

By Heather Bowser of the Daily News-Record and Bonnie Price Lofton

Beryl Brubaker of EMU
Beryl Brubaker

For the first time in several decades, 66-year-old Beryl H. Brubaker won't be one of the key "go-to" people at EMU. She will retire in August, leaving behind her fingerprints on almost every aspect of the university.

"She's an icon and a mentor of mine," said president Loren Swarztendruber, describing the woman who served as interim president for eight months before he filled the position in 2004. "She has been the person I could trust to manage the operational details when I was away from campus."

The middle of five girls, Brubaker and all her siblings attended Belleville Mennonite School in rural Pennsylvania. Her father, Clayton Hartzler, helped found the school and was president of the school board for most of her years there, serving as a model for her in her adult life. Her father also founded a retirement community and coffeehouse for young people.

In 1960, Brubaker entered what was then Eastern Mennonite College to pursue a music major. As a soprano she "loved singing high C's" in various musical groups on campus. Yet toward the end of her first semester, she decided, "I didn't see a future in music. A career in singing just didn't fit my concept of service at that point in my life."

She switched to nursing, completing a nursing program at EMU and the Riverside Hospital School of Nursing in Newport News, a bachelors degree at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, and a masters degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1970 then-president Myron Augsburger called her at the Pennsylvania school, where she had become an instructor, and persuaded her to come to Eastern Mennonite. "At the time, there weren't many Mennonite women with graduate degrees," Brubaker said.

Over the next decade Brubaker and another administrator, Vida Huber, established EMU as a center of innovative excellence in nursing. They created the first "competencybased, self-paced" nursing program in the state.

Taking advantage of a sabbatical year, Brubaker began work on a doctorate at the University of Alabama, completing it in 1984.

In 1994, Brubaker became EMU's vice president for enrollment, where she led the school to achieve record enrollment – in part by expanding financial aid and matching church grants. In 2000, she became the university's first provost, a behind-the-scenes position where she was second-in-command. "I've been amazed at her administrative skills, her attention to detail and her sense of institutional history," said Jim Bishop '67 who has worked with Brubaker for 36 years. "Beryl has left an indelible imprint upon this place."

As provost, she encouraged many initiatives, such as: STEP (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral Ministry) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; a program in Lancaster to enable registered nurses to earn their bachelors degrees; partnerships with local school systems in offering teachers masterslevel courses; and the Anabaptist Center for Religion and Society.

She facilitated a series of campus conversations on homosexuality in 2005-06 and an Ethics of Biotechnology conference in 2003. Her office helped fund major speakers, such as Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Archbishop Elias Chacour, both in 2006.

She supported the organization of the first Faculty Senate and worked in collaboration with others to improve EMU's policies on such matters as rank and promotion and academic freedom. She wrote a number of successful grants for projects that have changed the face of the university, including a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop the campus computer network and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation grant for construction of the seminary. In retirement Brubaker – a self-described workaholic, accustomed to 60-hour work weeks – will work part time on EMU's reaccreditation process.

In her free time, she plans to garden as well as enjoy the company of husband J. Mark Brubaker, a biology professor at James Madison University, and their two children and four grandchildren.

The search for Brubaker's replacement continues. An interim provost has been appointed for the 2008-09 school year: Lee F. Snyder, who was vp and academic dean at EMU for 12 years in the 1980s and early 1990s. She then was president of Bluffton (Ohio) University, before retiring in 2006.

Input on possible candidates for provost is welcome. contact EMU's director of human resources, Marcy Engle.

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