Honoring Two We Lost

If you have a memory you’d like to share, please send an email to magazine@bradley.edu. We will publish as many as we can in the spring 2019 issue of Bradley magazine.

Last week, the Bradley family learned of the tragic deaths of two of its longtime employees, Caterpillar Professor of English Susan Berry Brill de Ramírez, who also served as coordinator of the graduate English programs, and her husband, Antonio “Tony” Ramírez Barron ’78, who was a technology support specialist for Information Resources and Technology. 

Both were warm and generous individuals who dedicated themselves to Bradley University and its students. The couple was equally passionate about social justice causes and would not hesitate to lend anyone a helping hand. Brill de Ramírez was famous among students and colleagues for rich conversations that were meant to last just a minute that almost always lasted much longer. Her husband was a humble, patient person who preferred to shine the light on his wife.

At a vigil held last week, several faculty and staff members shared memories of the two. Associate Professor of English Seth Katz said, “Susan was knowledgeable about many things, interested in everything, and always willing to study something new. If the department needed a brief report on how other campuses did something, Susan would come back in a couple of days with a well-organized report featuring examples from 20 peer institutions and a summary of the current best practices.”

Katz cited a social media post by recent graduate Kaydra Bui ’17, a second-generation Asian American who Brill de Ramírez mentored in an independent study. “(She exposed) me to non-Western texts and ideas: Vietnamese feminism, indigenous storytelling, visual poetics, ethical cross-cultural ethnography,” wrote Bui. “She was the only mentor who encouraged me to build relationships with my family, and with my cultural heritage. Rather than subordinate my humanity to my scholarship, she wove them together.”

Barbra Kerns, executive director for the Learning Design & Technology department, spoke of her friend and colleague of 30 years. “Tony was a very humble person – never one to take credit,” she said. “He highlighted other’s contributions and downplayed his own … Those who knew Tony, also knew how intelligent, curious, and well-spoken he was. He was a voracious knowledge-seeker. With his excellent analytical abilities – and in his late 50s - he was accepted into Northwestern’s Predictive Analytics master’s program – he strongly believed that data is key to enhancing human learning and performance.”

Senior Brooke Engerman ’19 shared thoughts from a number of classmates. “I always loved Dr. Brill’s passion for oral literature,” said one. “She had a gift for reading aloud. I would often find myself transported during class, hearing her read (Simon J.) Ortiz and his poetry. She brought meaning to every text, just through her delivery and the melodious tones in her voice: an art and talent with which she was clearly gifted.”

“She had an ability to bring out the best in everyone: she held the class to a high standard, she said it like it was, and she wouldn’t let you get away with anything but your absolute best effort,” said another. “She was exactly the type of person we all need in our lives to push us to achieve great things.”

Kerns also shared the story of how the couple started dating. “(Tony) knew he wanted to get to know Susan. He happened to be at One World, sitting by himself at a table, and saw that Susan was there also sitting by herself at a different table. He got up the nerve to go sit across from her and asked her on a date.

“She had been working on something, and chose not to respond but go back to what she was working on. But Tony persisted. He started to go through — in his analytical way — all the reasons that they would make a good couple and why she should date him. As he described it, his persistence wore her down and she finally agreed. His analysis must have been good, because it wasn’t long after that that they got engaged.”