Honoring Dr. Mary Brady with a Scholarship

Mary Lee Thornton Brady, 60, a much-loved member of the Georgetown English faculty for 22 years, died January 8. Many who have given already are hoping that her memory will live on in the form of a scholarship – probably for a junior who has already committed to English as a major. Please offer your thoughts and donations to associate professor Barbara Burch, chair of the English Department.

Megan Goin ‘06, an English and French double major who is employed by the Paul Sawyier Public Library in Frankfort, wrote the following for the Fall 2007 Insights magazine. Below that are thoughts we collected from other former students who were impacted by this special professor.

By Megan Goin ‘06

Anyone who ever studied Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with Mary Brady knows she loved the Wife of Bath. It was only natural, therefore, that this character and the red stockings she wore came up as a group of us sat sharing Brady memories the night before her funeral in January.

My friends and I came to realize we all admired Mary Brady for the very reasons she so loved the Wife of Bath: her quirkiness and wit, her out-spoken nature, her willingness to question and examine traditional ideas, and her ability to be a powerful, assertive woman. Rebecca Coyle, Calie Goins, Andrea Durbin and I decided at this moment we would wear red stockings to Brady’s funeral, not only because their mention in The Wife of Bath’s Tale had always prompted a patented Mary Brady “I LOVE IT!,” but because we wanted to do something, however small, to show just how much this special English professor taught us about literature and life. We will all grow into stronger, better women because of Dr. Brady, and the red stockings were simply our way of saying so.

Mary Brady was such an integral part of my college experience that I can’t really even wrap my mind around the idea of Georgetown College without her. She had a reputation of brilliance and wit that preceded her, and to which she never failed to live up. To me, though, what really stood about Dr. Brady, even more than her antics, off-the-wall pop culture references and the volumes of knowledge she possessed, was the simple fact of how much she cared for each and every person around her.

When she won the John Walker Manning Award, I, along with many of my classmates, sent an e-mail offering my congratulations. The message I received back said that she was humbled and honored by the award, but that it was really her students who made her great – rather than her being so remarkable herself. I had never before witnessed someone with such a sense of grace and selflessness; she didn’t hesitate to turn an event that should have been all about her into a tool through which she could help complement and honor those around her.

Dr. Brady was so loved that at least two sites are devoted to her and her Bradyisms on Facebook.

Rebecca Jane Coyle ‘06

(Dr. Brady) was my advisor and predictably unpredictable. In almost every class meeting, Brady played on my strictly conservative Republican demeanor. If there were a current political debate on anything partisan, she’d throw it at me. How does one defend themselves against someone like Brady? While she never won me over completely, she taught me how to evaluate my own thoughts and beliefs.

In Journalism, we all had computers in front of us the whole time. Amy Hogue would make Brady’s picture the wallpaper on her machine, or a horrible picture of Bush. It was presidential election year. Brady wore her Democratic pin to class every day. A few times, when I asked for help, she came over and put the pin right in my face. My face was virtually in her bosom. I think I wrote about that on her evaluation, requesting that she leave her personal political opinions out of the classroom. She must have fallen on the floor laughing when she read that one.

Almost everyone has a Brady memory where the end result is yourself in tears. It was like a rite of passage. In Journalism, I turned in a paper that I thought was a masterpiece. It was an obit on Jordan’s newly deceased king. Before that paper, I had never revised a one-page document as much as I had this one. I thought I completely understood the concepts she was teaching. I was wrong. I failed it miserably and left the room to cry.

The very last time I saw Dr. Brady in person was the day before graduation. It was in the line at the traditional first name ceremony. Instead of shaking hands and introducing herself as Mary, she grabbed me and gave me a fierce Brady hug. She said, without reservation, “I am so proud of you!” This will always be my fondest memory of her. She was proud of me. Beyond all of her crazy antics, she was also a warm person who made sure people knew what she thought of them.

Josh McComas ‘06

As I approached the end of my sophomore year, I had a lot of trouble getting sleep. I was very stressed out and the anxiety made it nearly impossible for me to ever fall asleep. I eventually had to begin taking medication for the problem. Unfortunately, the medication did not put me to sleep; it got me “stoned.”

I’ll never forget one afternoon in particular during which I was very (high on) the medication and did not know what to do with myself. I decided that it would be a good idea to visit Dr. Brady and vent. I walked into her office and as usual, she was grading papers – very poorly written papers from English 111. As I was accustomed, we began our conversation with a discussion of freshman writing.

Further into the discussion, Dr. Brady realized that I was not acting like myself. I told her about how stressed I was. I told her that all I wanted to do was sleep, but instead I was (out of it). This led into a discussion of how over-medicated our society is, similarly to that of Brave New World. Dr. Brady sat patiently with many more papers to grade as I continued to go on and on about my frustration. Due to the loss of some of my inhibitions, I finally worked up the courage to ask her for a cigarette.

“I hate to ask,” I said. “But can I have a cigarette?”

She smiled and reached into her bag, pulling out two. “Here honey,” she said.

I thanked her and told her that I was going to try to get some sleep.

I’ll never forget the consideration Dr. Brady showed me that afternoon. I find it hard to imagine many other professors opening their doors on a finals week afternoon to a student who was far from sober. She didn’t act like an authority figure at all. She was just a friend, one of my best, who cared about what I had to say and took time out of her day to help me through a difficult time. This story may come off as inappropriate to some, but I’ll miss Dr. Brady for the rest of my life because of moments like it.

Katie Eades ‘04

First of all, I took her class as a senior because I’d heard such wonderful things about her that I had to take one before I graduated. And, she was SO encouraging and enthusiastic when I told her about my plans for graduate school. During class she would slip in “Katie, you want to study that for the GRE” or “they’ll ask you this on the GRE,” etc., etc.

Toward the end of the semester, we were studying A Thousand Acres, which is a modern day rewrite of King Lear. Dr. Brady allowed me to teach the class on King Lear as an undergraduate! Talk about encouragement – my goal was to be an English instructor at the university level and she gave me my first taste of that. AND she let me teach it outside on the steps of Pawling Hall since it was such a beautiful day.

I just remember her kind heart and quick laugh; she was also always looking for ways to challenge all of us. I’m so glad I had that experience with her, even though it was a short one. I’d always heard of the Brady fans, those who couldn’t say enough good things about her and I’m very proud to say that I’m one of them.

Andrea Durbin ‘08

Anything that Dr. Brady taught me was memorable. I was never a fan of Canterbury Tales and I was dreading having to read it. But, with Mary Brady teaching, it was completely different. She made it entertaining and interesting. She is able to relate it to today’s society so you don’t just see it in the context that it is written. She would talk about what if the Wife of Bath lived in today’s world; what she would be like and how she would be treated. She put it in a way that students would understand it today, but also never lost the original meaning Chaucer intended.

Jesse Pack ’06

(Dr. Brady) hugged me on my very first day of college after I expressed my angst about a college level composition class. She failed my first four papers and drove me crazy – but she taught me more about writing than anyone ever has. She always encouraged me by being incredibly realistic without being cynical. I mourn the fact that my younger brother, and many others, won’t get to have the “Brady experience.”