Jane Brasser's thankfulness inspires her to lead chapter
When Jane Brasser thinks back on her Calvin days, emotions are close to the surface.
"I'll always remember Calvin as a caring community," she said. "During my senior year, my brother passed away at the age of 19 after a long illness. It was hard to be away from home and to have this happen."
She paused to collect herself.
"The college community was tremendous. Chaplain Cooper and my professors—they were there for me. You don't forget that," she quietly asserted.
Brasser also mentioned memories of her now-deceased twin sister, Jean, who attended Calvin as well.
"We became good friends as women during our college years," she said. "We didn't room together, but we spent time with one another over those four years and I remember that with deep fondness."
The 1982 graduate, an employee relations manager for Coca-Cola's Lakeshore Division based in Wisconsin, has been in a leadership position in the Southeast Wisconsin Calvin Alumni Chapter since 1989. Prior to settling near her childhood home in the state, Brasser served as Calvin's first director of human resources from 1987 to 1989. She left Calvin to marry Wisconsin native Steve Shaver and to begin a career in corporate human resources.
"We had occasional events in the area," Brasser said of the pre-'89 chapter history, "and the scholarship tradition dates back quite a ways from letters we found in the files." Brasser herself was a recipient of chapter support in the late '70s and said the award was "very helpful and an encouragement."
Brasser and local alums Cal Verbrugge, Eric Hobbs, Deb Fennema and Dan and Karen Tuinstra got together and expanded the chapter's efforts.
"Cal does a particularly good job on the scholarships," she explained, "but we're all in this together. Vic Plantinga has joined us and been a big help, as has Brenda Fennema. Plus, when Carol Kuyers and Judy Wiers were on the Alumni Board, they gave us a boost, too." Verbrugge received the Outstanding Service Award in 1987.
Early in Brasser's tenure as chapter leader, the planning committee researched the habits of students from southeast Wisconsin and changed the eligibility requirements for the scholarships. While most chapters give awards to incoming first-year students, the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter sends applications to Calvin students about to begin their junior or senior years.
"We decided to support students who had made a commitment to Calvin," she said, "and to keep them at the college."
So thorough is the chapter's work that area alumni donors of one endowed and two memorial scholarships have entrusted Brasser and her colleagues with choosing recipients for those special awards.
Since 1990, the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter has given out $68,600 to 82 students from the region.
In addition to the scholarships, the chapter works on "The Game"—the annual Calvin-Hope basketball satellite broadcast—and a summer send-off for students bound for the college.
"I like the send-off event because you really get to know the students over the years. We tell them about the scholarships being available down the line. The ears of every parent perk up when we start the scholarship discussion," she said.
Brasser enjoys her involvement with the chapter and considers her alumni teammates talented persons and good friends.
"We have a great group," she said. "The current things we do we have down to a science. We're very organized—and none of it is a burden for any one of us since we all work well together."
Future chapter plans call for visits to famous local sites. Brasser is excited about organizing an event at the Milwaukee Art Museum, noted recently in national art publications for presenting an excellent collection.
Jane Brasser cheerfully exhibits a most important character trait: gratefulness. She is grateful for a college that shaped her intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. She also remembers the support of alumni in her home community and knows how important that is to a young person.
Campus and community—a combination this energetic alumna wishes to keep strong.
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