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You write so well… Remembering Janet Brown

Whenever I met with a new student, I would always show her around the office. That included introducing her to Janet Brown, the director of the Writing Success Program. Janet stood out in the Community Programs Office filled with college students, recent graduates and a few adult advisors past the age of 30. Even though she was older than most staff members, students could relate to her advice when it came to writing. As I introduced my student to Janet, I’d tell them they should stop by to see Janet to discuss papers for their classes.

While I no longer had classes, I did follow my own advice as I struggled with my personal statement for graduate school. I shared a draft with Janet. Her praise — “I’d admit you!” — and comments left an impression and relieved some of my stress. I wrote about it on my old blog:

December 2, 2003

In other news, I’m not feeling so stressed about graduate applications. I showed my personal statement to Janet, the woman who runs the writing program here. She only had me change one thing and loved it. “What was your major?”

“Sociology and Chicana/o Studies.”

“And you write so well in spite of it!”

She went on to explain that all the sociology majors she’d run across were horrible writers. I must be an exception. I let her know that any of the things I learned to strengthen my writing simply came through practice, reading a lot of fiction and non-fiction, and creative writing courses.

Compliments are nice.

Janet passed away Saturday April 25th. I learned of her passing via Twitter from Ralph who wrote: “I will miss you tremendously Janet Brown. I am truly a better person for having known you. Rest in peace.”

I learned more about her passing and recent illness from Tony Sandoval, the director of the Community Programs Office. He closed his email (below) asking “us [to] remember the jokes, laughs, advice, reptilian stories and most of all her boundless kindness and thoughtfulness.”

Even though I worked with Janet for two years and had more administrative experiences sharing the woes of being an overworked project director, the exchange above was the first thing I remembered.

I’m glad I got to work with her and thankful she gave me that much-needed boost of confidence. It may have been more than five years ago, but it’s never worn out.

Rest in peace, Janet.

From Antonio Sandoval
Hi everyone,

As some of you have probably heard, we lost our friend Janet E. Brown (Director, UCLA Writing Success Program/CPO) on Saturday, April 25th. She passed away after a short battle with Ovarian Cancer.

Janet, who turned 64 last Valentine’s Day, was cheerful and feeling great until about a month ago. At that time, doctors did an examination that determined she had cancer. They immediately performed surgery on her and she seemed to be doing very well. Unfortunately, she suffered from a blood clot, which left her without the ability to move much, her health deteriorated. The delay in starting chemotherapy aggravated her condition significantly. This week was tough for Janet, but yesterday she was alert and still very feisty. Janet knew her battle with cancer would not be easy, but she dealt with it with grace and was ultimately comforted by the fact that she knew so many students (both current and former) and colleagues had her back.

On Friday, the first thing she asked me was about her students. As many of you might be aware of, she actively advised students who are now running the PLEDGE 2009 referendum. She was a firm believer in our students’ abilities to engage at the same level of previous generations. It was not the issue she was passionate about, it was her students. Her opinions and enthusiasm for our students was clearly evident yesterday. There was a smile filled with pride about our students and their leadership. She expressed regret that she could not be with the students and staff, but wished everyone the best.

I expressed to her the good wishes that everyone had for her. Teaming with Berky, Khoi and our friend Edward, we actively encouraged Janet to continue forward and to try her best. Everyone should thank Berky, Khoi and Edward because they provided her with positive reinforcement during this very difficult week. Berky and Khoi’s friendship have been great during this period of uncertainty.

I was with Janet this evening when she left us. I can vouch for the fact that she was very peaceful and her transition was very much in Janet’s classic style of grace.

As our mentor Tim Ngubeni remarked in words he left for me to share with Janet, she was one of the best things to happen to CPO. Another memorable voice message was left by Layhearn Tep who said that Janet didn’t just run the Writing Success Program, but really ran the “Life Success Program.”

For me, Janet has been one of my greatest friends, in both times when it was good to be my friend, and at times when no one wanted to be. She looked out for her friends, tried not to be judgmental, and often provided for people such as me, the best advice a person could provide. Even though we were 34 years apart, we were fast friends, good colleagues and she was a great mentor. In the late 1990s, Janet and I made a pact to help each other out. I also vowed that if I ever drove, that I would give her rides home. Since I got my car keys, I’ve ushered Janet to her house dozens of times, often sharing a hearty Italian Meal at Frankie’s in Tarzana. In those times eating tons of food with Janet, I learned a lot about life, about myself and about friendship. I hope that in the next few days and weeks, that we will be able to sit with each other to share our memories of Janet, what she taught us, and what she has meant for us.

Janet requested that there be no funeral services. Her family will respect her wishes.

The CPO Family will meet several times in the next few weeks for year end activities, however, Janet’s great staff (women that meant the world for Janet): Anette, Anjali, and Sahra, will partner with CPO to organize a memorial service on campus. Janet’s family has agreed to attend. Information will be forthcoming.

On Monday, we will ask our friends at UCLA Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) to be on call for students who might need someone to share their thoughts about Janet with. CPO Management Staff is also making arrangements for Faculty & Staff Counseling Services to be available for interested staff.

For now, let us please think positive thoughts about Janet. Let us remember the jokes, laughs, advice, reptilian stories and most of all her boundless kindness and thoughtfulness. She’s in a better place today and for that we should be at peace.

Take good care everyone, and please let me know if there is anything that the CPO can do to help.

-Tony

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2 thoughts on “You write so well… Remembering Janet Brown

  1. chispa says:

    I received Tony’s e-mail from Pato on Sunday morning. I was shocked to learn about Jane’s passing. Like you Cindy, she assisted me with my law school personal statement. She will be missed by all the students she assisted throughout the years.
    *chispa*

  2. Marsha says:

    I will miss you more than words can express. You were there for so many things in my life like a parent and I felt you cared so deeply for me. My heart is broken but I take comfort in knowing that you are no longer in pain.

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