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A Legacy of Loyalty:
The Brush Family

Brothers John ”Jack“ Brush Jr. ’50 (left) and Richard F. Brush ’52 became Laurentians and served on the Board of Trustees, supporting St. Lawrence in numerous ways.

Not only has the Brush family been leaders in the St. Lawrence community, but they have also provided examples to their own family members, many of whom are St. Lawrence alumni. “The older generations were role models for the younger ones, and we hope to continue that tradition,” Jim Brush ’77 says.

Three of the four generations of Brushes have had at least one University trustee, helping St. Lawrence maintain its success not only for their descendants but for all future students as well.

John D. Brush Sr. ’22 came to St. Lawrence at the end of World War I and worked his way through four years at the University and two at the Theological School. He would spend hours shoveling snow and feeding coal to furnaces in order to pay for his education, but found time to help compose some college songs, including the much-loved “A Tribute” (“Nestling ’neath the purple shadows of the Adirondack hills…”) and meet his future wife Edna Jeanne Brush ’24.

Both graduated St. Lawrence with honors; as alumni, John received an honorary degree and Edna an Alumni Citation. They often returned to campus, John as a trustee and Edna to visit her sisters in Kappa Kappa Gamma. Two of their sons, Jack ’50 and Richard ’52, became Laurentians, as St. Lawrence remained a large part of their lives.

James Brush ’77, son of John D. Brush Jr., is the newest member of the Brush family to be a St. Lawrence trustee. President and CEO of The Sentry Group, a family business headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., he was an economics honors major and member of Sigma Chi fraternity and the 1976 national championship swim team. He is a member of the National Major Gifts Committee.

When Jack came to St. Lawrence after being in the Air Force, the campus was flooded with war veterans. He remembers being housed in the attic of Sykes and having to sleep on triple bunks. Although this reminded him of everything he had just left behind in the army, he felt fortunate to be in college. He participated in many campus activities and was a class officer. After graduation, he stayed close with the friends he had made. Those living near Rochester helped him with an alumni picnic in the area. He participated in fundraising events, was asked to join the Alumni Executive Council, and in the early 1970s became a trustee, a position he held for nearly twenty years before being awarded trustee emeritus status.

Jack’s younger brother, Richard, who also thoroughly enjoyed his years at St. Lawrence, followed in the leadership footsteps of both his older brother and his parents. He was a member of the Alumni Executive Council and was an alumni trustee before being awarded emeritus status, among a plethora of other volunteer positions he contributed. The Richard F. Brush Art Gallery and the art storage and preparation area testify to his great support of the arts at St. Lawrence.

The Brush legacy continued into the 1970s with Jim ’77 and Suzanne ’80. Both were active leaders as students and continued as alumni. One of Jim’s finest memories is of being a member of the 1976 NCAA Division III championship swim team, the first national championship for St. Lawrence. He also recalls his professors and how passionate they were about what they were doing. “The professors immersed themselves into a student-centric culture and were always interested in what we were doing,” he says.

Jim, who married Catherine White ’79, was recently elected a trustee, a step he sees as a great opportunity. “It gives me personal connections and tangible ways to help the University in whatever capacity I can,” he says. He adds that being a trustee while his son, Davis ’08, is a student, gives him further purpose.

Suzanne, who has also participated in numerous alumni activities, married Kevin McGrath ’77, a past Alumni Executive Council member, and has been a member of several volunteer committees. Suzanne and Kevin’s son Conor ’07 is currently at St. Lawrence.

Every Laurentian in the Brush family has dedicated a part of their lives to St. Lawrence. Their enthusiasm is immeasurable, as are their contributions. As Jim says, being an active alumnus and participating on committees, councils and the Board of Trustees allows one to have a say and make a difference in St. Lawrence today. “St. Lawrence continues to make a difference in so many lives, and through that, in the world.”

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