April 22, 2020Print | PDF
During nine years as dean of students on Wilfrid Laurier University’s Waterloo campus, Leanne Holland Brown worked with thousands of students, many of whom were struggling with issues ranging from mental illness to finances. She listened and provided support, while helping connect students with the resources they needed and advocating on their behalf. She also took the lead on university-wide policy changes and the creation of programs designed to support students in need.
Holland Brown passed away in April 2019, but her passion for improving the lives of students and open, caring approach continue to have a profound impact, both on the lives of her students and those in the Laurier community who work closely with students.
In the Student Affairs stream of Laurier’s Master of Education program, students learn about an array of student services, from academic support to wellness and recreation, and gain the skills to step into careers at post-secondary institutions. The first Student Affairs class will graduate this spring and many students say that Holland Brown continues to serve as an inspiration.
Here are some of the lessons students say they learned from Holland Brown:
“The biggest lesson I learned from Leanne is that kindness can make anything possible. Kindness is the same across cultures, it opens doors to building relationships and it’s unconditional. It’s about recognizing what we have in common. Leanne embodied this every day. Her unwavering and genuine kindness was fundamental to who she was. Every person has their own lived experiences and values kindness and the space to talk, heal and learn. Leanne was an incredibly special person. I am forever grateful that she showed me the power of genuine kindness.”
“The impact of Leanne’s leadership was unique to all who knew her, but universally she strived to inspire every person she met to reach their potential and achieve their goals. ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,’ said John Quincy Adams. Personally, Leanne’s legacy will live on not only in my heart, but in my continuing education in graduate studies, in my work supporting and caring for students, and in my desire to be the professional and the leader that she believed me to be.”
“I never personally met Leanne. However, I am friends with a lot of people who did know her on a professional and personal level. Through them, I’ve been able to experience the level of compassion and dedication Leanne had for Laurier and for her students. She inspired a lot of people to care about others. It’s very easy to see her spirit of kindness, compassion and dedication to helping students through those who knew her closely.”
“I was inspired to continue my education because of the way that Leanne touched my life through her leadership and care for students like me. In her everyday actions, Leanne gave you her undivided attention, making you feel like the most important person in the room. Following Leanne’s passing, many of her friends referenced a book she had recommended, titled Present Over Perfect. Reading each page made me feel closer to her and more aware of the gift she gave me through her presence and the lessons she taught me about how to support students. In each case, she taught me that giving students your undivided attention is the gift of spending time together. I am forever grateful for the gifts she keeps on giving.”
“During these past two years in the Master’s of Education program, I was struck by how many times Leanne would come to mind as we studied leadership in student affairs.
“What makes an effective student affairs leader? Leanne embodied so many of the qualities we learn about. Being an effective communicator, a champion of the success of others, and having the ability to build relationships across campus were a few of the many qualities that helped Leanne excel. She valued the whole person, celebrated others and had a passion for her profession. Leanne was reflective in her work and had a knack for helping students view themselves as part of a larger community. Her individual contribution to Laurier will be felt for years to come. I respected and looked to her as an example of exceptional female leadership.
“If there is a quote I would associate with Leanne’s leadership, it would be from an article I read by Patrick Slattery: Leanne recognized that she was ‘not an expert with all the answers but a fellow traveler on the lifelong journey of learning.’ This is what made Leanne so special. She treated us all as partners in the common goal of student success.”
“I learned from Leanne that sometimes we see students and their families at the worst or most vulnerable time of their life, but patience, compassion and care go a long way in those situations. As tough as these hard times are, you can feel proud and thankful when you see the successes and are invited into the celebrations.”
An eastern redbud tree was planted on the Waterloo campus in Leanne Holland Brown's honour.
We see you are accessing our website on IE8. We recommend you view in Chrome, Safari, Firefox or IE9+ instead.×