Remembering Leanne Holland Brown and her Laurier Legacy

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Wilfrid Laurier University held a memorial event in the Turret on the third floor of the Fred Nichols Campus Centre in memory of Leanne Holland Brown, former dean of students who passed away on Apr. 24 of this year in a tragic accident that deeply affected the Laurier community.

Holland Brown spent nine years as the dean of students at Laurier and was with the university for almost 15 years.

Her husband, Ken Brown, spoke at the tribute to emphasize just how special she was to Laurier, with her commitment to students going above and beyond.

Some of the many contributions to the school Holland Brown created were regarding mental health, something many university students struggle with heavily.

Programming like SafeTalk and Mental Health First Aid workshops for employee wellness were the brainchild of Holland Brown, as well as the early-alert program to help faculty and staff identify students who struggle academically, and the Care Report which can help escalate concerns about the wellbeing of students.

“Leanne exemplified the true Laurier Golden Hawk spirit of life every day in her work as dean of students. Our tribute to her celebrated the many meaningful contributions she gave that enriched the lives of students and us all forever. Thanks to all for coming and sharing these very special moments together,” said David McMurray, vice president of student affairs in an email statement. David and Leanne worked closely at Laurier in the office of student affairs.

Steven Page, the lead singer of The Barenaked Ladies, was a surprise guest at the tribute and performed two songs for the audience in memory of Holland Brown.

Her well-known Orientation Week speech was also read out in a video by many of her colleagues. Many students can remember her touching speeches as one of their earliest Laurier experiences.

To continue Holland Brown’s legacy of helping students when they need it most, the Student Emergency Bursary Fund, which provides support for students who encounter unforeseen financial circumstances, is being renamed in her honour.

Another fund created shortly after Holland Brown’s passing has already surpassed $26,000 raised and is used to provide student support for mental health and wellness programming at Laurier.

Holland Brown’s infamous orientation speech was also printed onto a poster for students, faculty, staff and guests to sign and will be hung above the friendship bench outside the Student Wellness centre. A tree is also being planted in her honour, the Eastern Red Bud, which happened to be Holland Brown’s favourite.

The tree, which will be planted between the Dr. Alvin Woods building and the Arts building, is known for sprouting pink blossoms and heart-shaped leaves.

Laurier’s continual top ranking in student satisfaction is a direct result of the work of Holland Brown and her dedication to students, creating a legacy that will never be forgotten at the university.

As Laurier president and vice-chancellor, Deborah MacLatchy said about Holland Brown at her tribute, “This university will be poorer for no longer having her guidance and wisdom, but richer for the example she set for us all to aspire to.”

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