Students from EWU’s School of Social Work commemorated a beloved instructor who passed away during the school year by wearing special stoles for the June 15 graduation ceremony.

LuAnn “Lu” Brown, who died last October, served the social work profession, the community, and Eastern’s Social Work program for more than two decades as a senior lecturer and associate director of the field education program.

LuAnn “Lu” Brown

As so many have written since her death, however, a list of Brown’s credentials doesn’t adequately explain the amazing impact and influence she had on her students, coworkers and peers as a tireless promoter of social justice.

Brown counseled, advised, challenged and empowered her students in a way that, well, only her students can explain.

“After Lu died in October, there was palpable, deep grief in her classroom,” said one of those students, Leta Lawhead. “Many of us didn’t know how to move through it. Slowly, slowly, and so gently, some of us began to ask the same question. It was profoundly moving. That question shifted slightly, on certain days, and became, “What Would Lu Do?”

So as graduation approached Lawhead led the charge to find a way for Brown’s graduating students (both graduate and undergraduate) to honor their mentor. The solution soon became obvious––special stoles with the saying “What Would Lu Do” inscribed on them.

Wearing their “What Would Lu Do?” stoles: Leta Lawhead (back row right) with graduate John Dunn. Front row (l-r) are students Kaysha Lautenschlager, Nichole Zeober, Anna O’Connor, Alan Port and Heather Lannigan. Photo by Eric Galey.

Lawhead, who was awarded a Master of Social Work degree during the ceremony, proudly wore her stole during morning commencement.

“I remember the first time that I met her in a Practicum Prep class my first year of grad school,” explained Lawhead. “I immediately knew that she was someone that I wanted to get to know—she had this amazing energy for advocacy and macro work; her passion for empowering and challenging people was contagious. She also had a profound amount of empathy and an ability to connect that, thus far, in my 31 years, remains unsurpassed.”

About three dozen students and professors purchased the “What Would Lu Do” stoles for this year’s ceremony. Lawhead hopes the tradition continues next year.

 “Lu changed my life—forever,” said Lawhead. “She changed the way that I will move through the world for the rest of my days. I couldn’t leave this graduate program without creating some small gesture to recognize and celebrate her for everything that she has done.”

LuAnn Brown Scholarship Update

Not long after Lu Brown’s passing, a scholarship was established in her honor. In addition to gifts alumni, faculty and staff have made to the fund, Lu’s sister, Kay Zahn, decided to fully endow the scholarship. Contributions can still be made to the EWU Foundation in memory of LuAnn Brown by mail: EWU Foundation, 102 Hargreaves Hall, Cheney WA 99004 or online at ewu.edu/LuBrown.