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Almost 40 years of commitment to Bradley ends with retirement for B.J. Lawrence

Photo by Morgan Patrick

If there was one aspect about Betty Jane Lawrence that’s been evident throughout her career at Bradley, it is that she enjoyed every opportunity that has presented itself.

Lawrence, or known as B.J. by many in the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts, is retiring after a total of 39 years at Bradley. This December, Lawrence is saying goodbye to Bradley, but she is leaving behind a remarkable legacy.

Lawrence grew up in Columbus, Mississippi. Her father was a professor at Mississippi State College for Women, where she ended up going to study speech communication.

After college, Lawrence headed north to Eastern Illinois University to receive her master’s degree in public address. Once she received her masters, Bradley hired her immediately. She took a five-year break from Bradley, but in 1981 she returned to the Hilltop and stayed here as associate dean of the College of Communications.

When asked about what she enjoyed the most at her time at Bradley, the answer was simple.

“Oh easily, I enjoyed working with the students,” Lawrence said. “I think the stimulation and excitement I get from teaching a group of students is the best in the world. That is what keeps you motivated and keeps you moving forward.”

Lawrence had taken every opportunity that has come to her, evident in the multiple roles she has served in throughout her career, including managing the Global Scholars Program for the College of Communications, teaching the CFA’s Intellectual and Cultural Events course, handling the study abroad experiences for the College of Communications and managing the curriculum of the college. She also acted as the liaison for admissions and to all of the curriculum committees.

However, throughout all of the numerous roles and responsibilities, there is one that sticks out in her mind.

“One accomplishment is the fact that I started the Hollywood Semester in 2012 and that it is continuing today, in spite of the COVID,” Lawrence said. “It’s a little different version of it, but it’s a successful profit-making opportunity for students of all majors to participate in the Hollywood Semester.”

Lawrence said the Hollywood Semester makes Bradley one out of 15 schools in the country to offer a program of this nature, where students go to Los Angeles, take a series of entertainment-focused courses and do internships all while experiencing Southern California.

What the future holds for B.J. Lawrence after Bradley is still uncertain.

“It’s been my life for so long that I am going to have to stop and reconfigure what I’m going to do,” Lawrence said. “I don’t know. It’ll be exciting to find out.”

Tony Adams, the chairperson of the department of communications, said he recognized how valuable Lawrence has been to the College of Communications. According to Adams, Lawrence has impacted both students and the department through her insight and enthusiasm.

Additionally, Adams expressed that he will miss a variety of attributes that Lawrence displayed in her career in the Slane College.

“I will miss BJ’s dedication to Bradley, her unwavering spirit, her diligence and care,” Adams said. “Even in difficult times, Ms. Lawrence maintains a steadfast optimism. She knows we’re resilient and we’ll get through difficult situations. She has served as a beacon of hope for numerous students and faculty.”

Lawrence said that she’ll miss working with the students at Bradley and the environment of the Slane College. Her experiences at Bradley and the people she taught and worked with will hold a special place in her heart.

“I will miss the faculty that I work with in our college they’re wonderful,” Lawrence said. “They are inspirational in what they’re doing in the classrooms and the innovations that they are able to create for our students across collaborations across the college.”

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