Marion Brush to retire after 21 years as the face of the School of Architecture and Planning

by Rachel Teaman

Published December 13, 2021


Every day for more than 21 years, Marion Brush took her seat at the central reception desk for the School of Architecture and Planning happy to be there.

“I loved my job. I loved working,” said Brush, who will conclude two decades of service as administrative assistant for the School at the end of this year.

Indeed, it is this simple but profound attitude that set the tone for the School as Brush greeted faculty, staff and students with an easy smile, an eagerness to assist and, if you were lucky, a colorful story from a life lived well.

“Life is too short to be sad,” said Brush, who, at 95, embodies the wisdom of the adage.

In reflecting on her time with the School, Brush says she was just as much a recipient of that joy and warmth as she was the source.

“I enjoyed meeting the students and helping faculty and staff in any way I could,” says Brush. “I was the first person people saw every day. I got to know everyone. That was the best part of my job.”

Dean Robert G. Shibley says Brush has been a constant in a sea of change.

“Even as we have grown and diversified as a School, Marion reminds us that it is our welcoming, warm and collegial culture that holds us together, and defines us,” said Shibley. “We could always count on Marion for her contagious positivity and can-do attitude, both in work and in life. She holds a special place in the heart of the School of Architecture and Planning.”

Kent Kleinman, chair of the Department of Architecture from 1999 to 2004 (and now provost of the Rhode Island School of Design), hired Brush in 2001: “I remember the first day Marion joined the Department of Architecture office. Her infectiously upbeat, cheerful, and witty spirit immediately filled the room. Her desk faced the front door, so no one could come in without first encountering Marion's welcoming, and totally disarming smile and heartwarming kindness.”

Ernest Sternberg, professor of urban planning who served as chair of the planning program from 2011 through 2017, echoed that sentiment. “Marion has been an inspiration for all of us about charm in demeanor, dedication at work, and good cheer with colleagues.”

Adds Kenneth Mackay, clinical associate professor of architecture: “I have many memories of Marion being the only person in the building when I might arrive shortly after 7:00 in the morning. She was always in a cheerful mood and willing to chat.”

Faculty and staff point to Brush’s zeal and zest for life as among her greatest qualities.

Her service and support was often complemented with a story from her life of adventure – from her early days growing up in the post-war era in New York City, to raising four daughters, to traveling the world, to her enthusiasm for Buffalo’s theater and cultural scene.

Despina Stratigakos, a professor of architecture who currently serves as vice provost for inclusive excellence at UB, says, simply: “There’s no one like Marion.”

“I enjoyed her stories about the ‘bad ol' days’ and seeing her amazing fashion finds,” she added.

Randy Fernando met Brush as an architecture student and later worked with her as a faculty member of the School: “I always loved walking into the office to chat with Marion. She was always willing to help answer any questions and supply stories to accompany those answers. We got into a long conversations about the plants on her desk, something both of us enjoyed.”

In 2019, the School of Architecture and Planning recognized Brush for her service with its “B/a+p Award” for staff excellence, crowning her with a tiara and wand and inviting her to emcee a portion of that year’s School-wide Award’s Day celebration.

Brush says she has always felt appreciated at UB, and that the family-like environment of the School of Architecture and Planning is what she holds most dear as she moves on to retirement.

 “That’s the best part of UB – its support of its people,” said Brush, who worked for 10 years for the UB Research Foundation prior to joining the School. “UB has done so much to be accepting of everybody. The students coming in were always happy. It’s so important. We [the staff] felt that.”

Brush has no plans of slowing down. She’s already signed up for tap dance lessons and hits the cinema or theater weekly. She spends time with friends and family dining out, traveling, or just playing Bridge and dominoes.

“I’m planning to be as busy as humanly possible,” she says. “When you’re this age, you’re not afraid to do anything.”

Faculty and staff shared some of their fondest memories of Marion Brush:

“So many great memories from over the years! We have missed you over the past two years. You are always in our thoughts, and we wish you the very best on your retirement!”  - Doug McCallum

“I always loved walking into the office to chat with Marion! I used to visit frequently as a student and now as a current faculty member. We got into a long conversations about the plants on her desk… something both of us enjoyed! She was always willing to help answer any questions and supply many stories to accompany those answers.”  - Randy Fernando

“Congrats on a reaching retirement, your service to the School was invaluable!” - Rob Silverman:

“Award’s Day Queen!”  - Korydon Smith

“Her Impromptu stories and jokes in the Department office – it was always a pleasure to drop by Marion's desk!”  - Nicholas Bruscia

“I have enjoyed conversations I've had with her about her experiences when she was growing up, when she was raising a family, and the adventures she's had on her many vacations and pilgrimages around the world. A big regret about not working in-person during the COVID lockdowns is missing the chance to talk with her. I will miss her a lot!   - Maryanne Schultz

“I enjoyed her stories about the “bad ol' days” and seeing her amazing fashion finds. There is no one like Marion.”   -  Despina Stratigakos

“I loved hearing about her travel adventures” - Jordana Maisel