For Debra Brum, Cal Poly Pomona was more than a place where she earned two master’s degrees and served as a professor and administrator. It was also a place where she became a mentor to colleagues, made lifelong friends and found the love of her life.
Brum, a former vice president of Instructional & Information Technology who also held several other posts for 27 years at Cal Poly Pomona, died March 26 with her husband, Gil, at her side in Hayward. She was 63. Brum was buried on April 10 at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward.
Brum was a lecturer, assistant professor, associate professor and professor in the computer science department. It was during her tenure that she crossed paths with a biology professor.
That relationship with Professor Gil Brum would later blossom into marriage. The couple’s affection in their relationship was evident to at least one former university leader.
“Gil and Debra were prime examples of how to treat your spouse,” recalls Michael Ortiz, president emeritus of Cal Poly Pomona. “They truly loved each other. You could see it in the way they treated each other. The rest of us watched and picked up on their cues.”
Brum retired as vice president for I&IT in summer 2009. Gil Brum, who worked at Cal Poly Pomona for 34 years, retired earlier that year.
The couple loved to sail and make getaways to Catalina Island. They cherished the idyllic island so much that they were married on Catalina. In addition to sailing, Debra Brum also loved hats.
The couple also had a vineyard and would bottle wine from the harvests. When not minding the grapes, the couple spent much of their time after retirement traveling around the world.
On a professional level, Brum is revered by former colleagues for pushing them to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees. She became their mentor, cheerleader and confidante.
“Debra mentored a lot of us, especially from a female leader perspective,” says Carol (Heins) Gonzales, associate chief information officer of IT Services. “She mentored me to get my Ph.D. Debra showed me how to balance work and school. Because of her, I was changed for the better. She did that for a lot of people.”
There are similar anecdotes from across campus about Brum as an inspirational leader.
“Debra took time out of her extremely busy schedule to be my mentor. She guided me as I was getting both my BFA and MA degrees,” says April Dawn, the senior instructional designer of eLearning in Academic Affairs. “Her words truly were words of wisdom. I continue to reflect on her words in my daily life.”
Brum was born June 22, 1951, in Frostburg, Maryland. When she was 1, the family moved to Detroit. She lived there until she graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
She came out west and earned a master’s in mathematics from Cal Poly Pomona in 1977. She obtained her master’s in computer science from Cal Poly Pomona in 1985, and her doctorate in information and computer science from UC Irvine in 1991.
During her nearly three decades at Cal Poly Pomona, Brum’s roles included being a lecturer in mathematics and computer science from 1982-85, assistant professor of computer science from 1985-91, associate professor of computer science from 1991-93, professor of computer science from 1993-2009, chair of computer science from 1992-95, associate vice president for Faculty Affairs from 1995-2003, and associate provost for Undergraduate Studies from 2003-05.
In 2006, Brum was appointed the vice president of Instructional & Information Technology. She was named the interim vice president the previous year. While serving as an associate provost, her knowledge of academia and background in computer science made her a natural choice to lead the technology department at the university.
Ortiz, who selected Brum as vice president, recognized another quality that would serve Brum well in her administrative duties.
“Debra had an extraordinary relationship with the faculty,” Ortiz recalls. “She had the unique ability to get people to work together and move the agenda forward.”
Brum had other attributes that endeared her to colleagues.
“Her respect and fairness for others set her apart as an administrator. Debra was not afraid of making the hard decisions,” says (Heins) Gonzales. “Quality and integrity were important to her. If something was not up to quality, you were expected to fix it. She asked for a lot of personal responsibility and accountability.”
The Brums also were instrumental in implementing learning-centered initiatives and encouraging technology to instructors in the classrooms, including the faculty laptop program and Learning-Centered Technology Initiative classrooms, says (Heins) Gonzales. Initiatives at the Learning Center are attributed to the couple’s efforts.
As vice president for I&IT, Brum was responsible for campus technology, including voice and data infrastructure, administrative systems, eLearning, classrooms and laboratories, the Cal Poly Pomona Help Desk, and the university website.
In addition to her academic posts, Brum was selected from more than 200 applicants to participate in the CSU Forgivable Loan/Doctoral Incentive Program in 1987. She received a Meritorious Performance and Professional Promise Award from President Hugh LaBounty in 1988-89 and 1989-90, which was endorsed by her colleagues and then-College of Science Dean Ray Shiflett.
“She will be missed terribly,” says Dawn, “but her spirit lives on in those who knew her and called her ‘friend.’ ”