My Mother’s Passing: An Educational Opportunity for Latino Women


My mother was an English teacher and a Community College Dean. She was an amazing woman and she passed away this last week, one day before her 73rd birthday and the birth and death day of William Shakespeare. She had polio when she was only 11 years old but went on to be an incredibly successful woman who guided me through childhood and much of adulthood. In her honor, I have worked with some of her beloved colleagues to set up a scholarship to support first generation Latina women seeking higher education later in life. The scholarship will be given to a student wishing to study at Modesto Junior College where she served as a Dean in the final phase of her career as an English teacher and an administrator.

If my mother were here today she would be so proud and amazed to know that she is part of a scholarship offering support to a Latino woman seeking to better herself through education!!! Love to you all.


Dear Colleagues and Friends of Dr. Brenda Robert,

As you know, our former dean and “The Mother of Literature & Language Arts,” Dr. Brenda Robert passed away last week.  She was a mentor and a friend to so many of us, and we hope to honor her soon at a memorial poetry reading where we can all get together to reminisce and celebrate her life.  In the meantime, I know many of you will agree that Brenda’s influence was far and wide, and will not soon be forgotten, nor should she ever be.  To that end, Ruth Luman and I (with Christina Robert’s support) have been working with the MJC Foundation to begin a scholarship in Brenda’s honor.

In speaking to Christina about this, she relayed a story that her mother, Brenda, had told her.  Back in her teaching days, Brenda recalled a student—an immigrant, a first generation, adult student and mother who felt compelled to return to school to provide a better life for her own daughters.  She had a husband who was less than supportive of his wife’s aspirations to attend college, and he made it very difficult on her to complete her assigned tasks, questioning why she would even need an education.   As Brenda tells the story, she explains that the student would have to hide in her bathroom in order to study, to read, to write for school.  Imagine a situation where the bathroom sink is your only desktop— the toilet seat, your office chair.  But this student was determined; she would succeed, and her story would inspire Brenda who has long admired courageous women, especially mothers, who persevere, seek higher education, and change their lives for the better.  Brenda must have seen herself in her student: strong, courageous, driven to succeed despite the odds against her.

I share this story now because these are the exact students who the “Brenda Robert Memorial Scholarship” hopes to target:  first generation, immigrant, adult women who wish to pursue their education at Modesto Junior College.

With the family’s blessing and with the support of George Boodrookas and the MJC Foundation, we are now set up to begin the important fundraising component to help endow this scholarship in order to make it available by next school year.

So . . .to those who wish to give to the “Brenda Robert Memorial Scholarship” fund, please make checks payable to the MJC Foundation, 435 College Avenue, Modesto, CA 95350 and include “Brenda Robert Scholarship” in the note field. 

Thanks for reading this and for thinking about Brenda at this time.  I wish you all great luck during finals and a restful, restorative summer break.



Sam Pierstorff

Professor of English

Editor, Quercus Review Press
Modesto Jr. College

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