Angela Laird Brenton: 1953 – 2013

Dr. Angela Laird Brenton

Dr. Angela Laird Brenton, Western Carolina University’s provost and vice chancellor, died early Wednesday morning after a three-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

Brenton began serving as provost at WCU in August 2012 after a 16-member campus committee appointed her in May.

Brenton was born on Jan. 3, 1953, in Duncan, Oklahoma. Prior to her tenure at WCU, she served as dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock beginning in 2001. There, she worked with WCU’s current chancellor, David O. Belcher, who previously served as provost and vice chancellor at UALR.

The WCU flag at the front of campus has been lowered to half-staff in honor of Brenton. The university is offering resources for employees wishing to speak with a counseling professional.

WCU will hold a memorial celebration of Brenton’s life in the early part of the summer. Chancellor Belcher will share his plans for leadership transition in the Academic Affairs Division in the next few days.

Several of Brenton’s colleagues offered statements in her memory.

Dr. David O. Belcher, Chancellor

“We at Western Carolina University truly grieve the loss of our Provost, Dr. Angi Brenton, who died earlier today after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. She lived these last months with grace and has been an inspiration for us all.

I have known Angi for 16 years and can attest that she was a remarkable woman. She was a warm, caring individual with a great sense of humor. And she was a remarkable leader – one of the very best I have ever encountered. Angi had the capacity to advance an initiative but in a way that genuinely embraced others in the decision-making and implementation processes. She was a remarkable advocate for those she represented, an adept communicator on any level and in any forum, and a passionate believer in education and its transformative power in our society. Though she was only with us here at Western Carolina for a little over nine months, she leaves us changed for the better. We will miss her tremendously, but we will see her Western Carolina legacy blossom for years to come.”

Dr. Carol Burton, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies

“What struck us about Dr. Brenton is truly her desire to put students at the center of just about every decision she’d make. She’d come to the table and ask, ‘What impact will this have on students?’ She was just a consummate communicator. Even when she had to share bad news it came from the heart. She cared about students intently and that’s why she was in that position. She was a role model for many of us. She and I talked at length about what we loved about our jobs, our challenges. For her, I think it was being one step removed from students, but she knew that she could impact the lives of a large number of students as provost. She also had a deep and abiding respect for faculty and staff. She truly invested herself in this community. She embraced us with everything that she had.

The courageous way she fought was amazing. She was as upbeat and positive as she had been in eight months. She, in that regard, set an example for all of us in how to cope with tragic circumstances. She has many legacies but that is one that I will always cherish.”

Dr. Betty Farmer, Professor of Communication

“It is such a tragedy to lose someone who has so much to give, especially when she was at the pinnacle of her career. The suddenness of it is so sad. My heart goes out to Keith and her family and to her colleagues, especially Chancellor Belcher and Susan, who have known her for many years.”

Dr. Mark Lord, Interim Associate Provost

“As with anyone, there are many nuanced traits that are difficult to capture with a few simple sentences. As I have with many people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know, I’ve learned much from Dr. Brenton (Angi) –some about work, some about life. At work, she had an exceptional ability to grasp the big picture quickly and convey that vision with clarity and confidence. I think the success of the many initiatives she led this past year (for example, numerous Dean searches, program prioritization, leadership institute) emanated from the clarity she gave to complex, important issues. As a person, Angi’s inner strength and independence became clear soon upon me getting to know her. In spite of the tremendous challenges she faced, her strong inner core has enabled her to stand strong and remain true to herself. She remained engaged in the high-level issues of the Academic Affairs division throughout her battle with cancer because of her care for and dedication to Western Carolina.”

For more information:
WCU Office of Public Relations: WCU mourns passing of Angi Brenton