Campus honors two staff members

Bradley hosted a vigil in honor of Susan Berry Brill de Ramirez and Antonio Ramirez Barron on Thursday night. Demetrice Worley, associate professor of English, led a prayer at the vigil. Photo by William Craine.

Bradley University honored the lives of couple Susan Berry Brill de Ramirez and Antonio “Tony” Ramirez Barron on Thursday night with a vigil.

Susan was a Caterpillar professor of English and coordinator of Graduate Studies. Tony served as a technology support specialist for Bradley.

Authorities say the couple was slain sometime Thursday night or Friday morning in their Princeville home. Their son, Jose Ramirez, 21, and Matthew Roberts, 20, of Princeville have both been charged with two counts of first degree murder.

Susan taught at Bradley for 27 years and Tony began working at Bradley in 1982 and was a Bradley alumus.

Hundreds of people gathered in the Michel Student Center Ballroom to mourn and honor the lives of two individuals who dedicated their lives to Bradley.

Barbra Kerns, executive director of learning design and technology, worked with Tony for over 30 years and he was in her wedding. She mentioned that Thursday would have been Tony’s 64th birthday. She shared the story of how Tony approached Susan at One World Cafe to ask her on a date.

“He started to go through in his analytical way and gave all the reasons why they would make a great couple,” Kerns said. “As he described it, his persistence wore her down.”

Many people at the vigil spoke about their dedication to Bradley and colleagues.

Seth Katz, associate professor of English, said Susan always thought of others before herself.

“That focus on the other always seemed to me to be her primary motivation,” Katz said. “Her intention was always to help.”

Dan Smith, associate chair of the communication department, has been at Bradley for 25 years and knew them both well. He said he first met Tony when he tried to add a syllabus to Sakai, something Tony was proficient in.

Smith said one of the reasons Tony was loved so much was his willingness to help anyone in need.

“I don’t remember Tony ever telling somebody ‘No,’” Smith said. “Tony was astonishingly humble and giving. I used to tell him that he was giving to a fault and that it was okay to say no to people.”

Smith said Tony and Susan had very different personalities.

“Susan was almost exactly the opposite,” Smith said. “Tony would never say no, Susan was difficult to say no to. She was always looking for what we haven’t tried yet. We could always do better than we were doing now.”

Smith said despite their different personalities and their different roles at Bradley, they both had an impact on the university.

“They both represented different sides of what’s good about being here,” Smith said. “I don’t know if I have ever heard a person say something negative about either one of them.”

Brooke Engerman, senior English and advertising double major, said she enjoyed long conversations with Susan.

“As I’m sure many of us have experienced, [Susan] loved to talk and connect with everyone,” Engerman said. “We would often hear the words, ‘Do you have a minute?’ As most of us know, this ‘minute’ actually turned out to be several hours.”

Katz mentioned Susan took her faith seriously and believes she continued to think of others until the end.

“In my heart, I deeply believe that her last thought, her very last conscious thought, was not about herself,” Katz said. “I am sure that her very last thought was a prayer, prayer for Tony and most of all, a prayer for Jose.”

Katz spoke to all the support the English department received from other departments, current students and alumni.

“I can’t help but think that Susan would be proud of, but not at all surprised, at all the ways our communities have come together in the midst of tragedy to create light in the midst of darkness,” Katz said.


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