WYE MILLS — Salisbury University awarded the family of Mary Elizabeth Brennaman with a master’s degree in social work on Monday, June 17, at Chesapeake College.
Mary Elizabeth Brennaman passed away last September at her home in Denton. She was 39 years old.
Dr. Kelly Fiala, Salisbury University transitional dean of the College of Health and Human Services, awarded the honorary degree to her family including daughter Anneliese Sofia Brennaman; mom Cheryl Haapala; dad Jeff Beever; younger sister Lisa Beever; step mom Beverly Beever; and step dad Ted Haapala.
“On behalf of (Salisbury University President Charles) Wight, I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to be here to celebrate, and to remember Mary Beth,” said Dane Foust, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “It’s really heartbreaking. It’s also a positive note to celebrate and care for one another, and to be able to celebrate this important evening.”
Mary Beth was born on December 28, 1978 in Easton, and graduated from Colonel Richardson High School in 1996. She graduated in 2004 from Washington College in Chestertown where she earned a bachelors’ degree in psychology.
With passion for learning, Mary Beth pursued a master’s degree in Salisbury University’s social work program, where she was also a member of Phi Alpha Honor Society. Mary Beth was employed with MidShore Mental Health System in Easton for three years as a behavioral health coordinator for special populations, where she served Caroline and Kent counties.
She previously worked for Crossroads Community for five years as a program coordinator. She was preceded in death by her daughter, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Dayle Brennaman, maternal grandparents and paternal grandparents.
During the ceremony, a group of classmates and friends including Laura Mitchell, Katey Carroll, Kristyn Wheeler and Mariah Farmer-Grace told stories about their fondest memories of Mary Beth. All recalled Mary Beth as compassionate, patient, a great student and one who knows more than the teachers.
“Mary Beth was an amazing social work student and mother, and a student who fully participated and provided a lot of insight into our class,” said Mitchell. “Everyone was always so impressed with her experience and knowledge in the social work field. We would always joke that Mary Beth was our personal teacher because whenever we had a question, she always had the answer.”
Wheeler shared the same sentiment as Mitchell adding that although some assignments can be challenging, Mary Beth always made it look effortless and easy. During challenging times, Wheeler recalled Mary Beth being the first to tell her that giving up was not an option.
“For me, there were many times I wanted to quit or give up while in the MSW program because I was so overwhelmed. She encouraged each of us to do our best and she was always the person who told us not to give up,” said Wheeler. “One of the things that I loved most about Mary Beth was our daily conversations full of doubts, breakdowns; and her witty remarks and a lot of jokes. She is truly the social worker that I aspire to be.”
To honor Mary Beth, classmates put a lady bug on their cap with Mary Beth’s initials. The ladybug is a symbolization of “Mary Beth telling us that ladybugs always reminded her of Lizzie, so that was a good way to remember her,” said Farmer-Grace.
Her sister Lisa was so surprised to see how many people’s lives were touched by Mary Beth at the end of the ceremony. She was proud to see that her memory is still carried on through so many lives.
“It means so much to us, she fought so hard to get this degree, and she was actually going to go on to get her doctorate after for her daughter,” said Lisa. “She’s a single mother and she wanted to show her that everything is possible. Her memory is still carried on through so many lives that we didn’t know how many of her classmates were so passionate about her to get her degree. To push that along really means a lot to us.”