by Fred P. Gusoff and Len Lear
Parkinson’s disease may have slowed Dr. Jean L. Brodey’s speech at times, but it can’t stifle her expression. The 84-year-old retired Temple University communications professor and long-time resident of Flourtown has just published her second book.
“My Way to Anywhere” is a collection of more than 50 of Brodey’s poems, many of them about people who affected the poet’s life. For example, here is a short excerpt from a lengthy poem entitled “An Ending” about a friend’s 27-year-old husband who had died of cancer:
“Arthur is dead. His mother drowns in a vortex of tears. Her center untimely ripped away. His wife holds a scratch pad of all their past (four years go by so quickly) and cried for blueprints she will never read. Fathers, brothers, friends: we all bemoan the print too soon exposed. Do we weep for Arthur or ourselves and what we know?”
The book contains just a portion of the hundreds of Brodey’s poems compiled over 50-plus years, some of which were published in national and international poetry magazines. However, she said in an interview in her home last week, “I had no intention of writing a book.”
The book’s development was initiated by her daughter Lisette, an author of three character-driven novels herself (with a fourth one due out this summer), who helped Brodey with the editing process. (Lisette has also held various positions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and CBS Studio Center in Studio City, CA.)
The cover of “My Way to Anywhere” is an artistic scene from Forbidden Drive. “When my mother was younger and able,” Lisette told us, “she would walk several miles to Valley Green Inn and back.”
According to Lisette, “About a year ago, I asked her where her poems were, and she said she feared they were lost. I knew they were not, as I’d seen them in her house. During a visit back to Philadelphia in September, 2012 (Lisette now lives in Pasadena, California), I found the poetry and began making plans to choose 50-some poems for a small collection.”
Brodey actually began writing poetry more than 75 years ago. “I don’t remember my first poem,” she said, “but when I was in the first or second grade, I wrote a poem and showed it to my father. I told him that I had written it, but he didn’t seem to believe me. He asked me again if I had written it and then asked me if I had copied it out of a poetry book. I was pleased that he thought it was that good, but I was also hurt that he didn’t think I had written it.”
Her love of poetry continued throughout her school years. “As a matter of fact,” she recalled, “under my photo yearbook at Wagner Junior High School (in West Oak Lane), I stated that I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. I didn’t really know what journalists did; I just knew that they wrote. And I figured that they wrote poetry.”
Brodey’s first book, “Mid-Life Careers,” was published in 1983. During her time at Temple, the Dr. Jean Brodey Student Achievement Award was created to honor the year’s outstanding graduating communications senior. Brodey worked as a public relations professor for more than 25 years until she retired eight years ago. She also ran the Temple U. journalism department’s internship program for many years.
Her first full-time job was writing facts and fortunes for Fleer’s bubble gum wrappers. At age 38, after being a housewife and mother, Dr. Brodey returned to the world of work outside the house. Her first job was for only six hours a week at $2.50 per hour as a discussion leader for Great Books.
She later returned to school and earned two graduate degrees. In 1998 Brodey received a citation from then-Mayor Ed Rendell and was inducted in the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Hall of Fame.
Dr. Brodey holds master’s and doctorate degrees in education from Temple and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Penn State. She was a friend of Ellen Coyne Masters, a teacher at Penn State, where Brodey worked part-time, and wife of one of the nation’s most acclaimed poets, Edgar Lee Masters.
The passionate lover of poetry’s favorite poet is Wallace Stevens. She also loves the work of Emily Dickinson, Amy Lowell, Walt Whitman, James Joyce, e. e. cummings, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Theodore Roethke, William Wordsworth, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and (of course) Edgar Lee Masters.
As a public relations professor, internship coordinator and career counselor at Temple, Brodey touched the lives of many students. She still gets together with some of them for dinner at the Whitemarsh Valley Inn. “We have a group of students. We call them ‘The Brodey Bunch.’ We meet about twice a year,” she said. “They all have excellent public relations jobs.”
One former student expressed a typically glowing tribute to the professor. “I was fortunate enough to have, quite honestly, lucked out and found myself in Dr. Brodey’s intro PR class while at Temple,” said Cathy Engel Menendez, a 1993 graduate of Temple’s School of Communications who is now senior manager of communications at PECO.
“From there, Jean was not only my professor for numerous advanced PR classes but also became an invaluable advisor, mentor and friend. Jean’s knowledge and understanding of the field is hard to match, even to this day…
“I credit Jean not only for recommending me for my first job in the field but more importantly, providing me with an education that continues to serve me well. She is a proven professional, a challenging professor, fair and ethical, and deeply committed to her students and the field.”
In addition to daughter Lisette, Brodey has a son, Kenneth, and a granddaughter, Dara.
For more information about “My Way to Anywhere,” email email@example.com.