Syracuse University community mourns passing of staff member and student Bridget Lawson

The Syracuse University community mourns the passing of Bridget Lawson, a dedicated staff member, friend, mentor, and emerging scholar. For twenty years, Bridget was a fixture in many Syracuse University initiatives, academic opportunity services, and organizations that benefitted diverse populations of students in educational and community settings.

Bridget Lawson headsotBridget had recently stepped into a new professional role as the assistant director of The SOURCE (Syracuse Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement). For 3 years prior, she was the coordinator of academic services for the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP).

Leonese Nelson, Ph.D., program director for CSTEP says that Bridget’s impact, “reached beyond the campus community to the greater Syracuse community.  She was a true advocate for students.”

Bridget held a bachelor’s degree in human services from Cazenovia College, and a master’s in social work from Syracuse University. She was near completion of a Ph.D. in cultural foundations of education in the School of Education, and her degree will be conferred posthumously.

“Bridget Lawson was my friend, colleague, and a mentor of mine,” shares Hugh Burnam, Bridget’s friend, former classmate and officemate. “Bridget was a couple years ahead of me in the program, so I relied on her for advice and support. When I became overwhelmed, messed up or stumbled in some way, she shot me a quick look, and many times said something along the lines of, ‘Boy, get your act together!’ She made me laugh and became my first friend in my Ph.D. program which means so much to me.”

Throughout her doctoral studies, Bridget worked as a graduate assistant for initiatives such as Early College High School at Nottingham, Say Yes to Education, and Writing Our Lives.

Jeffery Mangram, associate professor in the School of Education was at the helm of the Early College High School project, and recalls Bridget’s contributions as assistant instructor. “She held historical, institutional and social  knowledge about the Syracuse City School District and the South Side of Syracuse. She became touchstones for so many of the 100 students or so we worked with, listening to and counseling the students on not only academic issues but also personal issues. She was proud to have graduated from the Syracuse City Schools and living, still, on the Southside of Syracuse. She modeled for the students (and for all of us) the dignity and grace of being an African-American woman.”

Through Writing Our Lives, Bridget worked with Marcelle Haddix, department chair and Dean’s Professor of Reading and Language Arts, and formed an academic bond and a friendship. Haddix says, “Syracuse University, the School of Education, and the entire Syracuse community will feel the gravity of this loss for some time.  As her advisor and friend, I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to know Bridget and to work closely with her.  She was an exemplar of what it means to be of service to one’s community.  She was that silent force and presence, always there and giving of herself.”

Beyond her contributions to Syracuse University, Bridget had worked for the Syracuse City School District as a substitute teacher, for the Center for Community Alternatives, the Dunbar Association, Contact Community Services, and SUNY Oswego. She dedicated her life to creating opportunities for academic success initiatives, preparing students for research opportunities, and facilitating diversity, equity, community-based, and social justice activities.

Mangram says, “Always happy to see me and others, I could not have been more proud to have worked with this remarkable woman! The loss is both sad and tragic. She had so much knowledge and grace to share with all of us.”