A huge heart and generous spirit

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Brenda Bingham '72

Brenda Bingham '72 was the eldest of four girls born to Gordon and Leola Bingham in Washington County, Va. Her parents instilled a strong work ethic and taught their daughters the importance of hard work and being contributing members of society. While the Bingham’s didn’t have the opportunity to continue their education, they reinforced to their children the importance of hard work and good grades with the goal of a college education. Their goals materialized when Brenda was accepted to Radford College.

Brenda’s family was not in a financial position to support her — other than to provide minimal pocket money — as she worked towards her degree.  She secured grants, work scholarships and summer employment that allowed her to complete her education and graduate with a teaching degree in 1972. She began teaching in the Washington County school system and remained there almost exclusively for nearly 30 years, with the majority of her tenure at Meadowview Elementary, where she began her own education.

Her students remembered her fondly, with one sharing: “I learned much from Ms. Bingham when I was one of her 5th graders years ago…much that I later passed on to my own geography students.  I still remember her reading Maurice Sendak’s Pierre and guiding us in planting bean seeds from NASA.  She was a tough teacher; she called out the best in us.”

Brenda was a life-long learner, ultimately earning her master’s degree from Virginia Tech in 1977. She regularly took continuing education classes and other classes just for fun. She learned to play multiple musical instruments, including piano, organ, lap dulcimer, hammered dulcimer and violin.  She was a member of various clubs and organizations and an avid reader. She was a member of multiple book clubs, and at her death, owned some 2,300 books that were donated to the local library for their annual used book sale.  Her family recalls that they rarely saw her without a book in her hand, and she regularly read while eating meals.

Brenda had a huge heart and generous spirit.  She cared deeply about the students she taught and wanted them to love learning.  She frequently provided funds for children in need and regularly made rounds to local schools to provide funds for students in need of coats or shoes and to teachers in need of classroom supplies.  In a nutshell, her life was about giving, loving and enjoying life’s simple pleasures.  If she could pass on advice to today’s Radford students, she would say, “Work hard, study hard, do your best, give of yourself, make a difference and maintain your integrity.  She also would tell them to live life on their own terms, enjoy the good food, learn something and do something creative every day,” shares her sisters Joan Allen, Ginger Addison and Tammy Simms.

Brenda made small donations to Radford University for many years.  In 1999, she made the decision to leave the bulk of her estate to Radford to benefit students through scholarships.  She understood what it meant to struggle financially as a college student and wanted to make a difference for students who shared similar backgrounds. Through her generosity, deserving students will receive needed financial support through three scholarships established in her name.

“Bren was certainly the one to have the foresight to make this move. I think it has encouraged us all to think about what similar impact our donations may have, if we should have the financial means to do so,” says Joan Allen.  “She was a special sister; she was our go-to person for everything.  It seemed at times that she knew the answer to everything! She was a special friend to many, with her name written on their hearts.  Life is composed of those special people encountered along the way.  The best gift life can offer is in meeting folks like Bren.”