What's going on?
Wallace, DeCoster and
Downs are all recipients of the James R. Briley Health Education
Scholarship, which provides health behavior and health education
graduate students at the School of Public Health money for
tuition, books and living expenses while they pursue their
Wallace, who will
enter the program in fall 2001, said he feels "overwhelmed
with honor and somewhat undeserving of such a distinguished
"Were it not for
the scholarship," Wallace said "I'd find myself
devoting more time next year to offsetting the cost of my
education, most likely through employment that would not be
entirely related to my career and life goals."
Wallace said the
extra money "has enabled me to spend more time
volunteering, and using my gifts to improve the lives of
outreach ministry with University Presbyterian Church through
Habitat for Humanity, Campus Ministry, planning overseas mission
delegations, Venture Scouting (a high school co-ed scouting
program), the Durham-San Ramon Nicaragua Sister Community
Partnership, Durham Social Justice Committee and Orange County
Emergency Medical Services.
"The list goes on," Wallace admitted.
goals include "service toward those in poor health, whether
it be from biological, social, economic or behavioral
inequalities. Just as Jim passed the buck on to the scholarship
recipients, I'll pass it one step further to the folks I feel
really benefit from the scholarship."
relationship with Briley is not unusual. Both Downs and DeCoster
are friendly with their benefactor and keep in touch with him at
his Utah home via cards, letters and e-mails.
In a recent letter to
Briley, 2000-2001 recipient DeCoster wrote of her grueling
spring semester, which included five graduate courses, working
20 hours a week for GlaxoSmithKline, and single-parenting her
two children, which she described as "a fairly
say," her letter confided, "I have never had so little
sleep for months at a time since I had newborns." Thanks to
the Briley Scholarship, she was able to choose a master's
project that did not carry a stipend. She will work with
Professor Betsy Randall-David on a breastfeeding promotion
project for Spanish-speaking women through UNC Hospitals.
Annie Downs, the
first Briley Scholarship recipient, received her master's degree
in health behavior and health education in August 2001. She
described her master's project, The Heart Chart, with an
enthusiasm not always evident in graduate students in the final
throes of their degrees. The chart is a patient-held notebook
which allows heart patients to keep track of the complex
information related to their conditions: cholesterol levels,
blood pressure, medications and so on. Written in plain language
and from a patient's perspective, the project grew out of Downs'
work in a heart failure clinic.
"When I saw how
much information we expected our patients to keep track of, I
came up with The Heart Chart," Downs said. She hopes to
complete pilot testing in the summer and fall - in the few lulls
between working as a physical therapist, raising her children
and moving to Indianapolis for the next adventure of her career.
Downs added that the
scholarship also allowed her "the pleasure of being
introduced to a delightful human being." She recently
received an e-card from Briley announcing his first hole-in-one.
Briley prefers to
keep the attention on scholarship recipients. "I'm a little
reticent on the whole prospect of an article about this,"
he said. "It's the three Briley scholars who are going to
be impacting their kids and everybody else's kids for a long,
long time. They are the message carriers.
"The whole idea
(of the scholarship)," he said, "is to give them some
security and some freedom to attack the academic requirements to
do the job. Mary DeCoster is a single mother - that's got to be
one hell of a job, just to make a living. If I can pay her
tuition and give her a modest stipend, she can have the freedom
of discretionary income. (When you have kids), every time you
turn around, somebody needs new shoes or a diaper changed. It
takes energy reserves and a resiliency that seem impossible to
Briley grew up on a
tobacco farm in Bethel and received his undergraduate degree in
biology and social sciences from East Carolina in 1949. A paper
he wrote on stream pollution so impressed his biology professor
that she forwarded it to Lucy Morgan, the first chair of the
Department of Health Education at Carolina. Soon after this,
Briley received a full state-sponsored scholarship, including a
stipend, to pursue a master's degree in health education at
Briley graduated in
1950, but was not able to practice health education for long.
Four months after beginning work as a health educator in Vance
and Warren counties, Briley's draft notice came up. He enlisted
in the Air Force. That stint grew into a long career in the
military, including work with the U.S. State Department in India
and service in Vietnam. He retired in 1975 as a lieutenant
analysis of the market, Briley began a third career in real
estate development and construction. His research revealed that
Utah had the best potential. "The one part of my analysis
that I failed to consider was, how does an immigrant Southern
Baptist fit into this Mormon community?" he said.
But his natural charm
and low-key style helped him enjoy a successful career in real
estate. Then, 50 years after he first came to Chapel Hill,
Briley decided it was time to give back. He called health
behavior and health education chair JoAnne Earp and offered the
department a fully endowed scholarship.
former UNC system president, was dean of men at Carolina during
Briley's student days and the two were acquaintances. "Jim
Briley and what he has done for the school of public health
represent the finest tradition of a responsible alumnus thanking
his alma mater for the grand experience he had as a student and
scholar," Friday said.
Lisa Carl '82, '88, '94
to Table of Contents | Home