In memoriam: Susan R. Brooker-Gross, director for policy and communications for Information Technology, geographer
BLACKSBURG — Susan R. Brooker-Gross, director of policy and communications for Virginia Tech's Division of Information Technology died Jan. 2 due to complications after surgery. She was 65.
Brooker-Gross was responsible for planning news and communications for the Division of Information Technology, as well as for developing many of the policies that govern the university’s data access, maintenance, and security. Her sharp intellect and broad experience at the university made her a valuable administration and planning asset for the division.
“She was deeply intellectual, and had a way of thinking about problems that was truly different,” said John Krallman, director of information and technology business and financial affairs. “Her consideration of IT challenges often yielded better, more thorough solutions than we could otherwise have provided, and we relied on her innovative approach, as well as her skill as a writer and editor. She was also a very dear friend.”
Brooker-Gross began at Virginia Tech as an assistant professor of geography in 1977. She became an associate professor in 1983, and served as department head from 1990-1993. Her research centered on urban geography, and explored the impact of gender, technology, and socioeconomic factors on human populations.
Geography professor and longtime colleague Jim Campbell added, “Susan, as one of our department’s early faculty members, was a major contributor to our growth and stature at the university. She made numerous contributions to the field of urban geography, and remained active in her field long after she served as department head.”
In 1993, Brooker-Gross moved into an administrative role, serving as associate provost for undergraduate programs. During her years in the provost’s office, Brooker-Gross became deeply involved with the transition of student records to electronic formats. This work put her into contact with planners and developers in information technology, and in 1997, she began her work for the division as the student systems implementation leader for Banner, the university’s comprehensive application for managing student and personnel information.
Curtis C. Roseman, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Southern California, and her former advisor at the University of Illinois, remembers Brooker-Gross as “one of the brightest people I’ve ever known.” He adds, “She was a great person to work with, a brilliant scholar. She will truly be missed.”
She was an active member of the Association of American Geographers, and recently presented at the annual conference of the Association for Collegiate Computing Services of Virginia.
In addition to her professional contributions, Brooker-Gross was devoted to her husband of 35 years, James E. Brooker, who died in May of 2015. Along with their son, John, they built a house in Blacksburg. She cherished their life together, and spoke of them often. She was also active in the community. In 2001, she decided to learn the flute, and quickly showed sufficient skill to join the Blacksburg Community Band. She truly enjoyed rehearsals and performances with the band.
Brooker-Gross earned her Ph.D. in geography from the University of Illinois in 1977. She also earned a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in geography from Bowling Green State University.
A native of Ohio, Brooker-Gross is survived by her son, John Brooker. She is also survived by her daughter-in-law, Margaret Lawton, and her brother Jeffrey. She will be fondly remembered by many friends, neighbors, and colleagues in Blacksburg.
The family will receive friends from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6 at McCoy Funeral Home, 150 Country Club Drive SW, Blacksburg, Va. The funeral will take place at 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, at the McCoy Funeral Home Chapel. Interment will follow at 2:30 p.m. in the Southwest Veterans Cemetery, Dublin, Va.
In lieu of flowers, the family is encouraging donations be made to the Blacksburg Community Band.