Middlebury People of the Year

The Middlebury Campus’ People of the Yearmen-o-year

Student of the Year

Kelly Brush ‘08

Since returning to Middlebury after a tragic skiing accident last spring that has confined her to a wheelchair, Kelly Brush ‘08 has demonstrated unparalleled optimism and strength – biking nine miles in a race this fall to raise money for custom sporting equipment, and inspiring her family, fellow students and faculty alike.

“It’s incredible how fast she has transitioned, hardly complaining, just taking each new challenge in stride,” says Kelly’s sister Lindsay Brush ‘07.

“I have never been so inspired by someone I was so close with,” says friend and roommate Lani Young ‘08, who likens Brush to the famous peacemakers, politicians and athletes from whom she drew inspiration from as a child. Young described visiting Brush at Berkshire Medical Center in Massachusetts, and, upon commenting on Brush’s “giant white high-tops,” Brush quickly responded by saying “Lans, when I get better we’re going to ball together.” Such optimism, asserts Young, epitomizes Brush’s approach to life. “Ever since her accident she has been completely focused on the things she still can do, and not on what she can’t.”

Brush’s resolute attitude was particularly prevalent in the film class she recently took with Visiting Assistant Professor of Film and Media Culture Deborah Ellis. Even though the limited wheelchair access in the screening room forced Kelly to sit in the far back, she managed to attend classes even in the midst of winter. “The worst day was one spring snowstorm when everyone was soaked,” recalls Ellis. “Kelly’s gloves were drenched from wheeling through the mush.”

“I think Kelly’s bravery really came through one day when she screened a video she made,” says Ellis. In the video, a young woman, portrayed by Kelly, drives to the drugstore to buy a pregnancy test. Ellis explained how the class “hadn’t imagined Kelly beyond her wheelchair.” In screening her video, explained Ellis, “Kelly had opened up a world for the students in the class and since that day she sat higher in her chair.”

In addition to driving, Brush does a variety of physical activities.

“If it’s active and available for her to do, she’s doing it,” says Lindsay – “from skiing to biking, she’s never afraid.”