When clinical psychologist, Dr. Barbara E. Bremer, ’68, was killed while riding her bicycle after work in September of 1985 on a country road near Champaign, IL, her older brother, Dr. William H. Bremer, ’63, was certain that he had to use the traumatic experience to do something meaningful. “I was proud that she followed in my footsteps and came to Albion,” he says. “At her memorial service, so many people said that she was so wonderful and made such an impact on their lives.”
Just six years earlier, Bill’s cousin, Lynn Ellen Hulbert, ’61, died from cancer. Lynn had been an elementary school teacher in central Indiana. Within a short span of time, Bill had lost two significant women in his life, both at the age of 39. “My sister and my cousin could have contributed a lot more to people’s lives if they had not died so young, and I thought maybe I could help in some way.” Since Albion College was a family tradition, it only made sense for Bill and his mother, Esther Plain, to create a scholarship endowment that would provide financial aid for students intending to enter a healing profession. “A lot of qualified students will not make it without help. This will help give qualified people a chance to realize their dreams,” he says.
Bill knows from personal experience the difference that a scholarship can make. While at Albion, he was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship that involved helping his academic counselor, Professor Ewell A. Stowell, with setting up his botany class labs and helping care for the greenhouse. Although much of his time at Albion was spent studying and preparing for medical school, he was also involved in Sigma Chi. This is something he considers to be an important and lasting part of his college experience, as he tended to be a rather shy student. “Looking back, my time at Albion was really one of the happiest times of my life. I remember packing up my VW bug and driving home after graduation, feeling sad that I was leaving,” he says. “It expanded my horizons so that I could see things in a much bigger context.”
After Albion, Bill went on to the Indiana University School of Medicine. He then served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era as a Lieutenant Commander in the Medical Corps in Sasebo, Japan and on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. He eventually worked as a private practice pediatrician in San Francisco’s Mission District until retiring. For the past four years he has served as the Council President of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church with a congregation mostly of German immigrants, and the only church in northern California to offer services in both English and German.
“There are incidental things that you learn in college that turn out to have unforeseen importance. I had three years of German in high school and two more years at Albion. Although this wasn’t useful as a doctor, now in retirement I’m the president of a German church,” he says. “Sometimes you have to go through a large part of your life before certain things, like speaking German, are found to have value.”
Bill’s experience at Albion is something that not only led to his successful career as a pediatrician, but it helped him succeed in, what he considers to be, his “second calling”. This lifelong impact is one of the many reasons that he feels it’s important to give back to the College. “Albion has made such an impact on so many lives. It’s important to give something back to the institution that enabled you to get where you’re at today. Honoring that life reward is a commendable thing to do.”
Bill says that he wants to give a gift that will keep on giving in honor of the experience that he, Barbara, and Lynn had at Albion College. “One day I’ll be gone. I want to leave some kind of mark that validates my existence and that of my sister, cousin and mother.”