Learning and Living Across Generations

A small frame hanging in Dr. Cecil Bradfield's office displays the quotation, "I cannot do everything, but I can still do something." These words by Helen Keller represent an idea Bradfield has chosen to live by and to instill in his students, colleagues and friends. It's a liberating realization to discover that although one cannot change the world, one can make a difference.

This notion is the heart of Bradfield's many legacies. In addition to teaching as a professor of sociology, Dr. Bradfield is the co-founder of the Center for Service Learning, known today as CSL. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't marvel in the work that he and Ann Myers did in creating CSL. What we're doing today is based on that work. It really connects the in-class and out of class learning experience and includes the community as an active learning partner," says Rich Harris, director of the CSL. "One thing that I took away from Dr. Bradfield's class was an awareness of people around me or situations around me, the biggest world problem all of sudden seemed personal. It made me more aware of the impact I could make. One little personal interaction does make a difference to the whole world. This is a gift that Dr. Bradfield gave us all," says student Beth Wilkin.

As if creating the CSL weren't enough, since 1971 when he arrived at JMU, Bradfield has created a string of other programs that continue to influence campus today. He is responsible for starting the Aging and Family Studies Program, the Life Long Learning Institute, and the JMU Elderhostel. Dr. Bradfield has created so much here because he takes pride in programs that flourish without him. He thrives on starting a program and moving on, bringing people into the process that will continue with the program. He considers himself a "program developer." Once the programs have matured he sees the opportunity for others to experience leadership and growth.

Social Work Professor, Gregory Versen says, "After working with Cecil as a colleague and friend for 23 years, I can say that he represents all that is good in a university professor and fellow faculty member. He is the antithesis of the professor who gets tenure and then languishes on the vine until retirement. He is constantly pruning his vine, seeking new growth, and new ways to be effective and productive as a teacher."

Dr. Bradfield is not only a teacher. He is the epitome of a life long learner. Dr. Ann Myers, the Social Work Department Head says, "He gets genuinely excited about new knowledge and equally excited about the prospect of sharing that knowledge." It's that love of learning that inspired Bradfield to create The Life Long Learning Institute and The Elderhostel. People over the age of 55 can explore stimulating topics of interest, while meeting others from various backgrounds. Dr. Bradfield says, "We just have so much to learn. My basic conviction is theological and sociological. As privileged people, we have a basic responsibility, we have been blessed to be a blessing to others."

Now as he prepares for retirement, Dr. Bradfield has greeted this new stage with his trademark enthusiasm and curiosity. A colleague says that Bradfield reminds him of Robert Frost's quotation, "Always fall in love with what you're asked to accept. Take what is given and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever's going. Not against; with." Fellow faculty member, Hilary Wing notes, "He is a man who accepts life with a smile and creates a sense of calm and yet an energy when he enters a room."

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