Forever young

At a place where the letters “S-V-S-U” mean so much, there are two other letters around campus that resonate with many people affiliated with the university, past and present:

“M-J.”

That would stand for “Merry Jo,” as in Merry Jo Brandimore, the now-former associate provost for Student Affairs and dean of students who retired in August after nearly 33 years at the university.

“I could do this work forever,” Brandimore said. “It keeps me young and it’s thrilling every day, but my head and my heart are telling me there are other chapters to write.”

Brandimore joined the SVSU ranks in 1983 as the coordinator for Residential Life and served in a number of roles throughout her career. The one constant with each position, though, was working directly with students. The university transformed from an institution with 486 students living on campus when Brandimore started to nearly 2,700 today.

When asked if she could sum up in one word a career working with students, Brandimore choked back tears when she answered: “Love.”

“They call it work, but for me everything I did here was a gesture of love,” she said. “I don’t have a win/loss record or a long list of published research. All I’ve had to give was love.”

SVSU returned that gesture in June 2016 when its Board of Control announced the name of Living Center North would be changed to MJ Brandimore House.

“Many things have happened to me during my time at SVSU that brought unexpected opportunity and joy to my career and my life,” Brandimore said, “but I never imagined that a residence hall would bear my name. I am thrilled beyond words.”

Though her work with students has earned her a number of accolades across the state and region, Brandimore said her greatest moments occurred during commencement ceremonies, where she watched the smiles on students’ faces as their years of hard work paid off.

“Watching them move their tassels from right to left at the end of the ceremony gives me the chills,” she said. “It gets me every time.”

Now that retirement has come, Brandimore plans on spending more time with family and getting to the long list of projects she’s been holding on to. But, for those worried what it will be like without a Brandimore on campus for the first time in over three decades, they need not fret. Her grandson, Parker Brandimore, is a freshman there.

“I hope SVSU is where he has the best years of his life,” she said. “I know it’s where I had the best years of mine.”

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