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Embraced by a Welcoming Community

When reflecting on her favorite college memory, Lorelei Brandariz ’83 simply stated, “Everything is a memory. It’s like when I decided my daughter had to go there because of the memories. Returning to Bradley with her, I saw how it had grown, but you could see and feel the same campus; it was beautiful.” Fortunately, Gabriela Martín-Brandariz ’09 fell in love with the Hilltop, too — after her first visit.

Lorelei (right) and her husband, Rene Gonzalez, co-own Target Marketing & Human Resources Solution, where she also serves as vice president: “I love my job because I help other people succeed and improve the quality of their lives, which I believe was the legacy Bradley left in me.” Gabriela (left) — who married Christian Alcala on August 31, 2013 — is a regional brand manager for Colgate-Palmolive, overseeing the toothpaste, toothbrush and mouthwash portfolios.

Photo courtesy Lorelei Brandariz ’83.

“Mom always wanted me to go to Bradley, but I thought it was in the middle of nowhere and that I wanted to go to a big school. When the time came, I applied to everywhere I wanted to go, and I applied to Bradley just to please her,” Gabriela admitted.

“When Gabriela started looking at colleges, Bradley was my first choice, but she said she had other schools in mind,” Lorelei acknowledged. “She picked four colleges for her visits, and the last one was Bradley.”

It was during that trip that Gabriela realized her mother was right. “When I visited Bradley, it just felt like home,” Gabriela recalled. “The people were great. Everyone was so nice, the campus was so pretty with flowers everywhere, and I loved the school’s size. I always thought I wanted to go to a big college, but when I toured one I was considering, I immediately knew that wasn’t for me.”

Unlike many legacy students who grow up familiar with their family university, Gabriela lived more than 2,000 miles away in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Having been encouraged to work hard in school and earn a quality education by her own mother, Lorelei shared the same advice with Gabriela: “Colleges are expensive, so you need good grades for financial aid.”

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Lorelei was raised in Puerto Rico after her parents — an Army major and an Army nurse — retired and returned to the island to be near their families. Knowing she wanted to attend college on the mainland, Lorelei began working with a Bradley admissions representative at a college fair. In choosing between her two top schools, she finally decided on Bradley. Why? “Because of him. He made the difference,” she explained. As a result, she wanted to help other people have the same positive experience, so she signed up as an admissions aide after arriving on campus.

While the position helped financially by paying half her tuition, it also established a second Brandariz legacy at the University. As a Bradley Student Admissions Representative (STAR), Gabriela literally followed in her mother’s footsteps by giving campus tours, assisting with visit day programs and meeting with prospective students and their families. However, they didn’t do everything the same.

“One thing I did different than Mom was join a sorority,” Gabriela noted, adding she was a Sigma Kappa. “The whole rush experience was amazing, intriguing and a bit stressful because you were choosing where you were going to spend much of your time during school.”

While discussing what it was like returning to campus with Gabriela, Lorelei fondly remembered Dr. Alan Galsky, her biology professor. He had helped her tremendously when she was having trouble understanding him in class, and she was pleased to know he was still there for her daughter. “When I moved Gabriela to Bradley, he was there to meet all the new students,” she said of the then-associate provost for student affairs. “I was glad to see him again and that he was a provost because, looking back now, I knew he had passion for his work — a passion I admire in people.” 

In the end, both women agree the entire Bradley Experience comes down to the welcoming Bradley community. Lorelei summed it up: “I wasn’t a number. I was a person, and I was treated with respect. Gabriela told me all the time she felt the same way, like the University extended open arms to her.”

— Clara Miles, MA ’05