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In Memory: Germanna Colleagues Remember Rick Brehm

By Susan Larson, with Mike Zitz. Photo provided by Germanna Community College.

For 18 years, Richard Lee “Rick” Brehm served as Germanna Community College’s (GCC) Vice President for Administrative Services. He died July 20, 2016, after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56.

“His business acumen and vision in managing the bottom line helped Germanna through some of the toughest times in its five-decade history,” said Mike Zitz, GCC director of Media & Community Relations. “Just as important in helping steer the college were his humanity and humor. The title he cared most about was friend.”

As his days dwindled, instead of worrying about himself, he spent much of his time easing employee concerns about a Virginia Community College System streamlining process, Zitz said. “In his last phone call with President David Sam, he sought to assure a smooth transition to the staff he had hired and quietly inspired for so long.”

“Rick helped me to learn how to be a good president,” said GCC President David Sam. “He was a steady advisor through recession and budget cuts, rapid enrollment growth then loss, new construction and recovery from the earthquake, and in the day-to-day stewardship of our college. He was more than a colleague. He was a dear friend. A large part of our heart has gone away with him. But his legacy is most of all in the people he supervised and who learned their integrity and ethic of quiet service from him. Rick Brehm was the best of us.”

“Rick was a man of incredible character and integrity,” said John Davis, executive director of Organizational Planning and Assessment. “He told me that participation in commencement was important to him, largely because it enabled him to see the fruits of his labor.”

Davis, who was a close personal friend, said Brehm’s thoughtful stewardship has been key to helping Germanna avoid layoffs during a period of rapid growth that intersected with a series of steep state budget cuts. “To a large extent, Rick toiled in the background, doing things which are largely thankless or taken for granted — making sure bills were paid, budgets were balanced, facilities were cared for, students and staff were secure and technology needs were met. He would be the first to say that he did none of this himself. Yet at the end of the day it was his dedication, professional acumen and managerial skills that helped GCC to flourish.”

“Some of my favorite memories are of Rick’s wonderful sense of humor,” said Dean Denise Talley. “Rick was always the epitome of professionalism in his work, but if you got to know him better, you soon learned he could have been a stand-up comedian. He would literally bring me to tears laughing at his one-liners. I’ll miss his sage advice, but will miss our shared chuckles even more.”

“When I interviewed him for the job in 1997, within five minutes I knew he was the one,” said former Germanna President Frank Turnage. “He proved me right to this day.”

During his tenure at Germanna Community College, Brehm:
– Led the internal services group, providing support for one of the fastest-growing colleges in America.
– Led facilities development through the college’s 100 percent growth spurt over an eight-year period.
– Oversaw early adoption of IT infrastructure in classrooms and human simulators in nursing labs.
– Launched a Campus Police Department.
– Managed finances so deftly that Germanna was able to fund operations and provide funds for equipment, program development, and new initiatives and avoid layoffs during years of coinciding budget cuts and record growth.
– Reduced the college’s utility consumption by approximately one-third, helping protect Germanna jobs in the long run.

Few realize just how much work Rick Brehm did to make it possible for GCC to realize new facilities like its Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper, said Ron Holmes, chairman of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education Board.

Brehm graduated from Strasburg High School, and went on to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a MBA from James Madison University. He worked at Lord Fairfax Community College for ten years, prior to coming to Germanna.

He was an active member of the Rappahannock Rotary Club and the Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg. He was also a member of the Southern Association of College & University Business Officers and the Society for College & University Planning, and a long time officer of the Germanna Community College Educational Foundation.

Survivors include his wife, Donna Lam Brehm, to whom he was married for almost 34 years; his daughters Brooke Powell (Ryan) and Samantha Durbin (Jonathan); his grandchildren Sullivan and Elliotte Powell and his Fredericksburg “grandsons” Seth and Luke Rudolph. Rick was also survived by his sisters Mary Rudolph (John), Cindy Mauk (Don), and Melinda Wilson (Gene) and his brothers Baird Brehm (Kathy) and Brian Brehm (Audrey). He was also survived by 13 nieces and nephews and 13 great nieces and great nephews. He was predeceased by both his parents, Shirley Ann and William Baird Brehm.

In lieu of flowers, Rick asked that donations be made the Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg building fund, and to the Germanna Community College Educational Foundation fund for the construction of state-of-the-art building that will provide cutting-edge nursing training at the Locust Grove Campus.

“That was his next project,” his wife Donna said.

Editor’s Note: Condolences may be left online at Covenant Funeral Service.

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