Endowed Professorship Memorializes Elementary Teacher

Laren Brooks with niece Rebecca

Countless students could have been impacted by the inspirational teaching of the late Laren Brooks. Now an endowed professorship in the College of Education at Mississippi State University will extend her legacy for future generations.

The Dr. Susan McLaren Brooks Endowed Elementary Education Professorship is the first endowed position for the university’s College of Education. Future earnings from the endowment will provide a salary supplement and support for the holder who will mentor promising students on their paths toward rewarding careers in education. As part of the professorship, the holder will serve as a mentor and adviser for education majors receiving the Dr. Susan McLaren Brooks Ph.D. Memorial Scholarship.

“This professorship is a milestone that will help Mississippi State make strides in education nationally,” said Richard Blackbourn, College of Education dean. “We are grateful to the Brooks family for the lasting impact the endowed position will have on our college and our students as their achievements will honor the memory of a committed and talented educator.”

At the time of her death in 2006, 38-year-old Laren taught at Pecan Park Elementary School in Jackson. She had been a devoted teacher in the Mississippi Public School System for 15 years with future plans for a career in school administration, before losing her life in an automobile accident.

The Tupelo native received her undergraduate degree from Millsaps College, a master’s in education from Mississippi College and a doctoral degree from the University of Mississippi. Although she earned academic degrees from other institutions, she was devoted to her father’s alma mater, Mississippi State.

Alumnus Tommy Brooks established the scholarship for his daughter along with other family members. An earlier gift from them created the Dr. Susan McLaren Brooks Ph.D. Memorial Scholarship, also in the MSU College of Education. In all, more than 10 students have benefited from the scholarship since its inception.

"We are grateful to the Brooks family for the lasting impact the endowed position will have on our college and our students as their achievements will honor the memory of a committed and talented educator." ~ Richard Blackbourn

“Giving to academics is very gratifying, and I have been pleased that so many worthy recipients of Laren’s scholarship have sent us appreciation notes,” Tommy said. “We were happy to establish the professorship and further cement her memory beyond the scholarship, helping Mississippi State impact education for all.”

A native of Itawamba County, Tommy Brooks grew up in Tupelo. In 1956, he graduated from MSU with a degree in industrial management through the College of Business. With degree in hand, he began his career with Westinghouse in South Carolina, then worked as a personnel manager for Pennsylvania Tire. In 1966, he ambitiously founded Tommy Brooks Oil Co. and marked 50 years as president in 2016. He also invested time in state-level politics, serving four terms, from 1972-1988, in the Mississippi House of Representatives, representing the people of District 17.

After five decades of day-to-day management of his company, Tommy’s two “hobbies” remain work and Mississippi State. He lives in Tupelo with his wife Peggy. Their support of MSU scholarships began in the late 1990s with the Tommy and Peggy Brooks Endowed Scholarship in the College of Business. For many years, he has passionately supported MSU athletics and student-athletes through the Bulldog Club.

An MSU connection is also shared between Tommy and his other daughters. Youngest daughter Lee Brooks Murphree of Tupelo graduated from MSU in 1994 with an accounting degree, and eldest daughter Lyn Brooks Taylor of Tupelo graduated from MSU in 1986 with a home economics degree and in 1988 with a master’s in teaching. Additionally, Lyn’s daughter, Rebecca Brooks Brown, is a junior criminology major at Mississippi State.

Family members said they eagerly anticipate the inspiring work of the individual who will fill this professorship as they demonstrate a dedication to positively impacting the world through education, much like the position’s namesake.

“I believe the professorship would have given Laren a sense of fulfillment for a life devoted to education,” Lee said.

She continued, “Lauren was proud to be a teacher in Mississippi. She loved children and embraced them, always working to ensure they were learning under her watch despite any struggles they had.”

The endowments for the professorship and the scholarship can be increased with additional contributions in remembrance of Laren Brooks and her steadfast belief in education. For more on supporting the College of Education, contact Trish Cunetto, the college’s director of development, at 662.325.6762 or at tcunetto@foundation.msstate.edu.

By Amy Cagle