Johns Hopkins Magazine - June 1996 Issue

On Life in a Fishbowl

By Sue De Pasquale
At the April press conference announcing the appointment of William R. Brody as Johns Hopkins University's new president (see page 50), I found myself seated next to a friendly woman in a well-tailored dark blue dress. She turned out to be Wendy Brody, the university's first lady-elect.

We fell into casual conversation, during which I learned that she and her husband had literally grown up together: from the time she was 5 years old and he was 8, their families lived just across the street from one another on a quiet street in Stockton, California. When Bill Brody went off to Boston to attend MIT, Wendy stayed in California to attend Mills College, a women's liberal arts school in Oakland. The two were wed the month after she graduated with a dual degree in economics and sociology, and she went on to work in the field of health economics for a number of years.

The mother of two said she was excited by the prospect of moving back to Baltimore, the city where the Brody family lived from 1987 until 1994 while Bill Brody chaired the Department of Radiology at Hopkins's School of Medicine. That's not to say she hasn't enjoyed her two-year stint in Minnesota's Twin Cities (where her husband served as provost of the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center). "They often say that Minneapolis is the eastern-most Western city, and that St. Paul is the western-most Eastern city. To me, that hits the nail on the head," she says with a laugh. Living in Minneapolis, "which is full of people rollerblading in the snow," helped cure any homesickness she felt for her native California, she says; and when longings for Baltimore crept up, she simply crossed the river for the "stable, academic community" of St. Paul.

While Bill Brody will be moving to Baltimore this summer to assume the presidency at Hopkins, Wendy will stay in Minnesota throughout the fall to get son John launched into his junior year of high school in St. Paul. (Their 21-year-old daughter will be a senior at Dartmouth College.) As of press time, the Brodys had preliminary plans to make their new home in Nichols House on the Homewood campus (which hasn't been used as a presidential residence since 1971). Wendy Brody told me that they plan to open their home regularly to students, faculty, and friends. "I want to do whatever I can to make Hopkins a better place for everyone," she says.

I asked if she agreed with a prediction made by one former first lady of Johns Hopkins who said, upon her arrival, "Being the wife of the president of Hopkins will be like life in a fishbowl." She laughed and conceded that Allison Wright Gordon (whose husband, Lincoln, served from 1967 to 1971) was probably prescient. She also said she's gotten somewhat more helpful advice from Nancy Richardson, wife of former president Bill Richardson; she recently sent along several books including The Many Lives of Academic Presidents and The President's Spouse. "Perhaps," said Wendy Brody, smiling, "I have a lot to learn."

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