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Because They Have Experienced The Power of Education

The Bradleys Have Begun to Endow A Scholarship at ODU That Will Bear Their Names

Ed and Linda BradleyEd ’74 and Linda ’71 Bradley spent their careers as juvenile probation officers (JPO). At that time, the innovative Norfolk Juvenile Court was exposing adolescents to family and group counseling, athletic, cultural, and outdoor adventures. “The jobs were stressful, and many of those individuals were runaways, truants, and repeat offenders. It was tough watching them get deeper into the court system,” Linda said. “We just wanted to help.” The Bradleys were among a group of JPOs who accompanied troubled youths on weekend camping trips to hike and canoe in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many had never been outside Norfolk...had never experienced the peace and beauty of different terrains...had never heard the sound of water lapping at a canoe.

Ed recalled one particular trip when they left late after work, drove four hours, and then took the group for a hike. “All along the way they complained, complained, complained. When we reached the overlook, we saw a majestic sunset — probably the most beautiful we’ve ever seen. There was complete silence. The young adults just stood there with their mouths open. Nature can work its magic on anyone,” Ed said.

After receiving an M.S. degree in 1979 from ODU in guidance and counseling, Linda continued as a JPO in the Domestic Unit. Ed became the executive director of the Friends of the Norfolk Juvenile Court in 1985, working with volunteers and staff to assist with the caseloads of children and families who come to court. After eight years, he was drawn back to casework.

In 1995, looking for different challenges, both Ed and Linda returned to school — Linda in massage therapy and Ed in horticulture. Remembering the impact that the mountain trips had on the adolescents, Ed jointly established HELP, the Horticulture Enrichment Learning Program at Norfolk Botanical Garden. Working through the court, the program helped older at-risk youths reinvest in their education, improve their self-esteem, contribute to their communities by completing their community service obligations through gardening, and receive great satisfaction at the results.

After retiring in 2004, Linda and Ed became Master Gardeners. They now share their skills at such places as the Chesapeake Arboretum and ODU’s Tree Trail, where students and visitors enjoy the trees that have been planted on campus.

Ed smiles as he talks about the role that ODU has played in their lives and those of many family and friends. “After World War II, my father went to the Norfolk Division at night to futher his education, and that opened up a civil service job for him.” Because they have experienced the power of education, the Bradleys have begun to endow a scholarship at ODU that will bear their names. When the death of Linda’s mother led them to confront their own mortality, they added an important gift through their wills that will expand their scholarship for future students.

For now, they continue to volunteer, while looking forward to hiking, biking, and listening to the sound of water lapping at their canoe as they travel Virginia’s tributaries. They say they are just ordinary people, trying to make a difference. Their lives of service, however, tell quite a different story, one of an extraordinary couple. For more information contact Barbara M. Henley, CFRE at 757-683-6563 or bhenley@odu.edu or Brett A. Smiley, CFRE at 757-683-4735 or bsmiley@odu.edu.

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