Son honors mother's love of poetry by creating a scholarship
Author: Steve Beaven, PSU Foundation
Posted: June 11, 2015


For many years, Doris Braley wrote poetry—short and personal compositions laced with puns and humor. She clipped poems from the newspaper and, in the late 1980s, self-published a book of her own work, Now Is For All.

But even in her own home, she received little respect. Her husband, Warren, was indifferent to her literary ambitions, as was their daughter Karen. Doris was also limited by mid-century gender roles, which called for her to be a mom, a housewife and little else.

But her son, Buzz Braley, encouraged her work and Doris published two more books of poetry.

Now Buzz has commemorated his late mother’s passion for poetry by establishing the Doris W. Braley MFA Award in Poetry for graduate students in PSU’s creative writing program. Each year, two students will receive $5,000 awards to support their studies.

For Buzz, the award is a way to honor his mother and support poets who have persevered despite indifference and other obstacles that his mother faced.

“That’s kind of what’s behind my gift,” he said, “to encourage those who may not have had much encouragement.”

Doris Braley raised her family in Portland and died in 1999 at the age of 81. Buzz went to Lincoln High School and then to Colgate for college, before returning to Portland and running the family auto dealership. He retired in 2014 and decided to act on an idea that he’d been considering for more than a decade.

“My life was very busy until I retired,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I had always wanted to do something in honor of my mother.”

His gift to establish the award provides the MFA program with the financial resources to challenge other schools, since national rankings for creative writing programs depend heavily on how much financial support is available for students. The Braley award is also the most substantial financial support that the MFA program can provide its students, said Professor Michele Glazer.

“Our students are committed to their art,” said Glazer, the director of the MFA program. “But it’s a huge financial struggle for many of them and, let’s face it, the financial rewards for poets aren’t great.”

Buzz Braley is particularly interested in helping poets who have left school and then returned to get an MFA in creative writing. That is one of the eligibility requirements for the award.

The first recipients of the Doris W. Braley MFA Award in Poetry are Consuelo Wise, who will begin the program in the fall, and Aaron Giesa, who is going into his second year.

Giesa, who is 36, said the award “represents literally hundreds of hours I don’t have to work at a job and can instead spend writing poetry.”

In addition to the financial backing, Buzz Braley’s gift gives a new generation of writers the emotional support he provided for his mother when she couldn’t find it anywhere else.

“This gift offers crucial encouragement,” Glazer said. “It says, ‘We believe in you, we support you.’"