Sandra Brennan, 73, longtime assistant to dean of Sam Fox School

“Unofficial architecture matriarch” warmed students with brownies, hugs and chicken soup

Sandra Brennan with Connor Duermit, a sophomore architecture major in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Duermit received the Susan T. Morgan Scholarship, which Brennan sponsored, in 2011.

Sandra Brennan, longtime assistant to the dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, died at her home in Webster Groves Monday, Oct. 29, following a long illness. She was 73.

A fixture in Givens Hall for 22 years, Brennan was renowned for bringing brownies, hugs and words of encouragement to student architecture reviews and late-night cram sessions alike.

“Sandy was the unofficial School of Architecture matriarch, and her overwhelming kindness, generosity and compassion made Givens a home for me and for so many others,” says Jason Cheng, a 1998 alumnus. “While I am saddened by her passing, I am so grateful for having the opportunity to know her.”

Lea Oxenhandler, a 2009 College of Architecture graduate, recalls Brennan patiently walking her family through the admissions process before she even arrived on campus.

“Once I got to Wash. U, Sandy was my self-proclaimed ‘other mother,’” Oxenhandler says. “She always brightened my days, especially in the most stressful review times. One evening, after missing a few classes due to illness, I came into the studio to find a note from Sandy and a bowl of warm chicken soup on my studio desk.”

“Sandy cared for us all as individuals,” adds Susan Morgan, a 2001 architecture alumnus, who received the Sam Fox School’s Young Alumni Award in 2011. “She knew our hometowns and whether we had an older brother or a younger sister. She knew what time the crew race was and brought the whole team brownies before a basketball game if there was even one architecture student on the team.”

Brennan is survived by her sons Christopher David McMillan (LA ’98) and Thomas John “T.J.” Brier (Kimberly) and by her twin grandchildren, Taylor Jamieson and Elizabeth Catherine. Thomas, her husband of 42 years, died in 2002.

“Sandy was a remarkable individual who touched the lives of many students, faculty, and staff during her 20-year tenure,” says Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School. “Her warm and welcoming smile, kind and encouraging words, energetic spirit, motherly advice — and of course, her famous fresh-baked brownies — will be sorely missed by her Sam Fox School family. Our condolences go out to Sandy’s sons and their families during this very difficult time.”

A memorial service was held Sunday, Nov. 4, in Steinberg Hall Auditorium. The family requests that gifts in Brennan’s honor be made to the Sandy Brennan Student Travel Fund, Campus Box 1210, Washington University, One Brookings Dr., St. Louis, MO 63130-9989.