Children’s Center Named for Grateful Alumna

Children’s Center Named for Grateful Alumna

Children’s Center Named for Grateful Alumna

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson (B.A. ’75) has never lost sight of the impact John Jay College has had on her life. Once an activist student, she is now an active, and grateful, alumna, whose cheerful desire to give back to her alma mater recently led to a major gift to support the John Jay Children’s Center.

Now retired after a 35-year career as a prominent tax attorney, Garrett-Nelson pledged a total of $250,000, which will be used for need-based student scholarships, professional development, equipment purchases and the creation of an emergency fund for students and children. In recognition, a ceremony was held Sept. 29 to officially rename the facility the “LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson ’75 Children’s Center.”

“I decided to endow the Children’s Center here because I know the struggles of being a student and a young parent,” said Garrett-Nelson, who retired in 2013 as Partner/Principal with the leading accounting firm of Ernst & Young. “I’m very appreciative of this honor, but it is really all about the students.”

“This is a very special event in the life of John Jay College,” said President Jeremy Travis, “yet unlike any other, because we’re naming the Children’s Center — the one and only children’s center on campus.” Addressing a throng that included student parents and their young children, as well as members of Garrett-Nelson’s family and the John Jay College Foundation board, Travis saluted the honoree as “an inspiration to our women students.”

The ceremony included an original poem written and read by Children’s Center director Charlene Dertinger, a gift presented by Vice President for Student Affairs Lynette Cook-Francis, and a toast to Garrett-Nelson, who in 2014 had been named John Jay’s Distinguished Alumna of the Year.  

“I found my voice at John Jay and received a great education that prepared me to tackle the rigors of a top 10 law school,” said Garrett-Nelson, who earned her law degree from New York University School of Law in 1978. “Since retiring, my involvement as an alumna has been one of the more rewarding ways I have found to ‘give back’ to society, and to the institution that started me on my way.”  

John Jay was also where Garrett-Nelson discovered and polished her writing skills. She was contributing editor to the counterculture newspaper Liberation, which counted among its advisers Professor Blanche Wiesen Cook, now a Distinguished Professor of History, and the late English Professor Audre Lorde.  

“Only in hindsight did I understand how fortunate we were to have such gifted mentors,” Garrett-Nelson said.