Remembering Mary Brougher, Force of Nature and International Disability Rights Leader

Mary Brougher smiling and flashing 'I love you' in ASLMary L. Brougher, President of Bender Consulting Services, was inducted into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame in 2016. Mary mentored hundreds of people throughout her career, including through the Disability:IN NextGen Leadership Program and through the Bender Leadership Academy. As noted in this post from Team Bender, she also provided guidance and expertise in the areas of disability employment and inclusion for organizations and governments.

Mary passed away in August 2021 and we honored her during the induction ceremony for the Class of 2021 of the Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame that was held in March 2022. During that event, Joyce Bender, Class of 2015, and Tony Coelho, Class of 2015, provided tributes to Mary. We share that video below. We have also created this page, with the support of Mary’s Bender family, to further honor Mary and share her legacy of hope with others.

Mary Brougher Mental Health Initiative

In addition to serving as the President of Bender Consulting Services, Mary was a Board Director and founding team member of the Bender Leadership Academy A visionary, Mary dedicated her life to bringing down barriers and eradicated stigma for people with disabilities. A woman living with mental health disability, Mary was a strong advocate for others to talk about mental health and take action to educate others about mental health disabilities.

The Mary Brougher Mental Health Initiative was created to help remove stigma through mental fitness and advocacy strategies. Visit the website to learn more and to participate and/or support the campaign.

“We must create a world where mental fitness conversations are as commonplace as those about nutrition and exercise. It is only by sharing the message that both mental and physical fitness are a part of quality of life that we can break down stigma.” ~Mary Brougher

Presence: A Requirement and Result of Successful Mentoring

This #DisabilityMentors blog post was first published in December 15, 2016. Written by Mary Brougher, we re-share it here for her thoughts on mentoring to reach more people.

As Mentors… we ask ourselves what we can do to have a positive impact on our mentee. We consider the activity of mentoring as time well spent when our mentee gains benefit from our mentoring efforts.

As Mentees… we often think about these mentoring program opportunities and wonder what we will get from participating in them, especially when we have limited time. Unless we get something from the mentoring program, it is not worth our time.

For nearly 3 decades, within the context of work, I have had the privilege of being mentored by, and serving as a mentor to others. I am grateful for the time my mentors have spent with me. The best way for me to show honor and respect to my mentors is to mentor others.

Mary Brougher receives her NDMC Hall of Fame induction certificate from Derek Shields and Genelle ThomasThis year, it was a great honor for me to be inducted into the Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame at the USBLN Conference. As part of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition, the hall of fame was established to honor those who are making a difference in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through mentoring and to raise awareness about the importance of mentoring for individuals with disabilities.

Based on my mentoring experiences, I believe presence is both a key requirement and a key result of a successful mentoring relationship.

Why is presence a requirement of successful mentoring?

One definition of presence is, “the state or fact of being present, as with others or in a place.” We cannot serve others as a great mentor if we are not focused and present. Our commitment to spending time with our mentee on a regular basis establishes our credibility as caring, reliable and committed.

Today, mentors fill a variety of “places” — in-person, telephone or online — but all require time and attention.

As mentees, we cannot expect to learn from others if we do not show up for our regular meetings. We invest our time in activities that are important to us. The benefit we realize from our experience is directly proportional to the time we spend engaged in these activities. In addition to gaining value by learning from our mentor, as a mentee, we can also gain the benefit of securing a great reference that will be essential for us as we navigate through our career. Our mentor can only serve as a great reference, if we are perceived to be reliable, prepared and present.

Why is presence a result of successful mentoring?

Another definition of presence is, “the ability to project a sense of ease, poise, or self-assurance.” Within the context of work, this can be referred to as “leadership presence.” We all have greater opportunity to have impact in our communities, within our families, and at work when we have leadership presence. Those around us are confident that they are under the guidance of someone who is credible and knowledgeable. Leadership presence gives us the foundation to inspire people to expand their horizons, resulting in further developing their personal and professional competencies. The personality trait that is most responsible for leadership presence is self-confidence.

We gain self-confidence by spending time with positive people, being prepared, and highlighting our accomplishments. These activities are all aspects of mentoring programs. As mentees, our leadership presence is amplified when we spend time building our professional network. Our mentor is a key member and connector to others.

Picture of the 2016 Bender Leadership Academy Graduates with Team BenderThis photo (to the right) represents the best in mentoring: business leaders, teachers, my boss, Joyce Bender and high-school students with disabilities. For over 15 years, students with disabilities, participating in the Bender Leadership Academy have learned about self-esteem, initiative, independence, standing up to bullying, work ethics and leadership. These graduates and those who mentor them have all demonstrated excellence in presence.

At this holiday season, remember to give the gift of presence. Trust me, it will be more valued and appreciated than any perfect present you can purchase.