By Lauren Daley
Published on May 16, 2014

WESTPORT — The greeting message on Anne Brum’s voice mail says it all.

“If this is an emergency, hang up and call 911. If not, leave a message and I’ll get back to you at end of the semester.”

Not many 53-year-old business owners could put in solid 20-hour days to get their college degree — especially when that day includes intensive course study and nursing sick patients.

Especially after 30 years out of school.

But Brum went back to school full-force: she first enrolled in BCC’s e-Health program, which offers online classes, in 2010 at age 49. After receiving her certificate in medical coding in 2011, she enrolled in the nursing program in 2012.

She also joined the Student Senate, sat on BCC hiring committees, headed clothing and toy drives and fundraised for the Walk for Hunger, among other initiatives.

Brum has done so much for the BCC community — and the SouthCoast community at large— that she was recently selected as one of 181 college students nationwide as a Newman Civic Fellow.

The award is given in recognition of student leadership in addressing social problems in their communities by Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,100 college and university presidents.

“I’m a very busy woman,” Brum said with a laugh.

You can say that again.

Most days, Brum’s alarm clock goes off between 2 and 3 a.m.

In the pitch black of early morning, Brum drives from her Westport home to her business, Town Donut Shop, on State Road in Dartmouth.

She bakes until it’s time to open the shop doors at 6 a.m. Then the 53-year-old nursing student drives to her 7 a.m. class at the Bristol Community College campus in New Bedford.

When her last class releases five hours later, Brum, depending on the day, either drives to her clinical study at a local hospital or medical center, to a meeting for one of her many extracurricular groups at BCC, back to work at Town Donuts, or home to start in on her homework — many hours per night.

Somewhere between 10 p.m. and midnight, Brum gets to bed. A few hours later, it starts all over again.

It’s no wonder she won the fellowship — Brum’s resume reads like phone book of good deeds:

Her volunteer activities include:

  • The Cinderella Project, which collects formal and career wear for women in need.
  • The Food Farm, which grows and harvests fresh food to food banks
  • Teaching nutritional education at Westport Senior Day Care Center
  • Sitting on various BCC committees, including search committees for deans.

She also helped organize the Giving Tree, which collects presents for students’ children who “need help at Christmas time”; organized a fundraiser for two BCC students whose apartment burned; spearheaded Teddy Bears for Tots drive, Muscular Dystropphy Walk for Hunger fundraising drive, Make-a-Wish Foundation drive and helps with the BCC Food Bank.

And, if that isn’t enough, she volunteers as a member of the Community Preservation Committee for the Town of Westport.

Given her hectic schedule, Brum won’t be able to attend the awards ceremony in Arizona, but it’s a distinction she’s honored to receive.

“It’s an honor for me, but also for BCC. Were a small community college, and we’re up against Harvard and Yale,” said Brum, who was nominated by BCC President Jack Sbrega and Dr. Mary Zahm, director of civic engagement.

After she graduates from BCC with her associate’s in nursing on May 31, Brum plans to go on and earn her bachelor’s in nursing from UMD before getting a job in the field.

After graduating from Bishop Stang High School in 1978, Brum attended about a year and half of classes at UMD but “had to drop out due to financial and family concerns.”

She waitressed and bartended for a few years and married her husband Edward in 1987. The couple helped raise Ann’s niece and nephew, Daniel and Rebecca Coons, now both in their 30s. Rebecca lives in New York City; Daniel is a firefighter in New Bedford.

They purchased Town Donut Shop from her mother, Corrine L’Heureux, in 1989 and have been at the helm ever since. L’Heureux, now 83, lives with the Brums.

Donut shops, by the way, are in Brum’s blood: her parents founded Town Donut Shop in 1977; her maternal grandparents, Charles and Florence Gendron, founded Ma’s Donut Shop in New Bedford in 1959.

“Once the kids were gone and I was an empty-nester, I decided to go back to school to get my degree in medical coding and bookkeeping. I was just looking to be employable somewhere,” she said, adding that the donut shop is a seven-day a week physically-demanding job.

“Being a small business owner, bookkeeping seemed like something I’d be familiar with. But when I started, I enjoyed the sciences, and professors encouraged me to go into nursing.”

The BCC nursing program is “highly competitive,” Brum said. “You have to be the perfect student, grade-wise.” It also took her two years of prerequisite courses, including U.S. History, English 101, General Psychology, Statistics, Anatatomy and Physiology, and Microbiology.

Brum has worked clinical rotations at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Sturdy Hospital in Attleboro, as a visiting home nurse and is currently learning at SSTAR.

She said her BCC commencement on May 31 will be “bittersweet.”

“A lot of people at BCC have become my family,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed working with all these bright, dedicated young kids who really care. It kind of restores your faith in human kind. I can’t say enough good things about BCC.”

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