By Dr. Shandra Esparza
Special to the Logos
In August of 1992, I first met William Traver Bradley Robinson at Southwest Texas State University.
However, my real friendship began when I moved to the Austin area in 1999. He was the only friend I really knew in the area, and we quickly became dinner buddies as he introduced me to some of the best places like Boca de Beppo and Ararat, sitting on the floor, and belly dancers. Once (mutual friend) Diana (Operhall) moved to Austin, we became the three musketeers and did tons of things together.
It is hard to express the kind of friend Brad was. He had such a heart and stepped up whenever you needed him most. Like when I was getting married and my future husband didn’t have his dress shoes. Brad was taking his shoes off to give to Paul (Esparza) to walk down the aisle in when Paul’s arrived at the last minute. Brad was also there at 6 a.m. to drive my husband from the Austin airport to New Braunfels when my first child was born. The doctor even tried to get Brad to change the first poopy diaper.
A few years later, I would get a call from him that would change the course of my life forever. Brad told me he was hiring a clinical coordinator at the University of the Incarnate Word and that it was a teaching-only position. At that time, to only teach was a dream and he made that my reality. That was almost nine years ago, and I have had the privilege of spending nearly every day with him since.
I wanted to paint for you all a picture of the Brad I knew like no one else could. He was the “Papa Bear” for the students, and would often tell them “don’t poke the bear” when they would start to drive him crazy. We shared a small office for the first four years of our partnership. Let me tell you how well you get to know someone when you only have to turn around to have them right behind you. We weathered many a crazy storm in that office. We were the only full-time faculty who shared an office at UIW at the time. We loved to tell everyone that, as it might make them have sympathy for the incessant music we would hear from the synchronized swimming team as our office was under the pool. The same little part of a song was played over and over and over. And Brad and I suffered together through it all.
It wasn ’t all suffering though. We had fun too. He planned pumpkin-carving contests, secret Santa events, and athletic training Olympics. He could come up with crazy games at the drop of a hat. He was so creative!
Brad also cared. He did contract work for me at some local high schools. I was speaking with the physician director (recently), and he recalled all the times that Brad would go out to these little schools and call him after the game to give him a status report, or call on Saturday morning to see how a player was. He didn’t have to do that. He just did. How he treated people mattered to Brad.
And I had a front-row seat to watch the thing I believe God put Brad on this earth to do — impact young people, inspiring them to be more than they believed they could be. (After his death), I have read countless stories of students recalling how Brad impacted them. One graduate wrote this about Brad: “Brad played an extremely important part in my life and honestly because of him pushing me and motivating me I became the student everyone knew I could be. I remember my last year in the program during an award ceremony, Brad went up and presented me with the Pacesetters award. Brad was extremely emotional and shed a few tears while presenting me with this award… Brad was literally the best thing that happened to me. When I graduated he was the first to hug me after and was sure to let me know how proud he was of me. After I graduated I never took my BOC (Board of Certification) exam but I’ve decided today that I am going to.”
That was the Brad I knew and loved. He made a difference. He left a legacy. Brad was never fortunate to have his own children, except for Boo, but there are hundreds of students who graduated under his leadership, and he considered them all to be his kids. Even from the hospital, he was calling me to ask me how the most recent students did on their board exams. He cared, he loved, he pushed, and he inspired, not only his students but also me the most. I have a huge hole in my heart where his love filled. I will miss our fights, our talks, and our cries. I will miss my brother.
E-mail Esparza at firstname.lastname@example.org