Barb Brotzki raised four children and worked part time as a self-taught bookkeeper, but returned to school to complete her education after her last child graduated from high school in 2006.
“I had a real hunger for education following the example of my mother who went back to school at age 60,” she said.
At age 52, Brotzki graduated from the honors program at Owens with an associate degree in pre-business. She completed the requirements for her degree in December, but continued to take classes to graduate with her class in May.
She also stayed because she is the only student on the search committee for a new president at Owens.
After narrowing the search to two finalists, the committee is planning to reconvene June 10 to begin reviewing additional candidates for interviews.
“It’s been very time-consuming but I’m honored to serve and it’s been a great opportunity to learn about the inner-workings of academia,” Brotzki said.
At Owens, Brotzki was active in student government, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Black Student Union and Red Cross Club at Owens.
She earned a 3.86 GPA in the honors program, while working part time as financial and officer administrator for Toepfer Environmental Services in Toledo. Her employer allowed her to work flexible hours to accommodate her classes at Owens.
Brotzki plans to continue her education this fall at UT’s College of Business to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She wants to use her education to help people through her missionary work.
Her daughter wanted to go on a missionary trip with their church at age 16. Brotzki didn’t want her going alone so she accompanied her. It would become the first of several trips she would make to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Philippines for missionary work through religious and social organizations.
“I think everyone should go on a mission trip to appreciate how much we have in the U.S. and how blessed we are to have it,” she said.
“We can’t bring our way of life to the rest of the world. You have to work with their world to help them become more self-sufficient. They’re doing their very best to get by.”
Brotzki visited Guatemala in 2009 as part of a mission trip where she assisted at a local feeding center that provided children with a balanced meal for six days each week. She also became involved in teaching people how to sew in a missionary school there.
The mission administrators approached Brotzki about preparing a sewing manual that could be used to train missionaries how to sew and teach people to do it. She said such skills are important for financial and personal reasons.
“They can use sewing to make items, such as clothes, curtains, pillows and rugs for their homes and to sell them to help support their families by selling those items.”
As part of the honors program at Owens, each student is required to participate in an independent study class and complete an honors project that focuses on campus or community outreach. Brotzki created a basic sewing manual titled, “Anyone Can Learn to Sew,” for her project.
She plans to use an updated version, which she is translating into Spanish, to train missionaries and people in Guatemala.
She is making another trip there to work in a missionary school and a Mayan village.
In the past, Brotzki has gone to Central America with interpreters. She took Spanish at Owens learning to read and write it. She is working with a neighbor who speaks Spanish to learn how to speak that language fluently.
“I needed more education for opportunities in missionary work. Education is the key for them to get out of poverty.”
Brotzki said she believes that people need to help those at home, as well as in other countries.
She has volunteered at the Church on Strayer in Maumee to make food baskets for the NOEL project through the United Way and book bags for Operation Backpacks.
Brotzki grew up in Sandusky where she married her high school sweetheart, Paul, 32 years ago. The couple has one daughter, three sons and one grandchild.
They moved their family to the Toledo area from Sandusky 10 years ago. He works as treasurer for the Maumee School District.
“You have to sacrifice a lot to go back to school and my family has been very supportive.”