Brenna Hafer Bry

Brenna Hafer Bry, 1963

B.S., Denison University
Ph.D., University of Missouri at Columbia

Professor Emerita
Rutgers University
East Stroudsburg, Pa.

Citation awarded on Saturday, June 3, 2017

Brenna Hafer Bry studied psychology at Denison and then earned a doctorate in clinical psychology at University of Missouri. One of her first jobs was to develop and evaluate a secondary school drug abuse prevention program in New Jersey. In 1973, there was no effective method to identify susceptible middle school youth and no knowledge about how to reduce their susceptibility, so Brenna borrowed the risk-factor model that had been applied to reducing heart disease. When she tested her multiple risk factor hypothesis with school-wide questionnaires, she found that the number of risk factors that individual students reported predicted the probability that they would engage in substance abuse. She also found that each susceptible adolescent had a different combination of risk factors. This model of counting risk factors is now applied ubiquitously to predict adolescent conduct problems, as well as chronic medical issues.

Brenna developed Achievement Mentoring to target two modifiable risk factors: behavior problems and school failure. This program has been shown to reduce at-risk students’ discipline referrals and failing grades, heavy drug use, dropping out, and arrests. Brenna’s program has been adopted by school systems in the U.S., Ireland, and Northern Ireland.

As a psychology professor at Rutgers for 42 years, she published prevention research and mentored doctoral students. After serving as department chair in clinical psychology for a decade, she retired from Rutgers and now works with Achievement Mentors internationally, and is co-authoring a new book dealing with at-risk youth.

Brenna’s highest priorities always have been marriage and parenthood. She was married to fellow grad student Peter Bry for 24 years until his death. She was then married to Denison alumnus Bill Grove ’64 until his death. Her son, Dave Bry, writes and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his wife Emily Raimes and their son, Asa. Brenna’s daughter, Devorah Bry, lives in Nevada City, Calif., where she leads the HoneyRoot organization, which she created to support women’s and girls’ empowerment through inter-generational relationships and body-centered education.