Promise Keeper

Brenda Newberry, MA ‘79

Commitments are important to Brenda Newberry. She learned as a child that you don’t make promises you can’t keep, even if they are only with yourself. This simple yet powerful principle helped Brenda navigate her way from Air Force Airman to successful CEO. Along the way, she also made time for family, two college degrees, and volunteer work.

After graduating from high school, she enrolled at Purdue University, where her high school sweetheart, Maurice Newberry, was already a sophomore. A year later, it became clear tuition would be a struggle once married, so they returned to their hometown in Indiana and joined the Air Force.

The military sent the duo to Texas for basic training, Colorado for tech training, Arizona and then to Spain, where they attended remote campuses of the University of Maryland. Taking classes during lunch breaks and after work, each quickly earned a bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis in computer science.

It was a proud time for the couple. Each had made a promise to finish – and together they became the first in their families to graduate college.

“It’s important to have goals; it’s important to move toward them. You don’t have to understand how you are going to get there; you just have to have the goal and work toward it.”
–Brenda Newberry

Toward the end of their enlistment, the Newberrys were re-stationed at Scott Air Force Base. With a Webster University branch on site, they decided to pursue their master’s degrees from what would later become the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology.

After graduation, couple transitioned to civilian roles, with Maurice landing a job at McDonnell Douglas, and Brenda joining him about six months later. Eventually, Brenda moved on to MasterCard where she worked her way through the ranks to Vice President.

A few years later, however, she realized it was time to make a big change. She left MasterCard and spent time with her young daughters while calculating her next move. In 1996, at age 43, she struck out on her own and started The Newberry Group, a technology consulting company. Not surprisingly, Maurice joined The Newberry Group as COO five years later.

It’s clear that each half of this couple is stronger when they are together. When asked why, Brenda and Maurice agreed it’s because they perfectly complement each other. While Brenda is a big-picture person, Maurice focuses on details. She loves interacting with customers, while he’s happy doing day-to-day tasks.

Where they overlap, they say, are on the fundamentals. Both are driven, goal oriented, and have strong work ethics.

By the time the couple transitioned their company to a wholly employee-owned corporation in 2008, they had grown it to 150 employees and nearly $20 million in revenues. In 2010, Brenda hired a new CEO and left her role as board chair.

Closing the book on The Newberry Group wasn’t easy, but Brenda knew the time had come when she wasn’t feeling well. After two years, she discovered she had Stage 4 tongue cancer. In her typical Type A fashion, Brenda made a commitment to beat the disease.

After chemotherapy, radiation, and removal of about one-quarter of her tongue, Brenda kept her promise. She’s been cancer-free for three years.

A cancer battle and retirement would be enough to slow most people down, but not Brenda. She works with many nonprofits, including Webster University. She was the first alumna, first woman and first minority to chair Webster’s Board of Trustees. After three three-year terms, she now serves as chair emeritus.

“You don’t think about being the only woman or the only minority to do x, y, and z,” she said. “You just do the best that you can to the best of your abilities.”

Brenda’s can-do spirit embodies the values of Webster, now celebrating its centennial year.

Read more about the Newberrys, and explore other stories in GLIMPSE, Webster University’s digital alumni publication.