Before They Were Educators: Dr. Lawrence


(Editor’s Note: The following is the first part of a series of articles looking at the lives of WCU faculty and staff before they were educators.)

What did the faculty of Western Carolina do before they began working for the university? Assistant Director of English Education, Dr. Brian Lawrence, spent his teenage years in San Antonio, Texas rocking out to 80s legends such as Journey and The Police.

Dr. Lawrence graduated from Taft high school, home of The Raiders, in 1991. Before ever thinking about becoming a teacher, Dr. Lawrence planned to become a fighter pilot and eventually become a lawyer. He spent a lot of high school years in the R.O.T.C as well as playing basketball and baseball and actively participated in the drama club. While in drama, Dr. Lawrence performed alongside James Roday, who now plays Shawn Spencer on USA’s hit series Psyche, which ironically is Dr. Lawrence’s favorite TV show.

Just like every other teenager in the 80s, Dr. Lawrence’s favorite movies were Top Gun and Star Wars and of course had a huge crush on Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years. Dr. Lawrence was amongst the coolest jocks in his school when he rolled up in his very first car, a 1980 two-tone brown Thunderbird that he and all his friends called the “Dream Machine.”

Dr. Lawrence wasn’t considered shy in school; his most embarrassing moment came during his junior year of high school. While at a school dance with other local high schools, Dr. Lawrence’s friends dared him to ask a “total babe” from across the room to dance. Without giving it a second thought Dr. Lawrence asked the girl to dance and just as he was starting to make his move and slip his hands down her back she mentioned being a teacher from one of the local schools. Joking about the memory Dr. Lawrence said, “I moved my hands up so fast and took a step back!”

When he was only 16, Dr. Lawrence visited the infamous red-light district in Amsterdam. He stopped in Amsterdam for a couple days while on a 3-week visit to Israel with a church organization. Like all mischievous teenagers, Dr. Lawrence got caught red-handed a time or two; after being selected as a state finalist for a D.A.R.E. contest, Dr. Lawrence and a couple of his friends were caught breaking into Texas Stadium. He said, “We just wanted to see where the Rangers played.” 

Dr. Lawrence spent the first two years his college career at an Air Force Academy to pursue his dream of becoming a fighter pilot. Even though he received a C in his freshman composition class, Dr. Lawrence credits the course with being the reason he became a teacher. He recalls sitting in class and thinking “This is what I want to do with my life.” He also admits that having both parents having careers as teachers encouraged him to pursue education. Dr. Lawrence transferred to and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating, Dr. Lawrence taught high school for a few years before becoming an Assistant Principal.

When he isn’t working hard to shape the minds of Catamounts, Dr. Lawrence enjoys any outdoor activities, especially hiking and fishing, and spending time with his wife of 17 years and their two boys, Noah and Toby. He has his hands full with what his family calls their own “Noah’s Ark.” The family has two sons, two cats, two dogs, two ferrets, two fish and two parakeets.