Measuring a Legacy: Michele Corey’s Inspiration and the Work Ahead

I’ve been thinking a lot about legacies lately and how we can best carry forward the life of people so significant.

There are over seven billion people in the world and yet we all know some who noticeably rise above. They stand out. One of those is our friend and colleague Michele Corey. As we continue to process her loss at the organization, we remain dedicated to carrying her mission and legacy forward.

Her work and the work of so many fortuitous people are hard to capture in its entirety. There’s a depth to it. A breath; a beauty to its finesse. Her impact on public policy in Michigan and child welfare was a much-needed voice. Particularly in the last year, we have seen policymakers on both sides of the aisle finally talking about issues that we as an organization have been advocating for decades. Michele would have relished that.

Michele’s work was important. That’s an oversimplification. But more importantly what I am reflecting on is how much of herself she brought to “the work”. She made it look effortless. She knew what to say, what to do, and what was the best lead and connection to make it happen. She certainly struggled. In many of her finest hours, she was suffering on a personal level with her health. How heroic it is that in her hours of greatest need she was always thinking of others.

As we continue significant work and unprecedented conversations this summer – around child care access and equity, foster and kinship support, adult skill building and more – I have been thinking about Michele’s legacy of work. Her influence and impact were not only instrumental in the foundation of our organization but in the very fabric of these priority issues. She was often THE voice in the room championing these issues.

Her legacy lives in that work. It lives in the policy conversations calling policymakers to task, helping nonprofit organizations organize their voices to articulate needs, helping individual kids, youth and families use their voice for good.

I wrote a similar sentiment about heroes this week in my other position as Director of the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education. A position that Michele personally advocated for in a partnership with Michigan’s Children. I guess that’s what a legacy really is. It isn’t necessarily captured in an honorary stature or in posthumous award, it lives in the very fabric of the work that needs to be done. It’s the story of a person. Michele’s passion, her compassion, her intelligence and her fortitude are best carried forward by all that knew her. Her special qualities are remembered by those keenly aware of the issues and voices that deserve to be raised up again and again.

Michele was a hero to so many. What a legacy indeed. I’m committed to honoring her legacy every day by fighting for what she fought for. Are you?

Patrick Brown works as an outreach associate for Michigan’s Children, and serves as director of the Michigan Association for Community and Adult Education.