Sun, May 08, 2005 - Page 18 News List

English tutor to generations

For over 40 years, Doris Brougham and her Taipei-based 'Studio Classroom' have taught multitudes of people worldwide to speek and understand English

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Doris Brougham at 78 is the busy head of a series of popular English-teaching programming. She's also an accomplished musician who can play a decent jazz standard at any time.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Over the past half-century hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese, be they high-ranking and influential government employees or modest high school and college students, have been inspired by Doris Brougham and her Studio classroom.

Now a sprightly 78 years old, Brougham is still tremendously active. Regardless of one's religious leanings it is impossible not to be inspired by the Christian missionary who witnessed the closing days of China's Civil War and who chose to come to Taiwan in 1951 to live alongside some of the nation's poorest peoples.

She plays the trumpet and French horn, on which she can spontaneously knock out a mean jazz number or a more sedate classical tune, she took up scuba-diving in her late 50s and still travels to places such as Malaysia to swim with the fishes. And she still plays an integral part in the day-to-day running of her Studio Classroom English-language learning empire that now spans five continents.

"I'm hanging in there and still have as much energy today as I did [years] ago. I do think about retiring but there are still things to be done, and every time I mention it someone always asks me to do something or I realize myself that something else needs to be done," Brougham said.

It's not only those who have learned or are currently learning English from one of her publications or from her daily television and radio shows who hold Brougham in high regard. Over the years her work has not gone unnoticed by the powers that be and she has enjoyed audiences with presidents, premiers and politicos.

For her half century of service to Taiwan, Brougham was awarded the Order of the Brilliant Star with Special Grand Cordon -- the nation's highest non-military decoration -- and was made an honorary civil servant of the highest level by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in 2002.

Not that the current tenant of the Presidential Office was the first head of state to grant Brougham an audience. She met with Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) on several occasions, and as if all this hobnobbing wasn't enough to impress, Brougham was also a firm favorite of Soong Meiling (宋美齡), or Madame Chiang Kai-shek, as she was known by much of the world.

Soong was such a fan of Brougham's television program, The Voice of Heavenly Melodies, in fact, that when the network decided to cancel the show, she used her considerable power to have it put back on air.

"The program was the first Christian television show to be broadcast in Taiwan, and there was a bit of a backlash from [certain parties]. Pressure was put on the station to cancel the show," said Brougham. "Madame Chiang intervened personally and asked why her favorite program had been cancelled. We were back on television shortly after this."

Born in Seattle, Brougham's first encounter with things Chinese took place at a summer camp when she was 11 years old. After hearing a lecture by a well-known evangelical minister from China, Brougham decided then and there that she wanted to become a missionary and work in Asia.

At age 21, having declined a scholarship from the Eastman School of Music in New York, Brougham boarded a ship and made the six-week journey to China. Arriving in Shanghai at the tail end of the Civil War in 1948, she was forced to leave the bustling metropolis in late 1948 and along with thousands of others made the long trek to Lanzhou and then Chongqing.

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