When Trevor Brewer ’97 was an incoming UCF freshman, he was given the opportunity to register for honors classes. A high school standout, Brewer thought he would enjoy the advanced classes. But what really appealed to him was the idea of getting priority registration for those classes and a guaranteed parking space, which he said was “a bit of an issue at the time.”
Brewer was recently named Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Burnett Honors College and reflected on his time at UCF nearly 30 years ago.
Brewer recalled that in addition to the registration and parking perks of being an honors student, the college offered some survey classes for its students that presented a wide variety of topics each week.
“They were like TED Talks,” Brewer says. “I remember a class on aging and the elderly, and that was really very interesting. We also had one on human vision and computer science; at the time, the internet was still in its infancy, but this class opened my mind to the possibilities.”
One of those possibilities turned into reality when Brewer was accepted at Emory Law School in Atlanta, where he was offered a full scholarship. He realized how well UCF had prepared him for the rigorous law school environment, but he also realized that not every person can follow the same roadmap in life.
“I really appreciate Dean Sheila Piñeres’s commitment to ensuring the students in Burnett Honors College continue to have an enriching experience,” Brewer says. “She makes it her number-one priority to provide internships, study-abroad opportunities, and by constantly improving the programmatic experiences that we offer.”
When Brewer addresses the students, whether through chance meetings or through guest lectures, he tries to impress upon them a vision of what life looks like on the “other side.”
“My personal message is to assure them that they are entirely capable of doing all things, but they don’t have to do all things. You can choose the things that you want to do, and that’s OK,” Brewer says.
Students in Burnett Honors College are high-achievers, Brewer says, but the similarities end there. The diversity of the students in the college means that some of them may hail from impoverished backgrounds, which is one the reasons that he and his wife, Ashley, have made a planned gift to the college for scholarships to support them.
A planned gift, Brewer explains, means that the donor has made arrangements for a gift to be made after their death. The Brewers provided for UCF in their wills more than 10 years ago, when they were in their 30s.
“Some people don’t like to talk about planned gifts,” Brewer says. “Perhaps they think that it is hard or complicated to set up, or that you can only do it if you’re super wealthy. The only planned gift we have made was to include UCF as a beneficiary in our wills.”
Prior to opening his law firm, BrewerLong, Brewer did estate planning as a central part of his practice. He said that everyone, no matter what their age, should have a minimal amount of estate planning that includes a will, a durable power of attorney, and a health care surrogate.
The topic can be fraught, Brewer acknowledged.
“What always struck me about estate planning was that people either go in one or two directions – either they don’t care at all, or they obsess over every detail.”
Brewer’s children – who are teenagers – know that he is involved with UCF, and that the university is part of his own estate plans.
“I want my kids to go on and be successful in their own right,” Brewer says. “I don’t want, nor am I living in a way that anything they get from my estate is going to make a huge difference in their lives. It’s just not how we’re living now, and it’s not how I would expect them to be in the future.”
It’s not as complicated as someone thinks to make a planned gift, Brewer says. The hardest thing is making the decision to do it, and then consulting an attorney to ensure that those wishes are documented in a will.
“Documentation is important,” Brewer says. “But I would add that it is also important to live your life in such a way that your family knows that this is something you care about.”
Brewer’s credo about planned giving dovetails with his personal credo about living one’s best life.
Brewer came to this realization after trying to do all things when he passed the bar. He spent seven years with national law firms, and was successful by any metric, only to realize that he wasn’t happy.
Brewer opened his own firm with a focus on business owners engaged in starting, operating and selling business. In the past ten years, he has developed a niche focus on businesses involved with the beverage industry, including craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries. The ability to call his own shots was important to him, no pun intended.
Since he began his practice, Brewer has also been focused on mentoring students, one of his greatest passions. Since beginning his career in 2000, Brewer has mentored dozens of students; currently there are two students working at his practice, one of whom is a UCF student, Kayla Vonder Embse.
“As our students go through their lives, they will find there is no ‘test’ or ‘final exam’ to let them know they’ve reached the end,” Brewer says. “That is what I ran up against, and I really had to start making decisions about what I was willing to give of myself, and to be in control of that decision.”
He also feels that as a Burnett Honors College alum, he has a responsibility to let the students know that they can also choose the things they want to do, and to not let anyone else’s measure of success interfere with their own ideas of what’s best for them.
“Our students are capable of anything,” Brewer says. “But what do you do when you are fairly talented at just about anything? As an advisor to Burnett, and as a mentor to many students, I hope to give them a different perspective to help them be successful and happy as they go out into the world.”