Wednesday, February 02, 2011
After a mere 10-minute conversation with SC State alumnus Dr. M. Christopher Brown II, it’s apparent why this 38-year old was chosen to lead Alcorn State University in his appointment as president. After one conversation, it’s as if you’ve met a long-lost friend, one who does not incessantly speak of his many accomplishments or who would make those who have not achieved as much seem less significant. Instead, you leave the conversation inspired, humbled, and having learned more from a man whose feats stand on their own merits. Terrence Cummings, executive director for Student Success and Retention at SC State University and a mentor to Brown, describes it best. “Dr. Brown has always been enamored with people,” says Cummings. “He has this certain “royal mystique” about him, yet he is fascinated and embraces so many people, especially those who are not enlightened or as enriched as he is,” says a proud Cummings. “Chris never met a stranger; he engaged every single person he met, and each left him ever to remember Christopher Brown.”
Brown, who received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from SC State, the master’s degree in educational policy and evaluation from the University of Kentucky, and a doctorate in higher education from The Pennsylvania State University, has gained his enlightenment over the years and through his many experiences. These experiences include his last appointment as the executive vice president and provost at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn.; his service as dean of the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; vice president for Programs and Administration at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; director of social justice and professional development for the American Educational Research Association; and executive director and chief research scientist of the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute of the United Negro College Fund. Brown has also presented research on six continents and is the author/editor of 15 books and monographs.
How does an individual at such a young age achieve so much? Brown attributes most to the experiences that he gained while attending SC State University. “It was SC State that really gave me an understanding of what was possible in life,” says Brown. “I will tell anybody that my best training in higher education and leadership management, I received from SC State, and I am still using today what I learned there.”
Brown recalls the nostalgia of his college days, conjuring memories of his time lobbying University status with Dr. Carl Carpenter, his moments sitting on the SC State Board of Trustees as Student Government Association President under Mr. Albert Smith, and certainly his time with President Emeritus M. Maceo Nance, Jr. “I got the M in my name from President Nance,” admits Brown. Brown also never forgets SC State administrators like Cummings. In fact, Brown gives a special thanks to former director of the Honors Program, Dr. Roy L. Simms, and Cummings in one of his first books, “The Quest to Define College Desegregation: Black Colleges, Title IV Compliance and Post-Adams Integration.”
Although Brown acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge from these individuals, this Charleston, S.C. native and product of a single-parent home, says that his life is no different from the next individual’s, and that his latest success is due to Godly intervention. “It’s really destiny and divinity,” exclaims Brown. “There are lots of people just as qualified as I am with the same or similar experiences that I have. It’s an act of providence that you get to it.”
Brown is new to his latest challenge as president of Alcorn State University, but he understands what it takes to be successful at the helm. Aside from hard work and an immense knowledge, Brown references the humble nature that anyone may discover he has already acquired. “One thing I’ve learned about successful presidents is that every day they arrive on campus, they arrive with a sense of humility and thanks giving for the opportunity to be able to give and to serve,” says Brown. “Those presidents that are unsuccessful often don’t arrive with that same posture.”
Obviously, that posture and his diligent work ethic were noticed early on from faculty, staff and friends while Brown was a student at SC State University. As the news breaks of his appointment, many sit in the Miller F. Whittaker Library on the SC State campus sharing their memories of Brown, ecstatic that an SC State alumnus has reached such a significant milestone. “It comes as no surprise to me that at 38 years old, Dr. M. Christopher Brown II would be elected president of a university,” says Cummings. “I just thought it would have been by 35 years old and perhaps South Carolina State University.”
Cummings assumptions weren’t too far fetched. “We all have dreams of serving our Alma Mater and that was at one time my career goal,” says Brown. “But I have seen that SC State has grown through several capable leadership hands, so I don’t think about that much any more, but I aspire to University leadership as a result of my experiences at SC State.”
For SC State students who may look to Brown as a role model to follow, Brown encourages these students to get involved and to make a difference. “What we’ve learned from the research is that students who are active and engaged in the undergraduate experience, including student activities like Student Government Association, the student newspaper, the yearbook and fraternities, gain more informal learning and skill development,” stresses Brown. “These activities prepare you in a real way to do real leadership.”
Brown’s real leadership skills will be put to the test in Lorman, Missisippi at Alcorn State University, but SC State has faith that their outstanding alumnus, tenth in the number of SC State alumni who have matriculated to president status at colleges and universities throughout the country, will leave an indelible mark wherever he may go. “Alcorn State University, ‘the jewel of the Southwest’ as Dr. Brown calls his new home, will never be the same,” says Cummings.