When Jeff Brown joined New Mexico State University’s history department in 1984, Las Cruces had around 50,000 residents, construction of the Corbett Center auditorium was nearly complete, and NMSU had recently elected its first female student body president.
“NMSU has grown a lot since 1984,” said Brown, who is currently the associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We have a more diverse faculty and student body now. We have a greater focus on research about this region, and virtually all of our faculty members excel in scholarship and creative activities.”
After more than 30 years of observing the university’s evolution, and serving the college in both faculty and administrative capacities, Brown will retire at the end of June. The college held a reception in his honor on June 10 in the NMSU Stan Fulton Center.
“I can’t imagine the dean’s office without Jeff Brown,” said Interim Dean Enrico Pontelli. “He’s is the first person here in the morning and the last one to leave every night. His knowledge of the college and his dedication to our students and faculty has been unequalled. He is a servant leader we all rely on and he will be missed very much.”
Initially joining NMSU as an assistant history professor and director of the Public History Program, Brown has since served the university as head of the Department of History, interim head of the Department of Art, associate dean for academic affairs, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and more.
“I have tried throughout my career to help faculty, staff and students,” Brown said. “I deeply enjoyed the many courses that I taught and the students with whom I worked. I have worked with people in administration at all levels who each worked hard to build their programs and the university.”
Over the years, Brown instructed thousands of students and served on roughly 100 graduate committees. Serving as academic associate dean for more than 10 years, Brown developed a “teaching ideas” newsletter, which published – with permission – many of the innovative methods that NMSU faculty were using in their classrooms.
During his year as interim dean, from 2002-2003, Brown completed nearly 25 tenure track hires for the College of Arts and Sciences and appointed a new director for the University Art Gallery. Since his arrival, Brown has seen the College of Arts and Sciences grow to include more than 6,000 majors and many new state-of-the-art classrooms, labs and buildings.
“This does not mean that our work is done,” Brown said. “We will always strive to assess how we are doing, improve what we do, and achieve better outcomes. It will be exciting to watch the many things that NMSU will achieve during my retirement.”
His advice for colleagues?
“Set goals, work hard every day to achieve those goals, and make the world a better place,” Brown said. “Enjoy what you do, celebrate your colleagues and make time to enjoy family, hobbies and community activities.”
An active volunteer and community member, Brown served as president of the National Council on Public History, the principal national organization for public historians. Brown was also a member and president of the Rotary Club of Las Cruces, where he worked with Rotarians to raise funds to inoculate children against polio and establish the first infant critical care unit in Las Cruces.
In retirement, Brown said he looks forward to being with his wife, Cherri, and visiting their children, Hayley and Ira, who both earned bachelor’s degrees at NMSU from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Creative Media Institute, respectively. He will also read more and work in his yard. In the long run, Brown plans to engage in historical research projects and become more involved in community activities.
“I plan to learn new things, exercise, be a good friend and neighbor and make the world a better place every day,” he said.
As part of his pursuit of lifelong learning, Brown plans to return to NMSU in the fall – this time as a student.
“My wife has already been taking NMSU classes,” he said. “I enjoyed listening to her history of jazz homework this past semester and we will take classes together now, starting in Fall 2016, with a course about the U.S. Supreme Court. I have a wide range of interests and anticipate taking a wide array of courses.”
The Chicago native also hopes to take a swing at a few other activities.
“With some luck,” he added, “I may even see a Cubs World Series – this is my 60th season as a Cubs fan.”
Author: Dana Beasley – NMSU