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ASU visionary Brent Brown remembered for dedication

May 29, 2008

Brent Brown was an ASU visionary who will long be remembered for his dedication to students, the university and public service.
Brown passed away Saturday, May 24, after a long illness.

Brown joined Arizona State University in 1972 as an assistant professor in political science and was instrumental in the formation of the School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Programs.

“Brent Brown will always be remembered as one of the founders of what eventually became the School of Public Affairs. He was tireless in his efforts to enhance the education of public servants. As a faculty member in the School of Public Affairs, he influenced the careers of countless students, many of whom became leaders in national, state and local governments as well as non-profits,” says N. Joseph Cayer, the Frank and June Sackton Professor of Public Administration in the School of Public Affairs.

Brown served in many capacities throughout the university including vice president of Institutional Advancement, assistant vice president of Community Relations and director of Community Relations. His most recent position was with Gov. Janet Napolitano as rural affairs policy advisor.

“Brent Brown served ASU and the entire state of Arizona with extreme dedication and commitment for many decades. He was untiring, fully engaged and always had a smile for those he worked with. A true public servant,” says Robert Denhardt, School of Public Affairs director.

Brown was known for his strong sense of integrity.

“There have been few men like him and there will be few men like him. He was someone who had great personal integrity,” says Larry Mankin, a friend and ASU colleague who knew Brown for close to 40 years. “He had a great strong moral compass that never failed him.”
Brown also foresaw what the university would become in future years, advocating for additional campuses in downtown Phoenix, on the west side and the far east Valley.

“He had really tremendous insight into what this university could be,” Mankin says.

Brown was a consensus builder who worked easily with people he came in contact with from legislators to university administrators to students.

“ASU wouldn’t be what it is today without Brent and the persuasiveness of his arguments and his ability to work with people,” Mankin says. “He was a visionary and superb problem solver.”

Former ASU president Lattie Coor remembers Brown as an invaluable member of his leadership team.

“I had been away from Arizona for over three decades when I assumed the presidency of ASU. There was a lot about the state and the university I needed to learn. Brent was my guide, patiently accompanying me to meet legislators and other elected officials and briefing me for days on end about the background of the many issues before the University. For every personal introduction and every issue, he had a story, and it was those stories I remember most,” Coor says.

He served as an inspiration and mentor to students, many of whom hold prominent positions in public service today.

“He epitomized the faculty member who understood that learning was not just for the sake of learning but was also for making society and government better for everyone. His death leaves a big void for Arizona,” Cayer says.

Brown was also instrumental in forming a retirees association at ASU with Bob Ellis, former KAET/Channel 8 manager.

“He asked me to put together a plan for an association,” Ellis says. “It’s still going strong. He supported it all the way.”

Ellis worked for Brown when both were in University Relations. Ellis handled areas such as the Alumni Association, KAET/Channel 8 and public events while Brown managed duties such as managing the ASU Foundation and working with government officials.

“We had a wonderful time. He was just a great guy to work for. He didn’t interfere unless there was a problem,” Ellis says.

Brown also played a major role in bringing the Arizona Cardinals to Phoenix from St. Louis.

Brown was born Sept. 27, 1941, in St. Johns. He was a lifelong resident of Arizona who received his bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University, a master's from Arizona State University and a doctoral degree from the University of Illinois. Brown is survived by his wife, Marilyn, six children and 11 grandchildren. Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 31, at the Gilbert Stapley Stake Center, 1100 N. Cooper Road, Gilbert, with a visitation starting at 9:30 a.m.