When Jeffery Brown, ’73 graduated from Thomas Jefferson College at Grand Valley State University, he couldn’t bring himself to leave campus. He took a position in the Office of Student Life producing concerts and other events. Over time, the position evolved first into the Director of Student Activities, then into the Director of Housing and Student Activities. Before he knew it, Brown was bringing in big name acts to Grand Valley such as Aerosmith, Santana, Bill Cosby, and George Carlin. He was also in charge of Stage III – Grand Valley’s theatre in Grand Rapids, student recreation, the Health Center, Student Government, WSRX – GVSU’s radio station, and the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention. But this was only the beginning of Brown’s multi-faceted career.
After eight years of improving student life at Grand Valley, Brown left GVSU to become a full-time entrepreneur. He and wife, Sandy built and operated four retail shops around Michigan that succeeded for more than 20 years. During this time, Brown also started running and became increasingly interested in physiology and kinesiology. Like the many other interests in his life, Brown’s excitement for athletics led to great success.
“I was a runner and triathlete,” he said. “So I became a personal trainer and group exercise instructor. This led to a position as the Director of the Health and Wellness Center at the Sherman Lake YMCA in Augusta, Michigan. I also started the first full Pilates studio at a YMCA outside of Hollywood California and became a Pilate’s instructor.”
Brown continued his career in Health and Wellness until 2007. The following year, his interests came full circle when he was hired as the Executive Director of the Poverty Reduction Initiative of Kalamazoo County. This brought his attention back to his initial passion that had developed at Grand Valley: Community.
“This work resonated with my earlier academic work at Thomas Jefferson College in psychology and counseling along with my continued interest in non-profit management,” he said.
His work at the Poverty Reduction Initiative aided the development of similar organizations around the state. Dedicated to promoting education and access to economic opportunity, PRI advocates for local, state, and national legislative programs that increase awareness and understanding of issues related to poverty.
Brown has since accepted a position with Communities in Schools of Michigan. As Executive Director, he uses the knowledge he gained from PRI and applied it to high school dropout prevention.
“With my background in Poverty Reduction, I am well aware of the out of classroom issues and specialized needs which vulnerable children need assistance with,” he said. “These challenges to young lives have a direct correlation to academic achievement.”
Brown has succeeded in every aspect of his multi-faceted career. He plans to expand the Communities in Schools program to every district in the state who reaches out for support and has a need. He believes that no child should have to struggle for their education and that everyone should find a career that resonates with their soul.