What I’ve learned from Tony Brown

by Rachel Swartzendruber Miller – Vice President of Admissions

IMG_6422Tony Brown has made a major impact on my life over the past decade. The amazing thing is I am one of many who would make this claim. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have interacted with Tony, had him as an instructor, heard one of his concerts or messages of peace building, or those who are able to call him their friend, see Tony as one those life-changing people they have been blessed to know.

I will never forget innocently walking up the wooden steps to the “fourth floor” of the administration building where Tony had his office in 2002. I was a new admissions counselor, fresh out of college, and Tony was gracious enough to welcome my self-initiated introduction. I, for whatever reason, could sense he was someone I needed to know.

From there, a wonderful friendship blossomed. I spent many weekend evenings over the next two years in deep conversations with Tony and a few other Hesston staff. Tony was more than a listening ear; he gently challenged my naive thoughts and helped me stretch my perspective. Tony sang at my wedding, checked in on me from time to time over the years, and welcomed me back with open arms when I returned to the Hesston College community in 2011 as the Vice President of Admissions.

I have a deep respect for Tony’s worldview, which is one that sees potential in each person he meets. This view gives him the ability to make people feel special, valued, and cared for. He embodies peace-building, bridge-building, and inclusion. No one is a stranger to Tony.

Even though he will still be with us through development work from his new location in Pennsylvania, Hesston and the surrounding community will miss Tony’s welcoming presence, the compliments he is quick to give, and his selfless acts of kindness he has extended to each of us at some time or another. He is a Servant Leader who has impacted the Hesston College community more than we will ever truly know.

 


 

by Jordan Tanner – Sophomore

Since attending Hesston College, I have had the privilege to meet many professors who care about my personal and academic life, which as been a great experience for me. I’ve been able to relate to many types of people on Hesston’s staff in many different ways here these past two years, and one staff member who has really influenced me in a great way is Tony Brown.

Before coming to Hesston, I lived in a community of mostly minorities, and hadn’t experienced much cultural diversity. The day I stepped foot on campus is the day that I realized things wouldn’t really be the same for me. In a sea of unfamiliar faces I made a concerted effort to find a sense of comfort in the faces and skin tones that looked like mine. After a few weeks, I met a professor who embodied the same characteristics that I did; A black man on a predominately white campus, which was all the connection I needed.

As last year passed along, Tony and I grew closer, from talks that we’d have in the dining hall. We always talked about my experience here on campus, and he’d always assure me that he understood where I was coming from. This was essential in helping me adapt to the new lifestyle I had to live on campus. Tony formed a connection with me also through basketball and would regularly inquire about how our season was going. Having that adult figure who cared about my life on campus, aside from the students who he taught and mentored was amazing for me. The times that I would have difficulty in my social life, he’d invite me to his office to chat and discuss what was going on. Tony truly helped me make it my freshman year here at Hesston.

This year I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take Tony and John Sharp’s African American History class, and the insight I’ve gained from this class already has boosted my cultural awareness and pride. I now understand the story of my heritage and can proudly repeat it to my family and friends so that they too can share in what I’ve experienced.

These past two years for me have been filled with growth and maturity, and they are honestly the result of Tony Brown’s dedication to assist the students who may have a difficult time transitioning into college. I won’t be able to forget the countless conversations and in class discussions that have led to frustration with society, personal learning and knowledge, as well as an understanding of others.

What I’ve learned from Tony Brown is that learning takes place both in and outside of the classroom in college, and if you have the right mentors assisting and persevering with you, then the success you’ll have will be endless. Thank you, Tony Brown.

Editor’s note: Tony Brown’s teaching may pause for the moment, but he will continue to serve Hesston College through work for the Development Office. 

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