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Even In Retirement, Former MC Provost Is Knocking Down Barriers Facing Undocumented Students

Bob Brown has always enjoyed being in the business of “doing new things.” The former provost of the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, Brown taught mathematics at Montgomery College from 1972 until his retirement in 2008. His commitment to students, especially to undocumented students, has continued many years after his retirement, as he has helped fund scholarships for tuition and textbook assistance. During his thirty-five-year career at MC, he was more than a witness to enormous change; he directly contributed to it.

Bob Brown

From the time Brown first heard of the College’s plan to build a third campus in Germantown, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. At the time, he recalls, many faculty opposed opening the new site.

“One of the reasons Germantown [campus idea] worked was because of the way the population moved within Montgomery County,” Brown says. “The population was becoming more diverse … and needed the presence of a community college to have access to higher education.”

In January 1975, Brown became the first faculty member at the Germantown Campus, and in 1977, he became the dean of instruction. “We built the campus from the ground up—literally,” said Brown, describing how he stood watching bulldozers grading an area for the parking lot. By the time the new campus opened to students, Brown said faculty skepticism had diminished.

“Its emphasis on doing new things is something Germantown did a lot of—and became good at—specifically, community involvement,” said Brown. “The campus was always to be oriented to the students and the surrounding community: the swimming pool was open, the tennis courts were open … all of it was open to community use.”

Brown moved to the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus in 1982 to become provost, where he spent the next 11 years.

“When I was provost at Takoma, it became a ‘minority-majority campus’,” he said. “The major accomplishment was that nobody noticed.”

For Brown, the importance of higher education reflecting the community around it dates back to the 1960s, when he taught at Federal City College (present day UDC). It was 1968, and he wanted to ensure the college offered a substantial four-year math curriculum to DC residents.

When I was provost at Takoma, it became a ‘minority-majority campus’,” he said. “The major accomplishment was that nobody noticed

“A resident of DC had no access to higher education until then,” said Brown. “That’s why I took the job.”

There, he introduced a class called Problem Solving and Mathematical Reasoning, which served as a foundation for the rest of the math curriculum.

“For me, teaching math is teaching about the fact that you’re dealing with relationships and how they change. I’m not teaching math … I’m teaching life. And for most of my students, [life lessons] is what they learned.”

Brown was directly involved in the project of building the Germantown Campus

The relationships Brown has fostered over the years at MC are both numerous and extraordinary. Noah Saposnik, annual fund manager for MC, describes Brown as “a very warm, caring individual who is deeply committed to students and, specifically, undocumented students.”

During Brown’s active tenure in his local Silver Spring Rotary chapter, the organization provided more than $20,000 in scholarships to MC students. Saposnik reported that Brown himself recently made generous gifts for undocumented students at the College, funding multiple student scholarships for tuition and textbook assistance. Additionally, Brown essentially “adopted” a young man from El Salvador who was forced to flee his country. He housed and paid the student’s way through Montgomery College and Towson University.

“Now he’s 33… he’s a practicing accountant,” Brown said. “He calls me on his way home from work!”

As a donor, Brown is happy to support an institution that is aware of the population that it serves. He also likes the fact that he can designate where his gift money goes.

“I think it is important for donors to know that they can specify a favorite cause or concept that they think needs to be addressed so that the gift goes in that direction,” said Brown.

To support programs and causes you are most passionate about, please visit the Montgomery College Foundation website and designate where you would like your gift to go.

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