January 16, 2004

Brown to receive first African Male Image Award

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Joseph A. Brown is director of the Black American Studies Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He's also a mentor, adviser, advocate, poet, play director -- and Jesuit priest.

According to SIUC graduate student Kinji Scott, Brown is an important "father figure" for many African-American males on campus.

"I think he serves as that encouraging voice, not only for me, but for other African-American students," said Scott, the collegiate adviser for Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

Brown will receive the fraternity's first African Male Image Award at a banquet set for Saturday, Jan. 24. The banquet, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Student Center Renaissance Room, honors African-American male faculty at the University.

Tickets are $25; tables are $200.

Brown "has always been there whenever you needed to talk," said Scott.

"He is accessible. He is always available without question. Whenever he is in his office, his door is always open," Scott said.

An East St. Louis native, Brown came to SIUC in August 1997. Though humbled by his selection, Brown never expects to be "singled out."

"To me, the greatest reward is to see people fulfill their dreams," he said. "As a teacher, I cannot imagine anything nicer than to see young people fulfill their dreams."

As for his "open-door" policy, Brown would not have it any other way. A priority of the program is to be "available for everybody. We all have open doors up there," he said.

"It complicates the rest of my work, but that is my priority," said Brown. "I really do believe that the students pay my salary. And I could probably accomplish many more tasks in the course of the day, but then that is one less person available and we have so few here who are available.

"As all of my students know, it is not limited to one ethnic group or age group, but I just feel like that is what I am supposed to be doing," he said.

Brown said while he might be the first to receive the award, there are many other faculty on campus "who are equally, if not more so, deserving of recognition. And I hope this is an encouragement for other groups to do the same thing."

Brown, who entered the Society of Jesus in 1962, was ordained as a priest in 1972 and made his final profession in 1981. He earned his bachelor's degree from St. Louis University in 1968, a master's degree from John Hopkins University in 1969, and a second master's as well as a doctorate from Yale University in 1983 and 1984, respectively.

In addition to his poetry, he is the author of several books, including "Leaning on the Lord," and "To Stand on the Rock: Meditations on Black Catholic Identity."

Checks and money orders for the banquet should be made payable to Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, and sent to the SIUC Student Development Office, Accounting Staff, Mailcode 4425, Carbondale, Ill, 62901.

For more information, contact Scott at 618/549-9736, or Michael Bennett at 618/457-3385.