Reflecting back on his time spent at the University of Arkansas, alumnus Earnest Brown sums up his feelings with one sentence, “College is a decision I will never regret.” Living in Pine Bluff, Ark., Brown credits the university and its faculty for supplying him with the knowledge, experience and confidence to perform his duties as a circuit judge. Although it has been 17 years since he last stepped onto campus as a student, the pride he exhibits in his alma mater is something he continues to carry today.
As a life member of the Arkansas Alumni Association, Brown’s involvement did not stop once he graduated. Witnessing the dedication of those at the university who work to make future students feel welcome on campus, he remembers how he felt as a freshman from Fulton, Ark., and how attending the university’s freshman weekend led him to fall in love with the Fayetteville campus. “I was in complete awe of it. It is a small enough school to be social, but big enough for students to get involved in a multitude of activities,” he said.
While devoting much of his time to majoring in public administration through the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Brown believed that “you can’t take advantage of the full university experience unless you get involved.” During his undergraduate years, he held memberships in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Emerging Leaders, served in leadership positions on the Judicial Board and Mortar Board, and was a student orientation leader, a resident assistant and chair of University Programs’ fine arts committee his sophomore year. While in law school at the university, he was treasurer of the Black Law Students Association and chair for Moot Court.
Some of his fondest memories on campus include being a resident assistant and organizing tournaments and activities within his residence hall, leading study sessions in law school and even camping out for Arkansas Razorback basketball tickets. “I’m not an outdoors type of person, but I did it. I got out there and camped out for tickets,” he admitted.
When asked how his leadership roles in college have helped to strengthen his abilities in the professional world, Brown admits, “It gave me confidence. I learned parliamentary procedure, the importance of how to plan and execute, and the importance of being organized. I learned budgeting through the fine arts committee and budgeting is a part of my current job. Each activity helped to guide me.” Of course, it wasn’t just his student involvement that guided and inspired him; professors such as the late Diane Blair, former educator Ann Henry and law professor Chauncey Brummer made a strong impact on Brown. “To have people take an interest in me as a student, that is what makes a lasting impression on people,” he said.
Since graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1991 and a juris doctorate in 1994, he now works in the juvenile division as a circuit judge, handling delinquency crimes, as well as truancy and Department of Human Services cases. Finding joy in his profession, he considers one of his greatest accomplishments to being elected circuit judge in Pine Bluff. Not being a native of the area he said, “To be accepted and to become such a part of the community, it means a lot.”
Although he spends much of his time in the courtroom, his devotion to his family and to the university has never wavered. The time between undergraduate studies and law school, Brown interned with the Arkansas Alumni Association and became familiar with its mission. It was then that he began to realize how important it is for alumni to stay connected and to be involved. Recently completing his term with the Association’s national board, he considers his time on the board to be one of great honor, saying, “I was a part of something that really helped to make a difference.” Viewing his experience as one of the best boards he has ever served on because of its “comradery,” he was impressed by the dedication that both Debbie Blume, director of administrative services, and Mike Macechko, executive director, shared for the Association and the board. “Debbie Blume has great organizational skills and is such a good Christian woman, and I really respect Mike’s leadership skills; they both treat the board very well,” he said.
Although he is no longer on the Association’s board, he does look forward to getting involved in other ways, saying, “I want to keep my options open and try to attend future Black Alumni Society reunions and maybe get more involved with the law school and Walton College. I’d like to help with diversity recruitment even.” He also plans to continue his involvement with the Law Alumni Society.
The passion he exudes for the university is something he works to communicate to not only his children, but to future generations and current graduates. As a strong believer in the Association and its mission, he encourages alumni to help students of tomorrow. “A person spends four years at the University of Arkansas. It only makes sense to make the next person’s experience as good, if not better than your own.”