Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The State of the College

Again, in looking through my grandmother's genealogy, I am amazed by the fact that for eight generations back there has been a relative associated with Centenary College, whether it was giving the bricks for the first building in Jackson, serving on the Board of Trustees, being President protem, teaching a class, attending classes or graduating from the institution.  There is history there.  Centenary is a part of me.  It is in my blood and I am proud of what the college is and does for its graduates.
Centenary gave me life-long friendships.  These friendships pass the test of time and space.  I can go years without seeing one of my college buddies and pick up right where we left off.  Centenary gave me my husband.  We met one August day in 1995 at Hodges Gardens in Many, Louisiana for choir camp.  But, most of all, Centenary nutured a spirit of integrity, honesty, learning, perseverance and community.  It gave me a chance to belong to cause greater than myself, pushed me just far enough outside my box that I could take bigger steps later, and gave me the life-long tool of learning how to learn. 

Had it not been for scholarships and the generosity of my grandparents, I could not have attended, or I might have but with many tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.  Had it not been for my great-grandparents, I wouldn't have had a chapel to be married in.  Had it not been for other alumni and friends of the college, I would not have had a dorm room to sleep in, a cafeteria to eat in and a stage to perform on.  Had it not been for the one-on-one attention that I received in the classrooms from outstanding professors, I would not be the music educator that I am today. 

I am blessed by my experience and association with Centenary College.  But, my beloved college needs our, the alumni's,  help.  I have no doubt that it will survive.  It has made it through the Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression and countless other historical catastrophes.  But, we, the alumni are the ones who must pick up a torch and give back for what Centenary has given us, if we want it to be there for our children. (And, I certainly hope that one of my boys will be the eighth generation to do so.)

In cleaning out my grandmother's house this weekend, I found an article written by Jacques N. Steinau from the Shreveport Magazine, February 1974.  It featured an interview with my great-grandfather, Paul Marvin Brown, Jr.  Here is an excerpt:

"Recently, you and your wife were honored by the Kiwanis Club, expressing its appreciation of the club and that of the entire comunity for the leadership you have given in the religious, cultureal and business life of the State.  What were your feelings when you received this plaque--so richly deserved?"

And what Paul Marvin Brown, Jr., said to me, will remain bright, fresh and undimmed, in that best and safest of regions, the human mind and heart. 

"Jacques, I am not absolutely sure that the honor is deserved.  When I look back, I feel that I have done nothing more for my city and my state and my nation than I should have done.  And when one does what one should have done, there is no reason that he should be complimented or that he should be awarded for those things.  After all, I am trying to build a city in which my children and my grand-children and sometime, my great-grandchildren will live.  To do this, I must, at the same time, realize that what I do for them, I must do for the children and the grand-children of the other citizens of Shreveport, because after all, we are all going to live here and we are all going to enjoy a great city.  And whatever we can contribute is really for those to follow us--for our posterity.  We want to leave them a city of which we can be proud.  I feel that we should leave them our city in a better shape than we found it.  If we can do this, I think this is the greatest reward." 

Think about this.  Substitue Centenary for Shreveport, or the community in his response. 

To my fellow alumni, I ask, are you leaving a great Centenary for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to attend?  Have you given whatever you can contribute back to the college for what it has given you?  Yes, it may not be the exact same place it was 100 or even 10 years ago.  Times change and "stuff" happens, but we need to search our hearts and support our beloved Centenary through this rough patch.  Consider giving to the college today.  As my great-grandfather also stated,  it may feel like you "were really receiving rather than giving something."

Picture#1: Brown family in the Administration building circa 1975.
Picture#2: Paul setting the corner stone in the Chapel at Centenary.
Picture#3: left to right: Dr. Webb, my grandfather, Bert Greve, great-uncle Charles Ellis Brown, and Paul M. Brown, in Rotary Hall when it was paid off.
Picture #4: Willie Elanor Cavett Brown receiving her honorary alumna award at Centenary.


Candace Chaney said...

It's kind of cool to think that he was thinking about us as he was living life and trying to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

I am guessing that is the mink you took home in picture #4? Funny!