Dr. Richard Brown confessed to being flattered when he was told about a new scholarship program named after him.
“My first reaction to it was that I was humbled and honored to have such a prestigious honor and recognition by the University, but after that, I was really excited about it,” he said. “This will create an opportunity for access to some students who are underserved by access to higher education.
“Fundamentally, I believe that access to higher education transforms lives for many, many years and generations to come.”
Brown, who provided more than 38 years of service to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee System, is the namesake of the new Richard Brown Inclusive Access Scholarship at UTC.
The scholarship—a collaboration of the Division of Diversity and Engagement, the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs in conjunction with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships—commemorates the contributions of Brown, who began working for the University in 1984 and rose to executive vice chancellor for administration and finance. He then took on a dual role in 2021 as a special advisor to UTC Chancellor Steven R. Angle and UT System President Randy Boyd before retiring at the end of the year.
“Richard Brown invested decades of his life helping to build UTC into the university we are all proud of. He worked his way up through the ranks to one of the top jobs on campus,” Angle said. “During those years, he was a tireless advocate for excellence and inclusion, and he has mentored countless students and employees and been a role model for many others. These scholarships are a fitting tribute for Richard’s impact here at UTC.”
During the 2022-2023 academic year, 30 UTC students from the Chattanooga region are benefiting from this new scholarship. The students come to UTC from the following Hamilton County high schools: Brainerd, East Ridge, Hixson, The Howard School, Red Bank and Tyner Academy.
“We nominated students from local schools with demonstrated academic achievement,” said Stacy Lightfoot, vice chancellor for the Division of Diversity and Engagement. “This scholarship provides better access for students to complete college.
“Dr. Brown had barriers that he overcame and he did it gracefully and graciously. When he retired, the role that he held here was one of the highest roles that you can have. To me, that is what access allows.”
As a young child living in the Chattanooga community, Brown could not access the University that he later served for close to four decades—so he is well-versed in overcoming barriers. He said having the ability to obtain both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the institution transformed his life.
“I’m a lifelong learner; I obtained five college degrees as a working adult, and I just believe in lifelong learning,” Brown said. “That’s the transformative impact that accessing the University had for me. It created this desire for continuous improvement of my life.”
Those degrees as an adult learner included a pair of doctoral degrees and an MBA. He also graduated from the prestigious Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program.
“By virtue of that, I literally became a role model for so many other students as well as young people within my own family and community who saw that I could do that. They were inspired to complete a college degree themselves,” he said.
Lightfoot said Brown was involved in drafting some of the philosophies for the scholarship, suggesting ideas for who the award should be geared toward.
“He helped create some of the criteria,” Lightfoot recalled. “When I talked to him about this, he was touched and added to the criteria. He said, ‘Make sure you think about the adult learner. Make sure you think about the veteran student.’
“So he owns some of this process. This isn’t just an award in his honor; this is an award that he helped create. I think that’s what makes this special as well.”
Said Brown, “I think the University is appropriately interested in ensuring all students—and when I say all, that is inclusive of all students, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, color—can have reasonable access to the higher education experience.
“I wanted to make sure that students who might be on the margins, that may need a little bit of financial support, would have access to this scholarship,” he continued. “By giving them access, it would transform their lives.
“That meant more for me than anything else because, in my own personal experience, higher education truly had a transformative effect on my entire life and my family.”
During his time at UTC, Brown was a pillar of the campus community, serving as a member of the executive leadership team under five chancellors and playing a vital role in the expansion of the campus across McCallie Avenue.
As a result of crossing McCallie, UTC South Campus housing came into existence in the late 1990s, fostering the growth and upward trajectory of the University.
Dr. Yancy Freeman, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs, called Brown a mentor and a walking catalog of information about UTC because of his lengthy tenure with the institution.
“He was someone who went from working in campus safety to being arguably the second-most powerful person on campus in terms of influence and engagement and community involvement,” Freeman said. “He is very connected in the community and someone who has an exemplary reputation across this city.”
Freeman referred to Brown as a “personal hero,” saying he often leaned on him for advice and guidance.
“He became sort of that symbol for me of somebody who looked like me that I could connect with and sit and talk to and ask advice about anything,” Freeman said.
The new scholarship, Freeman explained, is the best of both worlds in terms of pulling together the access mission for the institution “while honoring somebody who gave so many years of his life to the institution’s improvement.”
“For me, access is key in giving students an opportunity to get a UTC education,” he said. “Providing access to students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to attend gets me excited, gets me going and makes me feel like we’re really making a difference in somebody’s life.”
As Brown said, “When I talk about transformation, higher education not only transforms your mental outlook and focus, but it also transforms the goals and aspirations that one has—and that has been the journey for me.
“As a first-generation college graduate, I hope this scholarship will touch many first-generation college students. Being the first in my family to obtain a college degree, a terminal degree, a doctoral degree, set ripples of aspiration throughout my family and throughout the community. So that’s part of the whole notion about transformation. It is transformation of the mindset.”