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Family history inspired LCC professor

Broderick teacher

Kevin Brown has been teaching history at LCC since 2005.  Photo by Mallory Stiles

Mallory Stiles

By Mallory Stiles
Associate Editor

All teachers are constantly challenged to keep their students interested, but let’s not pretend that history teachers don’t have it especially tough.

With all the dates, numbers and the sheer volume of it all, it takes a lot to keep young minds engaged. However, LCC teacher Kevin Brown continues to rise to the occasion.

Brown has a very interesting family history. He said it was his curiosity for his own past that led him to study history. He said it “just seeped in” for him.

“My mom was born in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia ... She came over in 1955,” Brown said. “It was complicated, (US President Dwight) Eisenhower opened up around 5,000 additional visas for people who were trying to escape iron-curtain countries and my grandfather got one.

“He brought his wife, my mom, and her younger sister. They then spent two and a half years in a displaced persons camp in Trieste, Italy. From there they got sponsored by a Catholic family in Buffalo, New York, and came to New York.

“My dad grew up in upstate New York. His father was a philosophy professor and a department head, then a vice president at Cornell University. He (my father) went to Cornell, then from there he went directly to the University of Michigan where he got a Ph.D. in Biology. Both of my parents are biologists.”

Brown was born in Los Angeles but moved to Salt Lake City at 2 years old, only to move again. He spent most of his time growing up in a very rural, small town in Arizona called Catalina, where he assisted in all sorts of science projects.

He said out of all the terrain he has experienced, the Chiricahua Mountains is still his favorite place to be. When it came time to graduate, however, all he could think about, much to his parents’ horror, was joining the military with his best friend.

After much discussion and persuasion, Brown said no to boot camp and yes to the books.

“I did my undergraduate degree at a small liberal arts school in Wisconsin called Beloit College,” Brown said. “I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history.

“I knew I wanted to go to grad school so I applied to a variety of places and ended up going to Michigan State for first a master’s and then a Ph.D., both in African history.”

During his early college days, Brown also spent a lot of time in Chicago with a girl who would one day be his wife and the mother of his two children.

“My wife, Romy, is a Chicago girl,” Brown said. “We met in college and I stayed with her in the summers. I am absolutely convinced my father-in-law took out a life-insurance policy on me because he didn’t think I was going to survive the city. I had no idea what I was doing.

“Snakes, cactus, floods and extreme temperatures … that’s all fine, but the urban scene, not so much.”

He survived the city, passed the classes and, sooner than expected, got down on one knee.

“We got married the day after I graduated from Beloit,” he said. “The timing wasn’t great but that was the only day that our friends could be together. So we got married in Oak Park, where her family is from, and we went to graduate school together.

“She came up and we lived together at MSU and we were poor; it was fun. My daughter was born in ’95 and my son was born in ’98.”

Brown shared that his daughter, Meredith, now has “a PhD. in fish.” Meredith said that is partially because of the summers they spent together on Platt River fishing.

“My favorite thing about him is he has always been involved and has always enjoyed people,” Meredith said of her father. “He always picks up the phone, he just wants to talk and is always excited to talk to me. That’s what makes my dad my dad.”

Other things that make Brown who he is include his love for musician Peter Gabriel, his extensive book collections and his insatiable thirst for knowledge.

In 2005, Brown became an LCC teacher. He said that was when he really began to focus on teaching, hoping to reach as many young people as he could and be a force of real change.

“I want students to understand the past,” he said, “and be able to use that to make the best educated decisions they can about the future, the best they possibly can. That is the whole point of education.”

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