Maynard Brown ’76, MBA ’83
Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni award recipient
A former basketball player, an ambitious entrepreneur, and now a dedicated teacher, Maynard Brown ’76, MBA ’83, is a modern renaissance man. The winner of this year’s Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumni award, Brown says he has always stood on the shoulders of real heroes, pioneers, and trailblazers, and is humbled by the recognition. While his career has evolved tremendously throughout the years, one thing has always remained constant: his desire to help others.
When he graduated from Cornell’s College of Human Ecology in 1976, Brown turned down two job offers to play for the Hannutous basketball team in Hannut, Belgium. Though he enjoyed the three seasons he spent traveling and playing with the team, Brown knew an athletic career wasn’t going to last forever and he began thinking about moving on with his life.
He returned to Los Angeles, his hometown, where he met Dr. Lewis King, founder and executive director of The Franz Fanon Research & Development Center in Los Angeles — one of a handful of African American think tanks in the country at the time, focusing on economic and social growth in underdeveloped communities. Brown started working with King, and got his first taste of entrepreneurship.
“Fanon hosted and convened a number of scholars’ conferences in the U.S. and abroad, and I saw an opportunity to exploit a niche in a rather untapped and unknown market,” Brown explains. “So along with four partners, I started NOUS Research & Development, Inc.” The organization planned and managed scholars’ conferences in Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania, the Virgin Islands, Brazil, and the U.S. while keeping an eye on business opportunities worthy of investment.
Soon after his first entrepreneurial endeavor, however, Brown realized that he wanted to return to school and pursue an MBA. “Whatever I decided to do in life, academic credentials and an understanding of finance, accounting, and marketing would be helpful,” he says.
After earning his MBA at Johnson in 1983, Brown founded the Management Reserves Institute, Inc. (MRI) with two other Cornellians: Tom Hampton, MBA ’81, and Gary Mack ’72, and under MRI he established the Metropolitan Distribution Company. The only African-American wholesale distributor of dairy products in Southern California, the Metropolitan Distribution Company was successful under Brown’s leadership: as CEO, he built sales volume to over $2 million per year in just eighteen months. When the industry began to change and profit margins began to fall, Brown realized that it was time to step away. But what seemed like an unfortunate situation turned into an incredible opportunity that made his life “take a significant change in direction,” he says.
Brown began working with Junior Achievement (JA), the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. Through his involvement with JA, Brown started volunteering in the economics class of his alma mater, Crenshaw High School, in 1985.
“The teacher in the classroom observed that I really enjoyed working with the students in creating entrepreneurial projects and suggested that I think about teaching economics,” Brown says. “I immediately rejected the idea, thinking that was not my calling. She called me every day for a whole month. Finally, I agreed.”
When he started teaching at Crenshaw High School, Brown recalls, there was only one business course offered: typing. “I thought that was egregious and just plain wrong. Business is so much more than typing and I wanted to change that,” he says. He decided that an entrepreneurship academy would make school more relevant for Crenshaw students and give them purpose, focus, and direction. “They needed a reason to learn and stay in school,” he says.
Crenshaw has come a long way since Brown began teaching there. In 2001, the school began to offer a Business Management Entrepreneurship class, and since then, courses in managerial accounting and financial planning have been added. Today, there are almost 300 students in the Business Management & Entrepreneurship (BME) Academy at Crenshaw. Brown’s efforts at the school have been widely recognized, and he has been voted into Who's Who among American Teachers annually since 2003. In 2006, JA Worldwide selected him as National Teacher of the Year, and most recently, Jump$tart California named him Outstanding Educator of the Year.
Now an adjunct professor at West Los Angeles College as well as a high school teacher, Brown places a high value on mentorship. He’s mindful of the people who have sacrificed their own future and put themselves in harm’s way so that he could have a real chance to pursue his dreams and help those in the next generation pursue theirs.
“Being named the Wilbur Parker Distinguished Alumnus … means that all the tutoring, mentorship, and time that Joe Thomas, Tom Dyckman, Harold Bierman, Jerome Holland, and many others invested in me didn’t go to waste,” he says. “And it means that Wilbur Parker himself can be proud of the fact that he has impacted many more lives of our youth by opening the door for people like me, a kid out of Compton who wanted to make a difference.”
Watch this PBS tribute to Maynard Brown: Community champion Maynard Brown.mov - YouTube
Maria Minsker ’13 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson.