KNOXVILLE – The Alva Ross Brown Society was created by and for young Johnson University alumni as an opportunity for impact at the school, says Alumni Relations Director Matthew Shears.


Alums Sarah Mattson, Andrew Frazier, and Hope Smyth show society pride

The society’s goal is to promote the influence of young alums in the Board of Trustees, the Council of 70, and the Alumni Association. In addition, the society provides a way for young alums to be integrated into JU life, develop a culture of generosity and influence among alums, promote JU in their communities, and network with other alums.

“The underlying factor of the Alva Ross Brown Society is seeking to help young alumni realize that now we are being handed the baton and it’s our turn to lead Johnson University into the future,” said Shears with conviction, explaining that the society’s goals go beyond fundraising.

14183956_1647272625564105_4691621580794864604_nShears shared that the society is named after the 3rd president of JU, Alva Ross Brown, a JU alum who is thought to have been the youngest president of an institution of higher education in the United States. He was only 22 when he became president. Shears detailed how Alva Ross Brown led the school through the Great Depression and increased its academic standards and number of graduates.

“He represents the potential that young alumni have when they are engaged with the life of Johnson,” Shears said.

The purpose of the society goes beyond fundraising, explained Shears.

“For us as young alumni when we think about Johnson University we should think about the ways in which this place molded us and shaped us into who we are and how can we return that favor in the sense of helping to mold and shape Johnson University in the future,” he said.


Ben Poland sports Alva Ross Brown Society apparel in Istanbul, Turkey.

Though 50% of JU alums have graduated within the last 15 years, young alums “historically have been the least involved in the life of the institution,” Shears says. “For Johnson University to continue in the future we have to foster meaningful relationships in all capacities with younger alumni,” Shears explains, and evaluates the lack of involvement through the lens of millennial culture (a demographic in which he includes himself) that is “not too keen on institutions.” Shears seeks to remedy this saying, “It’s not so much, ‘Let’s look what we as an institution are doing,’ but ‘Let’s look what we as a part of the Kingdom of God in the world are doing.'”

“We as young alumni are the keepers and we are the stewards of Johnson University.  The original dream of and vision of Ashley and Emma Johnson is now being placed into the hands of young alumni,” he said.

Perks of being in the society include regional gatherings of alums, JU swag, subscription to the society’s newsletter, membership in the Alumni Association, and more.

For more information or to join, visit the society’s webpage or contact Matt Shears at 865-251-2854 or by email. For the latest updates and photos, visit the society’s Facebook page.

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