Editor’s Note: This story was included in the latest edition of Affinity Magazine. Click here to check out the magazine in its entirety!
By Maria Haynie
A half dozen associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees complete Dr. Walter Brown Jr.’s collection, but he’s still not done learning.
The difference is that now he learns through teaching.
“Every time I teach, and in every class, I learn just as much from them as they, hopefully, learn from me,” says Brown, adjunct faculty instructor of the Religion and the Human Experience course at Columbia College-Jacksonville in Florida. “They teach me just what people are willing to sacrifice to earn important academic affirmation. They have taught me not to judge a book by its cover.”
He knows a thing or two about books. The foundation for his own studies began at a young age, as he drew inspiration from his father’s carefully curated personal library.
“I developed my passion for education from my now deceased father, Rev. Dr. Walter M. Brown Sr.,” says Brown. “His attic contained over 5,000 books, and I declare he knew every one of them. He was a lifelong learner and earned two masters’, earning his Ph.D. after the age of 60.”
Brown Jr. set off to earn his first degree from Atlanta Junior College. After achieving his associate in science, he went on to Georgia State University. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in social work before embarking on what would become a trio of master’s degrees: a Master of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center, a Master of Theology from Emory University and a Master of Arts in Counseling from Webster University. Lastly, his sixth degree, a Doctor of Ministry, came from Columbia Theological Seminary. Brown holds a deep reverence for growing in knowledge and capability.
“I, like my father before me, love learning,” says Brown. “My degrees also confirm my dedication to my profession. I believe the more I give God to work with, through my degrees and training, the more God can use me in teaching and preaching. Finally, I want to be taken seriously about the topic so near and dear to my heart: religion!”
His enthusiasm for religion and teaching is evident in his interactive teaching style and the lively discussions he facilitates with his students. His teaching philosophy is to empower students to form and articulate informed, respectful opinions through research and study. He then invites students to challenge him as the teacher. He places a great emphasis on preparation for each class, for both himself and for students.
“I love how much I learn from preparing to teach,” says Brown. “I am required to study in order to present with integrity. I love the exchange with prepared students and the ‘newness’ of each beginning class.”
Brown also applies his interest in people, teaching and religion to his work beyond the classroom. He is the pastor and founder of a Jacksonville church, Bethany Ministries, and is the senior pastor and founder of an association of ministries. He also serves as the associate chaplain for Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies.