She grew up in a small community between Ingold and Garland called ‘Rileytown.’ Mary Brown says you probably haven’t heard of it, but it’s where she grew up. Eventually, she would find herself at Winston Salem State University, called Winston-Salem Teachers College, studying to be a nurse. After living in New York for some time, she soon made her way back to Sampson County, where she began a long career as a nursing instructor at SCC.
Brown comes from a family of educators, but she never saw that quality in herself. Upon reflection though, she believes her passion for education always lingered.
Brown stated, “You know how toddlers fight over things. Well, my mother said I always shared my toys.”
Brown says teaching is sharing—sharing knowledge. Since she began working and teaching at Harlem Hospital in New York, Brown has been sharing her knowledge of nursing.
When she returned to Sampson County, she spent a year at Mary Gran Nursing Home. A year later, when she drove into the parking lot of Sampson Community College for her job interview, Brown says she prayed she would stay for five years. She ended up dedicating over 30 years of her life to a career at SCC.
During her time, she reached hundreds of students. She would come to understand the importance of having excellent, supportive leaders for the college to advance and improve.
Brown remarked, “I think what has been so great with Sampson County is having someone with the ability to maintain an upward bound approach. Moving into the 21st century with everything.”
And she set the same standard for herself. During Brown’s time, students began clinical rotations at home health sites, health departments, mental health facilities, and other areas to expand their growth and development beyond the hospital. She wanted her students to be well-rounded nurses when they exited the program.
Dr. Veronica Stevens, a former student and current Division Chair of Health Programs, remembered Brown’s devotion to student’s learning.
Stevens stated, “Mrs. Brown was always intuitive about and responsive to the needs of the faculty, staff, and students. She gracefully offered encouragement, constructive criticism and positive feedback in a way that ensured growth.”
In the time she spent in the nursing program at SCC, the program underwent a great deal of change. She saw the program shuffle from various locations around campus and around Clinton. She saw various leaders and students come and go. However, Brown and her former students and colleagues say a few things remained in the nursing program: support and love.
“We love each other. We first love Him, but we really love each other,” Brown expressed emotionally.
Brown says that caring was the key to the rapport and connection that students and instructors felt while she was an instructor at SCC.
“We had time to care about family…We carried each other’s burdens and each other’s joys,” she shared.
Wanda Capps, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Brown’s former colleague, remembered the bonds that were created in the nursing program. Capps stated, “She was my mentor, friend, cheerleader and kept me in place when I needed it. She played a major role in not only my professional career but my personal life as well. One of the many shining pebbles in my path!”
Leaning on one another is how students found success in the nursing program at SCC when Brown served as an instructor and as the Director of the Nursing Program. Today, that’s still the case.
Brown’s former student and former colleague, Dr. Lisa Smith, now the Department Chair for the Associate Degree of Nursing, echoed these same ideals. The standards that Brown set over 40 years ago are still in place today.
“I had the distinct pleasure of beginning my nursing education under the leadership of Mrs. Mary Brown. I was even more honored to begin my role as nursing faculty under the same leadership. Mrs. Brown helped mold and shape me into the educational leader I am today. She facilitated a nurturing work environment while demanding excellence and professionalism, always showing care and compassion in her actions,” Smith stated.
Brown’s commitment to education was evident in her service to her community in other ways as well. From her involvement with the Sampson County Schools Board of Education, the Town of Garland, and with the SCC Foundation.
Lisa Turlington, Dean of Advancement and Executive Director of the Foundation says Brown’s charm and devotion have been a bonus of her involvement with the Foundation. Turlington noted, “Mary Brown’s heart and soul is dedicated to education, and she loves the students, staff, and faculty of Sampson Community College. We are lucky to have her as an advocate.”
Brown’s family even created an endowment with Sampson Community College for a scholarship. Further cementing her dedication to education. The Boykin Scholarship, established in 2009, is offered for students attending Sampson Community College.
A shining light of Mary Brown’s career is her drive to enrich student learning. Dr. William Starling, President of Sampson Community College, says this is particularly evident in that way that many of Brown’s former students remain at SCC as faculty members.
Starling remarked, “In so many ways, Mary has never left. Her gifts remain with us.”
Brown’s demand for excellence and her caring spirit set a precedent in the nursing program at SCC that lasts even until today—45 years later.
When it comes to caring for others, Brown said, “I just can’t help myself.”
About Sampson Community College: Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.