Honoring Jennifer Brown’s tenure as dean of law: A legacy of learning, light and love

April 23, 2024

School of Law Dean Jennifer Brown Celebrated

Emotions almost got the best of School of Law Dean Jennifer Brown as the packed house of family, friends, and professional colleagues stood in unison for a second ovation in her honor.

After more than three decades with Quinnipiac School of Law, including 10 years as its dean, Brown’s legacy was celebrated by the university with a special event on Saturday that showcased all the ways in which her influence has made a difference, not only in teaching, but in the practice of law itself. It was evident in the stories told, the tears shed and in the warm gratitude from those gathered to honor a remarkable career and beloved colleague. 

“Throughout your career, Jen, you have brought learning, light and love to the study and practice of law — teaching it and practicing it as an outstanding lawyer and legal scholar,” said Quinnipiac President Judy Olian. “We will be eternally grateful because your impact will continue…in perpetuity.”

The ceremony marked the conclusion of Brown’s tenure as dean and included an unveiling of her portrait by New York artist Heather Marcus to be hung in the School of Law. A plaque will soon be added and engraved with Brown’s familiar mantra and mission, “Educating the whole lawyer to understand and serve the whole client.” 

During her remarks, Olian elaborated on the ways Brown lived that mission by emphasizing the role of humanity in the study of law. Through initiatives such as the Quinnipiac Center on Dispute Resolution, Beginners Wisdom retreats and the founding of the Bridge to Practice program, Brown helped to shape legal education through a more holistic problem-solving lens. 

Brown led the School of Law through significant change over the past 10 years, including the move from Mount Carmel to North Haven, the hiring of nearly 1/3 of the full-time School of Law faculty and academic innovations such as new concentrations in international law, workplace law and cybersecurity and information privacy law. 

Olian highlighted how Brown’s leadership brought an increase in the diversity of the law school’s student body, as students of color increased from 17% to 27%. Brown also made student wellness a priority, training law students in mindfulness meditation. From the early days of her career, Brown has also been a public champion for LGBTQ+ rights, which Olian noted is an extension of her care and compassion for every member of society. 

“Your humanity and deep caring for others is infused in everything you do,” said Olian. “It is represented in a lifelong body of work in pursuit of justice and fairness.”

Brown also spearheaded fundraising initiatives totaling $13.5 million in philanthropic funds, with her name attracting $200,000 in gifts to the Jennifer Gerarda Brown Endowed Fund. 

In addition to her dedication to the School of Law, Brown also stepped into the role of interim executive vice president and provost from June 2019 through July 2020, during one of the most tumultuous times in recent history, the COVID-19 global pandemic. 
Quinnipiac Provost Debra Liebowitz took a moment to present Brown with a custom-engraved captain’s chair as she spoke about Brown’s overall support of the university through her genuine and thoughtful approach to leadership. 

“I have benefited tremendously from your sage wisdom and your thoughtfulness,” said Liebowitz. “Your input is always presented with an approach that is student- and human-centered and holistic in a way that challenges all of us to do exactly the same.” 

Hartford Mayor Arunan Arulampalam, JD’14, took time during his remarks to speak directly to Brown as he reminisced about his days as a Quinnipiac law student and president of the Student Bar Association. 

“I want to talk about all of the lives you've impacted. Like molecules bouncing off of each other, in so many ways, big and small, intended and unintended, you have had such an impact on the trajectory of our lives,” said Arulampalam. “I felt love and care from so many in this community and from Dean Brown. She always celebrated with us in the good and worked with us through the challenges.”

Additional speakers represented the depth and breadth of Brown’s career, including Professor of Law Stephen Gilles, who highlighted Brown’s scholarship and advocacy, especially in the national fight for marriage equality. 

“Jen has written in fields ranging from civil rights to dispute resolution to legal education,” said Gilles. “Her work … helped to create the political momentum that led state after state to actually recognize gay marriages. And that, in turn, led to a climate of public opinion that encouraged the Supreme Court in the Obergefell decision. Jen, I cannot wait to see where you direct your unique energy and enthusiasm in the years ahead.”

Quinnipiac Law Professor Emerita Linda Meyer spoke with affection of her long-time friendship with Brown, emotionally recalling how they shared major milestones together, including the move to join Quinnipiac’s new School of Law in 1993. 

“She’s the big sister I never had and has been, for 30 years,” said Meyer. “She showed us how to be a lawyer with heart. We want to help people think like lawyers but continue to feel like human beings. And that was the model she embodied.” 

Following the messages from her colleagues, Brown took to the podium amidst the first of two standing ovations to express appreciation for those who have supported her journey and to reflect on her years of service to the university she loves. 

“My prayer for each of you is that you'll have something in your life that you work on,” said Brown. “Whether or not it's for pay; whether or not it is your profession, that you have something you work on that gives you the joy and the sense of purpose that this job has given me.”

Brown’s Quinnipiac career isn’t over just yet. Following a yearlong sabbatical, she will return to the School of Law as a professor in 2025.

“I count among my blessings this job. This university to which I have given the lion’s share of my career — 30 years this June and counting,” said Brown. “In the classroom, that's the place where the magic happens. Through some alchemy of conversation, curiosity and compassion, the whole lawyer begins to emerge. To witness that transformation, that is also a blessing.”

In addition to the portrait and chair, one final surprise awaited Brown and her family. The School of Law student lounge has officially been dedicated in Dean Brown’s honor as the Jennifer Gerarda Brown Student Lounge. As the ceremony concluded, guests were invited to stay for a reception, marking the first of many events to be held in the newly dedicated space. 

“We thank you, Jen,” said Olian. “We thank you for the lives you’ve impacted, the hearts you’ve touched and for the futures you are helping to shape. Here’s to a well-deserved sabbatical and time with family and friends. We're going to be waiting here, rolling out the carpet for you in 2025, for a long next tenure as a professor of law.”

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