Wherever there is construction at Longwood University, there’s Otis Brown.
While he is usually welcoming a guest of honor to a groundbreaking or building dedication, Brown was the one being honored Thursday evening. In recognition of the key role he played in the development of Lancer Park, a 454-bed student residence complex just off campus, the complex’s central building was named Brown Commons. The building houses meeting space in a large common room, food services, a workout facility and front desk.
"He is the perfect example of what a board member should be," said current Longwood University Foundation President Bart Mitchell ’90. "He’s fully engaged, and gives freely of his time and talents—always with the goal of making Longwood a better place."
An energetic visionary with a quick wit and big dreams, Brown spearheaded the formation in 2004 of the Longwood Real Estate Foundation, which developed Lancer Park, and served as its president until earlier this year. He also served on the Board of Visitors as vice rector. Brown drove the university to expand off-campus, university-managed housing for students in both Lancer Park and Longwood Landings.
"He’s an inspiration," said Louise Waller, director of the Longwood Real Estate Foundation. "His ideas, energy, relationships and vision have made it possible for Longwood to develop and grow over the past 10 years. His boundless energy drives us all to think big, and he himself has more ideas in a morning than most of us have in a lifetime!"
"When I think of Otis Brown, I think of that Butch Cassidy line, ‘I’ve got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals,’" said Ken Copeland, vice president for finance and administration. "Otis saw what Lancer Park could be before anyone else and made it happen, and that’s a testament to his foresight and incredible personal drive. He has literally shaped the future of this university."
In introducing Brown Thursday night, Copeland shared several "Otis-isms"—cheeky words of wisdom that produced peals of laughter from the crowd. From "Know how to make a small fortune? Start with a large fortune and buy horses" to "Make a decision and get on with life," the quotes revealed the spirit and common sense that helped Brown forge Longwood’s growth.
Brown’s work at Longwood is seemingly never complete. Though he no longer serves on the Real Estate Foundation board, Brown is on the Hull Springs Farm leadership committee and is dedicated to helping that unique piece of property realize its potential as a vibrant research facility for students.