From swim instructor to the dean, the past 34 years for Lower School Dean of Students Mr. Jay Brown have been a remarkable journey.
Before entering the community in the Summer of 1989, Mr. Brown was juggling many responsibilities. “I was a swimmer and lifeguard at the time, and I had about four different part-time jobs,” Mr. Brown said.
Upon hearing word that The Haverford School day camp was looking for swim instructors, Mr. Brown couldn’t pass the opportunity up. “It was just another job I thought I could take up,” Mr. Brown said.
A stranger to the community, Mr. Brown spent the next eight weeks in the basement of the old Ryan Gym at Haverford College. His ability to guide these children stood out to the camp director, an upper school teacher who extended another offer that he couldn’t turn down.
“She told me I did a great job with the kids and that there was an opening in the lower school for a computer teacher,” Mr. Brown said. “I wasn’t sure what this would entail, but I saw it as an opportunity.”
“I actually interviewed in my bathing suit and flip-flops,” Mr. Brown said. “A couple of weeks later I got a call from the headmaster offering me the job.”
Mr. Brown began teaching kids coding, involving basic mathematical applications and ultimately creating small games.
As he integrated into the school culture, many aspects struck him.
“The first thing that stood out to me was that Pre-K through twelfth grade are all on the same campus,” Mr. Brown said. “I had never experienced anything like that before in my educational background having gone to a public school.”
He believes that this fosters a tight-knit community that allows younger kids to have role models.
“Because my school system was separated, the kids never really saw each other at any part of their growth. Here, kids can look around and see what an upper schooler looks like,” Mr. Brown said. “Having everything all on campus, especially with the sports teams, really astounded me.”
In 2010, Mr. Brown was named Lower School Dean of Students and has since then taught Decision Education.
In his year of teaching, he has learned many lessons that will follow him into the next chapter of his life.
“One lesson I’ve learned from being here is to be other-centered,” Mr. Brown said. “I’m always thinking about how I can help other people, which sometimes is just as simple as helping out in the dining hall.”
“My mindset is just who can I help and where can I help. It’s not about me and my schedule, but how I can break out of that and help other people in and around the school.”
Mr. Brown believes strongly in the importance of our service-learning projects. “It’s not just the can drive, but the times we’ve gone further than our community which are extremely important,” Mr. Brown said.
These acts of charity have held a lot of significance to Mr. Brown and have made him appreciate the community’s willingness to support those around them.
“There was a time when we, as a whole school, decided we were going to go out in the fall and help the neighbors clean up branches and rake leaves,” Mr. Brown said. “Things like that and getting out of the classroom to help others have always stood out to me. Kids get involved without thinking twice about helping people they don’t even know.”
In the last 34 years, the school has changed in many ways. Despite many physical changes, Mr. Brown believes that unity and a sense of family have been constant.
“There’s one thing that’s consistent about [Haverford] all the way through, and that’s that as much as things change and people come and go, this place is like a family and is truly a second home,” Mr. Brown said. “What astounds me day in and day out is that it doesn’t matter if it’s 1989 or 2023, the boys are always exuding positive energy.”
Every student’s ability to overcome obstacles and still remain positive has stood out to Mr. Brown.
“If a kid had a tough day the day before, he is able to get over it and bounce back. They’re able to move past things and support each other. These are the kinds of things that remain consistent along the way.”
Another aspect of Haverford life that Mr. Brown cherishes is the strong sense of brotherhood.
“The brotherhood is not just among the students, but it’s also amongst the faculty and parents,” Mr. Brown said. “It’s people being able to help each other and rely on each other; it’s a family feel and that’s a wonderful thing we have.”
Mr. Brown’s role in the community has changed significantly since his first days. He feels an immense sense of gratitude for the division heads that have made his success possible.
“You always have people that you need to thank for getting you to where you are and being a part of your journey,” Mr. Brown said. “All five of the division heads that I’ve been under have helped me tremendously, and I’m grateful for every one of them in their own ways.”
Mr. Brown has played a large role in contributing to Haverford’s selfless and close-knit community over multiple decades. His wisdom and tutelage have helped many students navigate the lower school, and his lessons in Decision Education provide lifelong knowledge.
One final group of people that Mr. Brown owes credit to are the students.
“[The faculty’s] strength comes from the kids. When they come in, their energy is what keeps you going,” Mr. Brown said. “Ultimately, it’s about the boys.”