Nedra Brown is transforming lives through athletics. And for good reason.
“Athletics saved my life,” said Brown, who immersed herself in sports after trying out for the girls’ basketball team at her middle school in Memphis, Tennessee. “I wasn’t any good, but the coach would not cut anybody. If you didn’t quit, you were on the team. I was hooked from then on and I’ve been involved in athletics since. If not for the fact that she gave me an opportunity, that she stuck with me, that she did not cut me, I would not be sitting here talking to you today. “Athletics kept me out of trouble and provided me an avenue to go to college.”
Brown, the Grossmont College athletic director and associate dean of athletics since July 2019, went on to earn a scholarship in basketball and volleyball to LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, from where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. She later earned a master’s degree in education from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee.
Her first job out of college was as a teacher and middle school track coach and there was no turning back. Brown’s resume includes serving as the head women’s volleyball coach and assistant women’s basketball coach at LeMoyne-Owen College; the head women’s volleyball coach at Kentucky State University; the head women’s volleyball and softball coach at Alabama A&M University; associate athletic director in charge of internal operations at Jackson State University; associate athletic director in charge of compliance and academics at Saginaw Valley State University; and assistant athletics director at Santa Monica College. Brown’s volleyball teams at Alabama A&M won four Southwestern Athletic Conference titles, and went on to play against the likes of UCLA, Tennessee, and Florida State in the NCAA Division I tournament.
“I don’t take my responsibilities here lightly,” Brown said. “This is my purpose, this is my mission. This is who I am, this is what I am, and this is not just something that I do.”
The daughter of a single mom who struggled to make ends meet, Brown is dedicated to her students and a determined role model. “I understand what they’re going through. I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve experienced the deficiencies and barriers that come with attending schools that are underfunded. I, myself, was homeless as a college student-athlete, and once again, my coaches helped save my life.”
She has touched literally thousands of lives. Former students from around the country still reach out, sometimes years later, to thank her for her guidance or to seek advice.
Her mission at Grossmont includes creating an Athletics Department where students can easily find any resource to help them be successful, including additional advisors, a computer lab, food pantry, and student success center – all housed in the Athletics Department. Opportunities abound; Grossmont College fields 16 intercollegiate sports teams.
“It’s about providing students an opportunity through athletics to get the support and the resources they need to complete their educational journey. If we happen to win a championship along the way, that’s just icing on the cake.”
“My students,” Brown added, “are my priority.”