Pro Joe staple in the Wesleyan community

Professor Joe Brown sits in his office surrounded by his trinkets and memorabilia that make him feel more at home. (Chiara Watson)

The colors of Africa, the sights of Asia, the history of Europe, all the trinkets, paintings and collectables that adorn the walls and shelves of the office greet you, bright and welcoming. An enthusiastic Joe Brown, professor of theatre arts and assistant dean of freshmen, sits in his chair, comfortable, almost as if he were home.

He smiles as his eyes widen and his warm voice speaks, “welcome.” Brown, known by the Wesleyan community as “Pro Joe”, is by nature a very visual and eccentric person. His office is a reflection of that.

Everything he has on display tells stories of the places he’s been, his accomplishments and the things and people he holds close to his heart. Before he even begins to speak, you get a sense of who he is simply by being in his space.

Brown held various positions at the university and as a result has taken on several names. “I’ve had many lives; kind of like a cat,” Brown said. In his earlier years as the chair of theatre at Texas Wesleyan, Brown’s students referred to him as “Papa Joe”. Seeing as he felt too old at the time to be referred to as “Papa”, students began to call him Professor Joe and eventually the nickname “Pro Joe” was born.

Brown’s current theatre students tease him about his age and struggles with technology so a new nickname emerged. The students often joke and call him a dinosaur creating the new name of “Dyno Dad”.

Brown started his journey at Texas Wesleyan University in 1978 working with and growing the theatre department for 22 years. He started out teaching technical theatre and speech classes, while working on sets and lights. Eventually, he decided to branch out and try other positions at the university. That is when he became the dean of freshmen and began teaching freshman success classes.

Brown was very hands on in his approach to teaching the freshmen. He built long-lasting and personal relationships with his students. “No matter what you teach, you have to be more personal for them to want to feel comfortable to reach out to you,” Brown said. International students and freshmen alike see him as a father figure and feel comfortable coming to him for help in almost any situation.

Second year international student and psychology major Kunjan Patel said that Brown has been a mentor to her and has helped her overcome her fears of being homesick. “He taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes and everything takes time,” said Patel.

One of Brown’s favorite memories at Wesleyan was when he recalled his 50th birthday in which he had a party to celebrate Theatre Wesleyan and other theatres around Fort Worth. Turning 50 was a big milestone for the professor who still plans to live many more years. “I said, I’m going to spend the money and we’re going to have a big party with food and an open bar and all the theater people and all my alumni,” Brown said. Many people flew in for the event, highlighting the impact that he has had on so many people’s lives.

Before he became Pro Joe, he was just a young man from the hills of Northwest Arkansas searching for his place and purpose in life. After high school, he attended John Brown University to pursue a major in music before he switched to study architecture. He realized that architecture was not for him and transferred to the University of Arkansas where he fell back into theatre.

He graduated with honors and decided to apply to Yale University and Southern Methodist University (SMU) for his graduate studies. He was accepted in both schools but felt that Yale was too far away and ended up at SMU. Upon finishing his graduate studies he found a job opening at Texas Wesleyan and moved to Fort Worth.

The future for Brown may not be what he had anticipated. He had planned to retire after 45 years at Wesleyan but it seems as though he may be staying to see things through in the theatre department and focus more on his work with international students.