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Retired Hussman professor Jane Brown honored with Howes Lifetime Achievement Award

Photo Courtesy of Jane Brown.

The UNC Retired Faculty and Professionals Association presented professor emeritus Jane Brown with the Jonathan B. Howes Lifetime Achievement Award at its spring general meeting and luncheon on Monday

Before she retired in 2012, Brown worked at the University for 35 years. She worked as a professor in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and as a fellow at the Carolina Population Center.

Over the course of her career, she studied the effects of mass media on the development of adolescents, established a graduate certificate program in interdisciplinary health communication and served as the UNC Faculty Council chair

Bob Lauterborn, the president of the RFPA, told Brown that she won the Howes Award by email.

“I was very surprised and honored, of course, but I thought, ‘I don't have anything to talk about because I don't do research anymore,’” Brown said

Brown said her friend Jan Yopp, who joined the faculty with her in 1977, encouraged her to accept it and to talk about her life in retirement.

Brown is the first woman to win the Howes Award since it was established in 2015.

She said that she did not see many other women on the faculty when she joined, and that only two other women had been hired at the journalism school prior to her arrival. 

“You kind of hate to brag on that too much, because women should have been getting this award all along,” Bobbi Owen, the president-elect of the RFPA, said. “I actually know that women have been very active in the Retired Faculty and Professionals Association. The first president was a woman, so that's a good thing.”

Owen, who also serves as chair of the Howes Award Committee, said she reviewed a “big, complicated dossier” of potential winners with her colleagues before selecting Brown as the recipient. Owen said Brown was like the award’s namesake, Jonathan B. Howes, in that she made an impact inside and outside the University. 

“I think that Jane's activities in the community as well as on campus — not just the fact that she did things inside and outside, but the depth of those activities — really make her stand out,” Owen said.

During her acceptance speech, Brown talked about how she learned to savor her free time after leading a busy, successful career. While she is energetic by nature and likes being productive, she said she was relieved to be free of the myriad responsibilities she shouldered as a member of faculty. 

As a retiree, Brown has enjoyed serving as her family’s historian, starting a book club and sitting with Chuck — her favorite pet chicken.

She also started writing a column called “Down the Road a Piece” for The Local Reporter, an online news publication that serves Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Southern Orange County. 

Michelle Cassell, the managing editor of The Local Reporter, said Brown is a vibrant and charming woman, and that she cherishes the opportunity to work with her. 

“This past Christmas, I was struggling with getting current news and things that were going on,” Cassell said. “She wrote this wonderful story about making Christmas cookies with different generations — with her grandmother and her mother, and now her daughter and their grandkids. And oddly enough, that one column got more hits than any other article we've ever had.”

In remarks at the RFPA luncheon, Brown thanked Cassell, her colleagues, UNC faculty and those who nominated her for the Howes Award. She closed her speech by wishing each of the members of the RFPA a retirement that they loved.


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