Among the awards handed out by the Northeastern Junior College Alumni Association at Saturday’s Hoops Homecoming was the Pathfinder Award, honoring outstanding alumni or former students who have made outstanding contributions in their field of endeavor wherein training or education began at NJC.
This year’s award recipient is Don Brown.
Born and raised on the Brown family’s farm and ranch southeast of Yuma, he was extremely active growing up in Yuma. He was active in his Yuma FFA Chapter and served as chapter president and the Colorado FFA President from 1973 – 1974.
After he graduated high school he went on to NJC, where he served as president of the Associated Student Government from 1975 – 1976.
Brown graduated with an Associate of Arts Degree in Agriculture in 1976 and then proceeded to attend Colorado State University. While at CSU, he was a legislative intern to Colorado Senate President Fred Anderson. Brown graduated from CSU with High Distinction with a degree in Vocational Agriculture Education in 1978.
Brown married Peggy Leckler, another NJC Alum, in 1978 in Sterling. They have three children Tyson, Sabrina and Alex. Their family over time has assumed all roles and continues to grow the diversified farm and ranch.
Through the years, Brown has also expanded his interests and has grown within the oil and gas industry and manufacturing and business development. He began purchasing working interests in oil and gas exploration projects in Colorado, then formed Anchor Production LLC to purchase working interests in oil and gas wells in New Mexico. He has participated in horizontal drilling since the technology was in its infancy.
Brown founded Pivotal Fencing Systems, resulting in product sales throughout the continental United States and limited international sales. He developed prototypes and designed foundry patterns for aluminum castings, which led to receiving two U.S. patents for fence, fence posts and gate systems.
Brown has dedicated years to studying the structure and the hydrology of the Ogallala Aquifer, which he is constantly trying to conserve, by the implementation of new techniques and equipment and serves as the director of the Republican River Watershed Conservation District.
On top of all of that, Brown has still continued to farm. In a 30-year period, he has increased the family operation tenfold.
Then came, what some people know the name Don Brown from, he became the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture. During his administration, he was a National Academy of Science’s Committee invitee for a presentation of federal farm surveys. He helped implement agricultural/rural focus by creating training videos for the Colorado Crisis Hotline. He was the vice chair for the Food Regulatory Committee for the National Association of State Departments of Ag. He was president of the 13-state Western United States Agricultural Trade Association and worked with the EPA Administrator’s McCarthy, Pruitt and FDA Commissioner Gottlieb to change federal agricultural policies.
Throughout Brown’s career, he still has continually been extremely active, in all types of organizations, including past President of the Yuma School District.
Brown has also kept NJC and CSU front and center of where he has given back over the years. He and his wife Peggy were responsible for chartering the director of the reformed NJC Alumni Association. Then Brown became the president of the NJC Alumni Association during 1984 and 1985. He is also a lifetime member of the association.
Additionally, he has been a past director of the Yuma/Washington County CSU Alumni, as well as has a classroom named for the Brown family in the Center for Agricultural Education Building at CSU.
Because of everything that Brown and his family have been involved in over the decades, there has become quite a list of honors that he has received, including Colorado Centennial Farm Award – Homesteaded by Albert Brown in 1911, Alumni of the Plains Award – Progressive 15 of Northeast Colorado, Top Choice Award – Colorado Livestock Association, Honorary Chair of the Colorado Mental Health Tribute Gala and inducted to the Hall of Fame – Colorado State University Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Brown has already been awarded the NJC Alumni Association Service Award in 1989 and he and his wife Peggy were awarded the President’s Award in 2014. With this year’s Pathfinder Award he is only the fourth alumni in history, to be awarded all three distinctions.
Upon accepting the award, Brown spoke about the friendly, caring place that NJC is and how much it has meant to him and his wife, “she and I are both inspired by this place and this organization, it’s an honor to receive this award.”
Also recognized at Saturday’s luncheon were Honorary Award winners, administration, faculty and staff who have recently retired, including Maret Felzien, Connie Henderson, Alice Weingardt, Diane Reuzer and Kent Ross, as well as outgoing Alumni Association Board member Dennis Everhart.
In Wednesday’s Journal-Advocate: the President’s Award winners.