They share the same name, same talents and same philosophies; and on Saturday, May 3, father and son duo Sherwood Brown Sr. and Sherwood Brown Jr. will walk across the same stage to receive their diplomas from Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) School of Business and Industry (SBI).
Sherwood Sr. will receive his MBA from FAMU’s online degree program and Sherwood Jr. will receive his bachelor’s degree in business administration.
“It was not planned,” said Sherwood Jr. “We just looked up one day and realized that we would both be graduating at the same time.”
For the Browns, their shared graduation date may have been happenstance, but a simple conversation with the pair quickly reveals that the conferring of their degrees on Saturday is symbolic of the effectiveness of their family’s resilient spirit and their mantra: “If you start something, finish it.”
For Sherwood Sr., “finishing it” meant returning to academia more than two decades after he received his bachelor’s degree from FAMU in 1989. He had always promised himself that he would return to FAMU to complete the MBA program at the request of founding SBI Dean Sybil Mobley, but the demands of fatherhood, his profession as a business services manager and loan officer, and his commitment as a minister of music left his plate full.
According to Sherwood Sr., it was encouragement from SBI Dean Shawnta Friday-Stroud, his former classmate in undergrad, which inspired him to finally pursue his MBA. When Friday-Stroud took the reigns of SBI in 2010 she advised Sherwood Sr. that now was the time to return to “The Hill” and complete his MBA, and after a little nudging and the successful launch of FAMU’s online degree program, Sherwood Sr. was finally sold. In the fall of 2012, he became a member of the online MBA program’s third cohort.
“I wanted to accomplish something that I said I would do but never did,” said Sherwood Sr., a former member of the Marching “100” and former director of the FAMU Gospel Choir, about what inspired him to finally pursue his MBA. “I also understood that in Corporate America, you are only as good as your last month, so I knew I needed to have those credentials.”
According to Friday-Stroud to see her former classmate and his son receive their diplomas together is a testament to SBI’s legacy of producing graduates who excel despite what life may throw their way.
“Although life happens, determination, perseverance and resilience will lead you to reach your goals,” said Friday-Stroud. “You have to stay the course and grind it out; and Sherwood Sr. and Sherwood Jr. are both true testaments to this. “
According to Sherwood Sr., his return to FAMU was not just about him. He wanted to be an example to his children regarding the importance of always striving to better yourself and never giving up on your goals.
His steadfastness impacted Sherwood Jr.
When Sherwood Jr. came to FAMU in 2008, the university was just finalizing its music industry bachelor’s degree program, which was the degree he wanted to obtain. But, since the program was not yet in full swing, Sherwood Jr. had to find alternative means to get an education that specifically focused on the business of music. So he got creative and took classes in both SBI and the Department of Music. He developed mentorship relationships with professors in both tracks and participated in extra curricular activities, such as performing with FAMU’s anti-hazing performance group, Groove 87, and working in sales and promotion at 90.5 WANM-FM. He knew it would take him longer than normal to graduate, but was willing to go the extra mile.
“I knew what my ultimate goal was, so I did everything in my power to get there,” said Sherwood Jr.,” who plans to purse a career in marketing, in addition to continuing his musical pursuits, which recently included sharing the stage with FAMU’s own BK Jackson, R&B’s Musiq Soulchild and Lyfe Jennings, and releasing his own CD “The Wood,” which he wrote, produced and marketed on his own.
“Although there were times when I got weary and could have easily went forward with pursuing a career in music full-time, I knew – through the encouragement and example of my parents – that I had to do things in order and finish my degree. I was taught that you can’t just jump out in the fire. So many young music artists today go out there with nothing to fall back on, with no education.”
Sherwood Jr.’s mother Rebecca Brown, FAMU’s interim assistant vice president for Administrative Services, who like her husband and son is also musically inclined and is a graduate of the SBI program, credits FAMU for helping her husband and son stay the course, after all it was FAMU who brought their family together. Rebecca and Sherwood Sr. met while both were members of the FAMU Gospel Choir.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” said Rebecca about the excitement building up around their home in preparation for Saturday. Sherwood Sr. and Rebecca's other son Yeman, will also graduate from Florida State University’s dance program on Saturday.
“It’s really important to me that here at FAMU you have people that really care about the success of the student. You get that extra push and rich tradition of extra care, which was important to the success of my son and my husband,” Rebecca said.