Brown, Joyce F. 1946–
Joyce F. Brown 1946–
Educator, administrator, psychologist
Joyce F. Brown was raised to believe in herself and that, if she worked hard, she would be able to achieve her goals. Armed with these principles, this postman’s daughter from Harlem became a professor and vice-chancellor at a major university, a deputy mayor for the city of New York, and the president of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), the first woman and the first African American to serve in that post. Presiding over an enrollment of 12,000 students, it has become Brown’s mandate to lead FIT into the next century with an investment in technology and an expanded campus in New York’s garment district.
Born in New York City to Robert E. Brown, a postal clerk, and Joyce Brown, a clerk with the New York City Housing Authority, Brown was raised in the Harlem section of the city and attended Catholic schools. Her parents set firm guidelines for Brown and her older sister. “It was always a given that we would go to college and be the best we could be in whatever we chose to do,” she told Monte Williams of the New York Times. “There was a strong work ethic and the belief that if we worked hard and did not expect that it would be easy and we kept at it, it would work.”
Following graduation from high school, Brown attended Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York, then returned to New York City to take graduate courses at New York University. As a clinical psychology graduate student, Brown was also working full time as a financial aid counselor at the university. “I’m the ‘mail room’ story,’” she told Phaedra Brotherton of Black Enterprise. “I enjoyed the administrative work I did early on, so I stayed.”
Over the next decade, Brown held a variety of other administrative and faculty positions at a number of New York institutions. In 1983, she accepted a position at Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY). As dean of urban affairs, Brown directed a number of initiatives, including the Urban Summit of Big City Mayors and ongoing programs between the New York City Board of Education and the university that are designed to improve academic preparation and retention in secondary schools.
In 1990, Brown was named acting president of Baruch
At a Glance…
Born Joyce F. Brown on July 7, 1946 in New York, NY; daughter of Robert E. Brown, a postal clerk, and Joyce Cappie Brown, a clerk with the New York City Housing Authority; married H. Carl McCall, New York State comptroller, August 13, 1983. Education: Marymount College, B.A, 1968: New York University, MA., 1970, Ph, D, 1980; Institute for Educational Management, Harvard University, 1990.
Career: Financial aid counselor, New York University, 1969–70; dean of urban affairs, Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY), 1983–90, acting president, 1990, vice chancellor for urban affairs and development, 1990–93: deputy mayor for public and community affairs, 1993; professor of clinical psychology at the Graduate School and University Center of CUNY, 1994–98; president, Fashion Institute of Technology and chief executiveofficer of the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries, 1998-.
Addresses: Office —Fashion Institute of Technology, President’s Office, Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, New York, NY 10001.
College. She was later named vice chancellor for urban affairs and development. In that role, Brown led a South African education development program in conjunction with corporate agencies and other educational institutions. The goal of the program was to strengthen and increase the skills and professional experience of black South Africans through exposure to educational and professional placements.
The South African program was noticed by then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins. In 1993, Mayor Dinkins named Brown deputy mayor for public and community affairs. “In my administration everyone had a voice,” the former mayor told Monte Williams of the New York Times. “Joyce was somebody whose opinion I respected.” The following year, Brown accepted a professorship of clinical psychology at the Graduate School and University Center of CUNY.
In 1998, following a year-long nationwide search and 89 interviews, a ten-member board appointed Brown as president of the Fashion Institute of Technology, a college of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. “FIT is a unique New York City institution which contributes significantly to the economic vitality of the region,” Brown said at the time of her appointment. “The college provides both national and international opportunities for our many talented and creative students to realize their potential. I look forward to leading FIT as we continue to invigorate our academic programs and participate in the global marketplace.” Brown was also named chief executive officer of the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries, an advisory and support body of FIT.
As the president of a high profile institution such as FIT, Brown faced the added pressure of being the first woman and first African American to hold the post. Her concern about such matters was eclipsed by her pride. “Being black is never incidental,” she told Monte Williams of the New York Times. “It’s central to who I am. But I don’t think FIT set out to make a statement about gender or ethnicity. They wanted to find the best person to lead the institution.”
Brown recognizes the importance of being a role model to young women of all races. As the keynote speaker at a Women’s History Month event which honored Brown and six other talented women, she remarked, “We must tell our story—to set the record straight, to recognize the brave, bold, and brilliant women whose achievements have been overlooked, and most importantly, to give women and girls everywhere role models, a sense of their own worth, and the confidence to pursue their dreams and goals.”
While FIT may have focused on fashion when it was founded in 1956, it has since expanded into a broader educational experience. In addition to fashion, FIT offers 30 majors including interior design, advertising and marketing communications, photography, toy design, cosmetics and fragrance marketing. “I think FIT exemplifies so much of what is New York—it’s dynamic, it’s creative and it’s always moving and out there on the cutting edge,” Brown told Arthur Friedman of WWD. “When visitors come to the city and they think of the museums and other great institutions that are integral to New York, we want them to think of FIT.”
To that end, Brown has embarked on a capital campaign to expand the campus and update the school’s technological capabilities. “We have to make sure we’re ahead of the curve in technology and I don’t think that’s easy,” Brown admitted to Friedman. “It takes money and it takes talent and it takes time, and you have to find all three of those things if you’re going to keep developing.” Additionally, Brown planned to expand the school’s facilities to include a courtyard, new classrooms and lounges, and a hall for fashion shows and presentations. “I’m very anxious to get moving on that expansion,” she told Friedman. “We need to start so people will be able to see things moving.”
Although Brown’s plans for FIT were ambitious, she had a built-in support system when she arrived at the school. “I’ve been really pleased by the core of optimism,” she told Friedman. “Many people have been here for many years and are very devoted and committed to the institution. They live with the belief and the hope that we will revitalize and make whatever organization or structural changes we need to make to really present ourselves as a coherent, cohesive, integrated community…. It’s a lot easier to appeal to the community when you have a natural constituency. It keeps us sharp and shows us the directions in which we need to grow.”
Brown arrived at FIT with more than 30 years of experience in public higher education and a simple mandate. “Just lead with a certain level of confidence,” she told Phaedra Brotherton of Black Enterprise, “and trust in your abilities and experience.” Brown also believes in remaining open to new possibilities. As she told Friedman in WWD, “What I’ve learned so far is that the industry has a great deal of goodwill toward the institution and wants it to succeed. There’s a great opportunity to create a growth path and develop in ways we probably can’t even imagine right now.”
Daily News Record, May 6, 1998, p. 2.
Jet, May 18, 1998, p. 34.
New York Times, April 29, 1998, p. B-6; December 2, 1998, p. B-19.
WWD, April 28, 1998, p. 19; September 8, 1998, p.8.
Additional information for this profile was provided by the Office of College Relations at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
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