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Featured Alumnus: Campbell P. Brown ’86
Adam Hushin

Featured Alumnus: Campbell P. Brown ’86

It’s been almost 40 years since Campbell P. Brown ’86 and his classmates graduated from Avon Old Farms, yet he still feels a strong connection to the school. So, when he was asked to return to the Farm as this year’s commencement speaker, he eagerly agreed. “The immediate impressions I got when I first stepped on campus have never left me,” he says. “Even when I’ve returned over the years, it still hits me with the same effect.”

He still remembers the feeling of awe when he first saw the beautifully unique architecture and serene setting that encompass the school. He also remembers the strong relationships he built with peers and faculty members. “Right away Frank Leavitt ’52, P’76, GP’15 and Peter Evans H’18, P’98 welcomed me and made me feel comfortable. It really was a great all-around experience. I love talking about it.”

Brown says that even as someone who wasn’t a stellar student or outstanding athlete, he still felt like a valuable member of the Brotherhood. “I grew up in Montreal playing hockey, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I probably wouldn’t be a varsity player at Avon. I was so impressed with the quality of athletes there. I still feel like I was a part of all of it.”

While his fond memories of his time as a student are certainly one reason Brown agreed to deliver a commencement speech, there is also a personal connection to the Class of 2024 that makes this an even more special opportunity. Brown is a close friend of the Thornton family, whose son Henry will be graduating this year. Brown says he has been in touch with Henry throughout his time at Avon and has even gotten to know some of his friends. He admits he’s been trying to convince some of them to play sports at the University of Louisville. “I’ve just been really impressed with the boys in this class. It’s nice as the speaker to have a real connection with who this class is.” 

There is one other, less-serious component that motivated Brown to deliver a commencement speech. His father G. Garvin Brown III ’62 is a recipient of the Alumni Order of Old Farms. His younger brother Garvin ’87 received the Order of Old Farms during his graduation ceremony and has been a featured alumnus in the past. His mother’s name is immortalized around campus, most prominently in the name of the Susan Casey Brown Auditorium. None of them, however, have ever delivered a commencement speech. “I finally get to do something they’ve never done,” he jokes. 

The honor of delivering a commencement speech is not lost on Brown. While he didn’t want to reveal everything he plans to say, he says he will emphasize what makes an AOF diploma different. In short, he says, it’s the dedication of staff toward student success and the character of the school. “The character of these boys has been forged on the fields, in the classroom, in interactions with each other. What they’ve had is very rare. What they’ve accomplished and become is unique.”

The primary principle Brown hopes students take away from his speech is an understanding of how special their experience as Avon students is. “Even when their lives bring them further and further away from Avon, you don’t forget your experience. You don’t forget the friends you made and the mentors that impacted your life.”

Brown is proof of this fact. His work for Brown–Forman, a Louisville-based distillery corporation known for prominent brands including Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve, has taken him all over the world. Early on in his career he spent time in Turkey, India, and other areas of the globe before returning to the U.S. to live and work in Louisville. A great-great grandson of Brown-Forman’s founder, he has been an employee of the company for over 27 years and has served on the Board for seven years.

In 2021, in the midst of the instability of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown took over the position of Chair of the Board of Directors. In this role, he oversees the Board and works closely with shareholders. He has also made a commitment to get involved in and around the city of Louisville. “It was important to me to reestablish ourselves in the community.” Maintaining a focus on the local community is an impressive feat for a company that operates in more than 170 countries worldwide.

There have been recent milestones in Brown’s personal life as well. His oldest daughter will soon be celebrating her own high school graduation and will begin college in the fall, while his younger daughter will make the transition to boarding school to forge fond memories of her own. Who knows? Perhaps she will return to her school decades after graduating to deliver a commencement speech as well. 

While others are excited for Brown’s address, he admits he is a bit nervous. “I’m looking forward to it. I just hope I don’t disappoint the rest of the Class of ’86.”

Avon Old Farms’ 90th Commencement Ceremonies will take place on Sunday, May 26. The event will be livestreamed at avonoldfarms.com/livestream for any who wish to watch Brown’s address.