Brown surprised by Unity Award

For 22 years, Columbus State University President Frank Brown has made it a priority to attend the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Award Breakfast.

Monday morning, he almost missed it. His driveway was iced over and he wondered if it was wise to try and leave the house.

"I am so glad I did," Brown said.

The local Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity chapter presented Brown, who is retiring this year, with its Unity Award.

Until Rigdon Road Principal Phylis G. Jones, last year's winner, said the 2008 recipient was a native of Flomaton, Ala., Brown never saw the honor coming.

"I will take this honor for all of the people who have worked together in this community for so many years," Brown said in accepting the award in front of nearly 500 people at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

Brown has been the CSU president for 20 years. The university has grown steadily in enrollment and launched a downtown arts campus under his low-key leadership style.

Brown point to four men, all past Unity Award winners, as his mentors and gave them credit for the success of the university.

A.J. McClung, George Ford Jr., Delmar Edwards and Albert Thompson Jr., were men who helped point Brown and Columbus State in the right direction.

"I couldn't have had better friends than those four," he said.

What was once an all-white university, today has a 35 percent African American enrollment.

Robert Wright, also a past Unity Award winner, said it was fitting that Brown was honored.

"He has been an inspiration to a lot of people," Wright said. "This is a good send off."