Family, friends and members of the University of Houston (UH) community gathered on a bright October day to pay tribute to a beloved figure, Janelle Brown, during a heartfelt memorial service at the A.D. Bruce Religion Center. Brown, who dedicated more than three decades of her life to UH, touched the hearts of many with her unwavering commitment and boundless spirit.
Brown's journey with the university began in 1991, and for over 32 years, she played a pivotal role in the lives of countless students, employees, and friends. Brown ended her decades-long career in Student Housing & Residential Life (SHRL), where she served as housing manager processing room assignments for on-campus residents, among one of her chief responsibilities. Brown was more than an employee; a beacon of positivity, and a driving force behind numerous initiatives that enriched the lives of those she encountered.
Don Yackley, vice president for student affairs (SHRL), took to the podium with a heavy heart, reflecting on Janelle's impact. Yackley spoke of how Brown showed up every day, radiating love and positive energy, leaving a lasting impression on everyone she met.
Dr. Karl Hearne, executive assistant - Neighborhood & Strategic Initiatives, followed with a scripture reading that brought solace and reflection to the gathering. Rev. Dominique Allen from Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church led a heartfelt prayer, offering comfort to those in attendance. The soul-stirring "May the Road Rise to Meet You," sung by Natalie Thompson, filled the air with hope and inspiration.
Dr. Monica Thompson, interim associate vice chancellor/associate vice president for student affairs – Division of Student Affairs (DSA), highlighted Brown's extraordinary dedication by reading a proclamation issued by the university.
“Janelle Brown was an employee of the University of Houston from 1991 to 2023. As we gather here today, we remember and honor the remarkable life of Janelle Brown. A true embodiment of UH pride and spirit, Janelle was not merely a member of our community. She was the heart and soul, a shining example of dedication and service,” - Thompson.
Brown's influence extended far beyond her role in SHRL. She was an active participant in various organizations, including UH Staff Council, National PanHellenic Council, UH Black Leadership Network and the UH Black Alumni Association. Her boundless energy and unwavering commitment made the UH community a better place for all.
In recognition of her exceptional contributions, Thompson announced that the Cougar Spirt Award, presented annually to a DSA staff member, would be renamed in Brown’s honor. This award recognizes Student Affairs staff who demonstrate exceptional dedication to volunteer service and exemplify the true Cougar spirit through positive attitudes, acts of teamwork, creativity, and cooperation.
A poignant moment arrived with the Candle Lighting Ceremony, where every council and network that Brown actively participated in paid their respects. The room filled with a warm and radiant glow, a fitting tribute to Brown's enduring spirit.
Pastor Donnell A. Johnson, Sr., of the Historic Avenue L. Baptist Church, delivered a heartfelt eulogy, recounting Brown's remarkable journey and the lives she touched. The service concluded with closing remarks by Dr. Daniel M. Maxwell, interim vice chancellor - DSA, leaving attendees with a sense of gratitude for having known Brown. Brown's memory will forever be etched in the hearts and history of the UH community, serving as a source of inspiration for generations to come.
Following the memorial service, a community barbecue, sponsored by SHRL, was held in Brown’s honor. The event welcomed UH on-campus residents to come together in the spirit of camaraderie and community, reflecting Brown's deep love for all things UH.
Written by: Somdatta Basu, Marketing Manager, SHRL
Photos by: Anuraag Shah, Videographer & Photographer, SHRL