April 6, 2006
By Christine Shaw
After 28 years of leading student groups through Toledo, Spain, and 43 years of traveling in Spain together, Ohio University-Zanesville professors Karen and Russell Brown decided this past summer was the last. Recently the University of Castilla-La Mancha honored the couple's dedication to students and their love for Toledo, Spain, in an award ceremony.
"In recognition of their years of dedication to the teaching of Spanish and for an entire life of fruitful collaboration with the city of Toledo, Spain," Karen Brown easily translated from the award with a smile on her face.
In the 43 years of traveling in Spain, the couple helped set the standard of teaching students the language while experiencing the culture as well. The two Spanish instructors began their passion for the Spanish language when they met at the University Complutense of Madrid in 1963. The couple's Spanish connection goes further back to 1931, when Russ's father helped found the sister-city relationship of Toledo, Spain, and Toledo, Ohio. This year, the relationship is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
In addition being recognized for their commitment to the study abroad program, the Browns had the opportunity to meet King Juan Carlos I for the second time in 25 years. "It was exactly 25 years ago since we met the King the first time," says Karen, "when the 50th anniversary of the two Toledos was celebrated."
The Browns attended an award ceremony where Juan Carlos presented a prize, sponsored by the Royal Foundation of Toledo Spain, recognizing the 75th anniversary of the sister-city relationship. Now, it is the oldest sister-city relationship in the world. This long-standing relationship coupled with the Browns' dedication to study abroad was enough to have the couple receive a personalized invitation to the stately affair.
"I really believe when you don't expect anything in return, that's when things happen," says Karen. "Now my pumpkin is parked outside my office as I come back to reality from our visit with Royalty."
The Browns have helped Ohio University and Muskingum College extend its educational resources beyond the classroom through education abroad. In 1977, Karen and Russ took their first student group across the Atlantic to experience Toledo, Spain, and its culture. In 1984, Karen became the director of Ohio University-Zanesville's field studies in Spain and led her first study abroad group. During the past eight years, Ohio University-Zanesville and Muskingum College joined to participate in the Espanol en Toledo (ESTO) program, sponsored by the University of Castilla-LaMancha.
Russ and Karen Brown have hosted students, teaching assistants, visiting instructors and young adults from Toledo, Spain, for many years. The two belong to the Board of the Association of Two Toledos based in Toledo, Ohio, and have supported the Russell G.C. Brown Scholarship named in memory of Russ's father. The scholarship is awarded to a student of Toledo, Ohio, who wishes to study in Toledo, Spain.
In keeping with the family tradition of supporting study abroad, Karen Brown, along with Ohio University-Zanesville Professor of Political Science, Jim Jordan, established the Jordan-Brown Fund for International Study and Internships. Five scholarships have been awarded in the past four years with another one scheduled to be awarded in June. For information about this fund, contact Cindy Linn, Assistant Dean of Development at (740) 588-1547 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine Shaw is the grants, special projects and public relations coordinator at Ohio University-Zanesville.