2018 SOUTHSIDE PERSON OF THE YEAR: Ben Brown

INDIANAPOLIS RESIDENT LIVES BY CATHOLIC FAITH AND CHARITABLE WORKS

By Stephanie Dolan

According to its website, the Catholic Business Network (CBN) is an association of businesses and professionals working together for the joint benefit of its members. The organization is dedicated to the support and advancement of Catholic education across the region, and members strive to be community examples of high ethics, integrity and honesty in business practices.

The group’s motivation is to study, live and expand their faith in their professional and personal lives while giving back to their community. Founded in 2005, this faith-based group of parish business leaders are supported by three pillars of devotion: Catholic faith, charitable works and Christian business networking.

Ben Brown speaks at an Inspirational Insights gathering. (Submitted photo)

One member stands out from the crowd in upholding all three of these pillars as well as continuing to regularly live the ideals that CBN puts into practice. That is why Ben Brown, chairperson of CBN’s Inspiration Insights, is The Southside Times’ person of the year for 2018.

“I’ve known him over 40 years,” longtime friend Pat Schubach said. “The entire time I’ve known Ben there are a few things I’ve always appreciated about him and that always strike me. Ben is always willing to defend or be an advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves. He has always been one to make the right choices versus the popular ones, and he’s always been fearless in his willingness to do that.

“Peer pressure is tough as a teenager, and he was always one to make the right decision. He’s one of the very few people I’ve known that if he gives you his word you can bank on it. He’s so trustworthy. Whether it’s work or volunteer related, if he’s involved, he immediately adds credibility to whatever it is. He always gets it done. He’s OK taking charge.”

Schubach said the honor bestowed on his friend of more than 40 years does not surprise him.

“He’s very deserving and exactly the kind of person who should be recognized,” he said. “He’s involved in all kinds of things. He’s got a lot of interests and he’s willing to always put himself out there. It’s admirable and it takes a lot of courage to do that.”

Schubach said he has a lot of admiration for Brown.

“Great friends, strong faith, great husband and father – he’s just a great person I’ve always admired for all those reasons,” he said. “He’s been a really good friend for me. Being able to truly trust someone is something special.”

“Ben Brown has a heart of gold and he cares deeply about his native Southside as well as its Catholic community,” said Rick Myers, publisher of The Southside Times and president of the Catholic Business Network. “His work with Inspirational Insights alone – where thousands of dollars have been raised to help children attain a Catholic school education – make him worthy enough for this honor.”

How it started

Brown, a former Beech Grove resident who now lives in Indianapolis, comes by his servant’s spirit honestly; he was raised by parents who were heavily committed to volunteerism themselves. Alice and Dick Brown were instrumental in bringing Habitat for Humanity to Indianapolis; they spearheaded a project that provided gospel recordings to cancer patients and they worked tirelessly to get Buck Creek Players off the ground and working as a thriving theater company.

Right, Brown with his mother, Alice, and father, Dick. (Photo by Stephanie Dolan)

“It was very important to have our children involved,” Alice said. “Everything we do involved the children. We’ve always been a close family.”

Brown was one of five siblings, and the Brown family was no stranger to hard work and giving back.

“I think the kids saw that we enjoyed doing different things and were having a lot of fun and they came along with that naturally,” Alice said. “Ben more than any of them right now is more active. It’s great. We’re very proud and excited.”

“We know that our son has a gift of getting people to participate in things,” Dick said. “He’s kind of a natural born leader in that respect. I’ve watched him go through everything he’d done and I just see the spark there.”

“His enthusiasm is contagious,” Alice chimed in. “He’s always enthusiastic about everything he participates in. He has a lot of ideas.”

“I got some good genes from both sides,” Brown said.

“It goes beyond being friendly and outgoing,” Dick said. “That describes him as a person. But he’s also a born leader.”

“He’s terrific,” Alice added. “He’s just so balanced. I think he’s a very balanced and engaging person.”

For Brown, his parents are his greatest inspiration.

“I look at them now more when I see them together as this couple who have been married for so long and they’re almost inseparable,” he said. “They do everything together. It’s for anybody to admire to have a committed relationship for so long. It all starts at home, and I have great examples in my parents of what it means to give back. My family has always served in some way.”

Ben Brown takes part in choir practice at St Jude Catholic Church. (Photo by Stephanie Dolan)

Brown also said that he doesn’t feel worthy of this honor.

“I feel truly honored and humbled,” he said. “It’s just surreal.”

Where it’s going

As a father, Brown found himself further inspired in setting an example for his own daughter, Madeline, who is now 20.

“When my daughter was born and was at St. Jude, my wife, Mary Jo, and I always helped out with everything that was going on there,” he said.

At Roncalli High School, Madeline was in the band.

“Every parent knows that’s a whole other level of commitment to be involved with the band,” Brown said. “Every event those kids went to, we were there. My wife and I also ran the Roncalli Rebel Grill every Friday for four years.”

Now, Brown focuses much of his time on CBN and Inspirational Insights. Plus, as an employee of Office360, he is encouraged to regularly seek opportunities for giving back.

“Since I’ve been with the organization (CBN) for nearly 10 years I’ve put my heart and soul into it,” he said. “I’ve taken over our biggest fundraiser of the year called Inspirational Insights. This was our 11th year. We raise money for tuition assistance for needs-based families in Catholic parishes across the city. It’s a pretty big undertaking, and I’ll probably continue to do it because it’s a labor of love for me. Everything our organization is going to do I want to be engaged with it. I feel very blessed to have been given all the things I had growing up. I want to give back because I think that’s what we’re called to do.”

5 Questions with Ben Brown

What are you currently reading, and what’s your favorite book?

Right now, It’s actually a book that my daughter got me, A Narrative of a Revolution War Soldier. She called me one night and asked me what part of history I really liked, and I said either the Revolutionary War or the Civil War. I’ve always been fascinated with both of those wars. My favorite book is John Grisham’s A Time to Kill.  But I also love self-help books, and probably one of the best books I’ve read is Rich Man, Poor Manalong with Millionaire Next Door.

If you were going to write a book about volunteerism – or one of your volunteer experiences – what would the title be?

Give It Your All.

What is your favorite song to perform with the choir?

I cantor with three other guys, and one of the songs we perform is “Servant’s Song.”

What are you most looking forward to about Christmas?

Spending time with my two girls. We’re doing something we’ve never done before – we’re going down to Disney World for Christmas. Of course, there’s the Brown family gift exchange, which is always a blast.

Do you have any pets?

Yes, we have a rescue dog named Dewey.