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Young Alumnus of the Year

Oct. 3, 2012

2012-13 Baylor University Meritorious Achievement Award // Young Alumnus of the Year

Jay Brown, BBA '95

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During his time as a Baylor student, Arlington, Texas, native Jay Brown found many of his professors were particularly passionate about their students. His Min-Con leader during Welcome Week said that "to whom much is given, much is required," a sentiment that was repeated throughout Brown's freshman year and became a motto for his life. Louie Giglio and Impact also had a huge influence on Brown, and at Baylor Missions Week, he and Ashley Streiff, BA '96, his future wife whom he met at Baylor, signed up to sponsor an orphan through Compassion International. All of these experiences combined to guide Brown and his wife upon a path they still travel -- with a serious passion to serve.

"Those were seeds that were planted during our college years, but as we got out and started working, that gave us a different view of the world, and I think that God used all of it to push us to the way we are today," says Brown.

Since 1999, he has held numerous leadership positions with Crown Castle International Corporation, an S&P 500 company that provides telecommunications infrastructure to companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. In 2008, Brown was appointed senior vice president and chief financial officer.

"What God grants by the graciousness of his hand really doesn't have to do with who we are. I am just a steward of His resources that He's allocated to me, and so I try to use my time, my talent and my resources for Him," he says. "The most important thing in life is not to acquire houses and cars, but to use what He's granted to make an impact in the world."

Undoubtedly, Brown is doing just that. Because of seeds sown at Baylor, he is particularly passionate about loving the world's most vulnerable: orphans, those lacking clean water, and the unborn.

"There are more than 140 million orphans in the world, and when you look at the scriptures, God basically uses the care of orphans as a test of whether we really believe what we say we believe about Him. And the adoption process and the rescue of orphans is really a reflection of what He's done for us," says Brown. "After we had had our four biological children, Ethan (9), Kennedy (7), Braden (5) and Jude (4), Ashley and I discussed lots of ways to care for and help orphans, and given our age and our ability to take orphans into our home, we decided to adopt."

The Browns felt led to adopt a daughter from Ethiopia, but when another couple declined to take a young brother and sister in January of 2011, the Browns decided they wanted both Titus (now 3) and Ainsley (now 2).

"We took the weekend to talk and pray about it, and to see what our four kids thought about it," remembers Brown. "Our kids were hilarious. They were saying, Do we have enough room in our house for two more kids? Can we pay for food for them? Then why wouldn't we just say yes? And God really moved our hearts to do that."

But before the long process was finalized, Ainsley fell gravely ill due to shigella, a deadly waterborne illness and a leading killer of the world's children that originated in her orphanage's unsanitary water supply. When the Browns arrived in Ethiopia, the 20-month-old Ainsley weighed 13 pounds, about the normal weight of a three-month-old in the U.S.

"The doctors actually told us they didn't think she was going to survive," says Brown. "The first time we met her, she was in devastating shape. Ainsley couldn't hold her head up, and she basically had all the characteristics of an infant."

Both U.S. and Ethiopian doctors agreed that Ainsley's only hope was to get her to the U.S. as quickly as possible. The Browns sprung into action to expedite what is normally an excruciatingly laborious process to have Ainsley released early. They completed piles of paperwork and pleaded with officials in both countries to review their documents quickly.

"God did miracle after miracle after miracle, and we got to bring both of them home on that trip. The amazing thing was, there were no bribes or expediting fees; God just inclined these people's hearts to help us. Between the Ethopian and U.S. governments, they did in five days what normally takes three months."

Today, the youngest Brown is completely healthy. Ainsley has no ongoing medical problems and more than doubled her weight in a year's time.

"It's amazing to see the transformation, and to see how the need for clean water in the world impacted us personally because of the near-death of our daughter.

"There are about a billion people in the world who don't have safe drinking water, and nearly 90 percent of all the disease in the world is from lack of clean water and bad sanitation," says Brown, who was already an advocate for clean water long before his daughter's illness. He has served on the board (and is now on the advisory board) for Living Water, a Houston-based nonprofit that provides cost-effective water solutions by drilling wells and distributing water filters for millions of people.

Brown and his wife also feel a strong sense of calling to advocate for the unborn. According to the Guttmacher Institute, of the more than 3 million unintended pregnancies in the U.S. each year, about 40 percent are terminated by induced abortion, and three-quarters of those surveyed as to why they did so cited either a lack of money or an inability to care for the baby.

"We have a responsibility as believers to love and care for both the women and the babies, and to protect the unborn. To me, it's not a political issue. It's not going to be resolved by holding up signs or pointing fingers, but by acts of mercy," says Brown. "And so Ashley and I have been involved with Houston's Fifth Ward Pregnancy Center, which does a phenomenal job helping women at that crisis stage, helping them with education, providing medical and prenatal care, and giving them the opportunity to save the baby and go through an adoption process.

"Orphans, those that lack clean drinking water, and the unborn: we view these as the most vulnerable, and they really are all related. If we can advocate for and help them, we want to spend our lives doing that."

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