Students sometimes ask him what William the Conqueror, a man who lived a thousand years ago was like, but Ronald Brown, tenured professor at the Shepard Broad Law Center, is more than just a professor who has been at NSU since it was a war surplus airfield, he’s a professor who knows the value of history and flexibility.
Brown earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at Northeastern University in 1970 and worked for numerous companies including Honeywell, before he realized the career he pursued wasn’t the right fit for him. Brown began searching and found law. He earned a Master of Laws from Temple University in 1976.
“I was looking for something else and stumbled into law and luckily I stumbled into something that was right for me. And that’s the most important lesson,” he said. “Be open to new things and opportunities because you can never tell when that right thing is going to come along and if you refuse to even consider it, you will miss your opportunities.”
Brown said he loves teaching property law and contracts because of how it historically evolved. Understanding history makes the present laws and contracts make sense, he said. In his classes, Brown starts with the Norman Invasion of England in 1066 (which is why he is asked if he knew William the Conqueror) to help his students see how everything fits together.
“The law is a very human product so studying law is studying humans. And this can be a strange study. Sometimes things evolved in a rational way, but sometimes I wonder why people in history would’ve ever done that,” said Brown.
Law is also a way for Brown to have control, a trait, he said, all lawyers and law professors have. People come into law because they want to control and understand their legal environment, but they find it frustrating when laws vary from state to state he said.
“It’s a learning process. Law school is not what people expect at first and that’s the hardest thing for students to learn in their first year,” said Brown.
This learning process is what Brown can control as a professor. He creates the environment where students can learn. He loves to generate excitement for his students by spicing up his teaching methods and seeing how his students have changed from the first week of class to the final week.
Brown said, “I may have taught the same course for 30 years, but each time it’s a new experience because of new people and how the material evolves. There’s always an excitement about what’s happening in the field and in the classroom.”
Brown also helps create a positive environment outside the classroom by being the faculty advisor for various organizations like Toastmasters, the Moot Court Society and Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Society.
“Law school is like training for an athletic event. Hearing the information is the easy part, while learning what to do with it, like problem solving and advocacy, are the hard ones. There’s a limit to how much students can get in the classroom which is why we have additional activities to give students more opportunities, like public speaking,” said Brown.