1st Purdue Calumet graduate has spent a career attending to NWI health care needs
HAMMOND, Ind. — It was 1967, and Purdue University Calumet’s first baccalaureate graduate was an out-of-state transfer student intent on advancing his education to position himself for good jobs.
Two years earlier, 20-year-old John S. Brown had transferred to Purdue Calumet, admittedly, following two years of misdirected priorities at a large Illinois university.
“I found the whole experience at my previous university overwhelming,” he said. “The class sizes were huge, and the interaction with faculty was either non-existent or impersonal. I ended up spending more time dating and partying than studying.”
But he would discover the latter quickly enough at his newly-adopted university, where he earned a degree in American History. On that June 3 graduation date in 1967, a month shy of his 22nd birthday, he also would walk across the Commencement platform into Purdue Calumet history as the first bachelor’s degree recipient at the Hammond campus.
Nearly 47 years later, Purdue Calumet will award its 50,000th degree, and Brown—as in Dr. John S. Brown III, M.D.—will participate in the milestone during the university’s 67th Commencement Exercises at 3 p.m., Saturday (5/10) at the Hammond Civic Center.
“My family and I considered different schools,” he said recently, recalling his decision nearly five decades ago to enroll at Purdue Calumet. “I felt that Purdue Calumet was my best option for getting a degree, because I could take classes in the evening while I continued to work at my day job.”
Also attractive to him, he said, was that as a Flossmoor, Ill. resident at the time, he qualified for Indiana in-state tuition because his father, a research scientist, worked at BP’s northwest Indiana oil refinery, then called Standard Oil.
Like so many young men during that time, Brown worked his fair share of physically demanding summer jobs in local industries. “Those jobs taught me what I did not want to do the rest of my life,” he said. “I guess you could say I developed an appreciation for hard work, danger and sacrifice.”
As a Purdue Calumet student, he settled down, got married and became a father just weeks before his baccalaureate graduation. By then, he had become interested in medicine. As preparation for entry into the Indiana University Medical School, he went on to earn a master’s degree in physics at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus.
He began his medical career in emergency medicine serving several area hospitals. A few years later, he opened a family medical practice. Subsequently, Four Seasons Medical Center has grown into two, full-service family medicine clinics in Merrillville and Lakes of the Four Seasons.
The 68-year-old board-certified physician has attended to northwest Indiana health care needs since 1976. He maintains active certifications in emergency medicine and urgent care, continues to manage both his clinics and works a weekly shift in urgent care at Pinnacle Hospital.
Asked how his Purdue Calumet education has contributed to his career success, the Valparaiso resident said, “I had good teachers like Professor (of History) Norman Trusty; you felt like they cared about you, and they communicated clearly. I did well on my tests to get into medical school, and Purdue Calumet helped prepare me. In fact, I felt I was better prepared than most of my medical school classmates.”
As for being the first graduate at Purdue Calumet’s first graduation, Dr. Brown offered that it was no big deal at the time.
“I was just glad to finish,” he said, “and then it was back to work Monday morning.”