category: Faculty Emeriti - In Honor Of

Joyce Compton Brown

Professor Emerita of English

Les and Joyce Brown

Dr. Joyce Compton Brown (June 8, 1942-) was born in Troutman, N.C., to Daniel Edgar and Catherine Vera Troutman Compton. Joyce’s father was a farmer and a furniture factory worker. Her mother was a housewife who struggled to hold the family together after her husband died at the young age of 39, four months after Joyce was born. Her mother died when Joyce was 14, and her older sister and brother-in-law finished raising her.

Brown graduated from Troutman High School in 1960 and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in English and French in 1963 and her Master of Arts degree in 1965, both from Appalachian State University. She received her Ph.D. in English with emphasis on Modern American Literature in 1972 from the University of Southern Mississippi. She also attended summer sessions in Appalachian culture, music, and literature at Berea College and the Hindman Writers’ Workshop in poetry at the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky during the summers of 2002 and 2003.

In 1962, Joyce married Les Brown, and over the years they had two daughters. Melissa was born in Boiling Springs, N.C., on Aug. 2, 1967; she graduated from Gardner-Webb with a double major in English and French and a minor in art. She earned her Master of Arts at Clemson University. Michelle was born in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Oct. 7, 1969, while Joyce and Les were both at the University of Southern Mississippi earning their doctorates. Michelle has a doctorate in French.

Joyce’s first full-time position was teaching English and French from 1964-66 at a high school in Queen Anne’s County on the Eastern shore of Maryland. Her next position was teaching English at Gardner-Webb. She was at Gardner-Webb for 39 years, retiring in spring 2005.

While at Gardner-Webb, Brown was active in the work of the faculty by serving as the chair of the English Department for six years, during which time she oversaw the revision of the English curriculum. In addition, she served as vice chair of the faculty; she chaired and served on numerous faculty committees; she presented at many professional conferences across the nation; she published essays, poetry, and papers in various literary publications; she was the advisor to “Reflections,” the University literary magazine, for several years; she helped develop the University’s faculty sabbatical program; and she was instrumental in starting the University’s scholarly lecture series which now bears her name, an honor awarded her upon retirement.

Brown has also received several honors for her writing, including the Winston-Salem “Poetry in Plain Sight” contest and recognition from the N.C. Poetry Society’s Heritage Poetry Award. For several years, she and her husband, Les, shared the writing of a column in The Shelby Star newspaper. Joyce has published poems in several small publications and participated in writing workshops. Over the years she has received many invitations to present her writing at various conferences and symposia. One of her favorite honors is having Ron Rash, well-known author of novels and short stories and a former student, pay tribute to her as a teacher who had a tremendous influence on his life by the encouragement she gave him to become a writer. She has written and published essays about Ron and other Appalachian-focused writers, as well as some scholarly essays on Southern and Appalachian culture.

Although she moved to Troutman, N.C., she enjoyed participating in Gardner-Webb’s Southern Appalachian Culture series over the years and continues to be active in Appalachian Studies. She and Les continue to share an interest in writing, music, and art. They have started book and writing groups in Troutman, and they enjoy hiking and kayaking with friends.

Joyce Compton Brown is the author of four books of poetry, Bequest (Finishing Line), Singing with Jarred Edges (Main Street Rag) and Standing on the Outcrop and Hard-Packed Clay (Redhawk Publications), released in 2021. She has published poetry in numerous journals as well as scholarly essays and prose in a previous life. She enjoys roots music, all things Appalachian, and her Appalachian husband, Les Brown.

Source: Personal interview—Dr. Darlene Gravett

Updated: August 2014—Joyce Brown

Updated: May 2022 – Noel T. Manning II

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