At a time when society can change as frequently and quickly as the Texas weather, Jozell Brister has been a stalwart presence in the College of Business Administration over the last three decades. Her steady presence, excellent eye for details, knowledge of the subject matter and compassion for her students have established her among alumni and peers as a “vision keeper.”
Brister came to ACU in 1980 to teach microeconomics, macroeconomics, and money and banking and became a trailblazer for female faculty members as she led a number of firsts for the college. In addition to teaching, she served as associate dean and as director of the first advising center for business students. She was instrumental in planning the design of the Mabee Business Building and went on multiple fundraising trips with COBA’s dean at the time, Dr. Bill Petty. Dr. Monty Lynn reflected, “She helped keep things running during a time of growth and with a college that was bursting at the seams.”
She’s helped educate generations of ACU students, seeing the children of parents she once taught occupy the same spot in her classroom. She’s been a mentor and role model for faculty as well. Lynn was grateful for the way Brister not only welcomed him to COBA but showed him how to be a teacher as well. The pair developed a strong friendship and would later collaborate on numerous research projects.
“Jozell’s knowledge of economics is deep and precise,” Lynn said. “When I was a young faculty member, I felt the need to do some catch-up work in microeconomics. I’ve never had the opportunity to take the course in my undergraduate studies. A psychology professor I knew had the same desire. We teamed up and sat side-by-side in MBB 201, sweating it out on all of those challenging exams next to our sophomore colleagues. I’m not sure who was more intimidated by whom.”
We asked Brister to share with us some of her memories and recollections about her time teaching at ACU.
What are some of your favorite memories about your time teaching at ACU?
My favorite memories are from the classroom. There were funny things that happened and some endearing things that I remember so fondly. Let me share what was a funny classroom experience for me.
One time on the first day of class, a student came down after class to talk to me. Typically, students would never ask certain questions in class. For example, after class, they would ask me about a test day scheduled in the syllabus when they had to be in Arkansas to be the best man or maid of honor in a wedding. They would want to know if they could make up a test scheduled on that day. This time a tall, handsome, young man was standing with a group of students waiting to ask me questions.
When it was his turn, he said, “Miss Brister, I’ve heard this rumor about you.” I thought he was going to say, “I’ve heard your tests are impossible,” or something like that. Instead, he said, “Is it true that the reason you always wear long sleeves to class is because you have so many tattoos?” Well, I do not have even one tattoo and have never been inclined to get one. So, I just burst out laughing. I imagine some of this young man’s buddies put him up to asking me that question. As it turned out, this very bright young man graduated with a 4.0 GPA and I had him as a student in macroeconomics, microeconomics, and money and banking. We became good friends over his years at ACU.
Many of my endearing classroom experiences were from my international students. For example, I had this clear plastic bag with samples of international currencies and coins from all over the world. Whenever I started the unit on money and banking, I would pass this bag around the classroom so the students could see what other countries’ currencies and coins looked like. Many other countries have beautiful currencies that are colorful and exquisite with intricate designs. My international students would look through the samples I had collected to see if their countries were represented. If they did not see their country’s currency, they would bring some samples to add to my collection. I was touched by their pride for their countries and their joy in helping me to complete my collection of international currencies.
Who were the people that inspired you?
There are so many people who have inspired me. I cannot list them by name because I would be sure to leave out someone very dear to me. So, I will just describe them in groups:
- My colleagues in COBA. They are such genuinely good, talented and wonderful individuals.
- My former student assistants (teaching assistants). They saved me so many times. They were competent, diligent, loyal and honest; and they knew more about the computer and how to use it for grading, etc., than I did.
- All the former and current deans of COBA. They had the vision and the leadership skills to lead the college into the future. All COBA owes a great debt of gratitude to these outstanding men.
- The staff of COBA. They are the people who made the college work properly each day. They were the internal combustion engine for COBA. Working behind the scenes, they guided students, helped the faculty with all their needs and set the standard for excellence throughout the college.
- The wonderful people who donated to COBA. Their unselfish gifts helped the college with special programs for students, research and travel for the faculty, and current technology for classrooms and faculty offices.
What did you find most helpful in connecting with and inspiring others?
I have found that a big smile goes a long way in this old world. Put humility together with a big smile and things tend to work out for the best.
What did you hope each of your students would learn from you?
I hoped every day that my students would see a spark of Christianity in the things I said and the way I treated my students. My discipline was economics and with respect to my teaching in that area, my goal was for students to have a strong idea of how to make the economy work for everyone and especially for the poor and disadvantaged.
If you could name what your legacy would be, what would you hope others would say about you?
I would hope that others would say that I was a Christian teacher, a helpful colleague and a happy, loyal Wildcat! In addition, I would be so pleased if others said that I was a good friend, someone without deceit or pretention.
COBA is honoring Jozell Brister by naming the second-floor classroom wing after her, a place where she spent so much time and invested so heavily into her students and colleagues. If you’d like to honor Jozell by donating to this campaign, please email email@example.com.