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Lifetime of experience and connections bring Vernon Brown back to his alma mater

Every company faces stiff workforce competition these days. SDN Communications is no different.

Unfortunately for us, we’re losing a veteran employee who helped build our brand into what it is today.

Vernon Brown will be joining South Dakota State University’s leadership team as the associate vice president of external affairs.

We would have loved to keep Vernon, but SDSU is stiff competition. Vernon’s heart bleeds blue and yellow. University President Barry Dunn knew that and did a good job recruiting him.

While I’ve worked with Vernon for 16 years, no one in the company knows him better than our blogger Lynn Taylor Rick. She has crafted a fitting tribute.

Ryan Punt

CEO | SDN Communications

For me, it’s especially fitting that Vernon Brown will join South Dakota State University as the associate vice president for external affairs. After all, I first met Vernon at SDSU. He’s a Jackrabbit, through and through and has spent much of his professional life touting our alma mater.

I don’t recall if our friendship started in a journalism class or at the SDSU student newspaper, the Collegian. But I have deeply fond memories of our late nights working on the Collegian as reporters and, for Vernon, eventually as editor.

My experiences at the Collegian changed my life’s trajectory. I finally felt like I’d found my passion and my people. And Vernon was one of those people - smart, funny, curious, driven, and clever. I don’t know if he knew it, but while I was teaching him how to do weird things like the “raisin dance,” he was inadvertently teaching me by example how to be a better journalist. (Sorry, the raisin dance is another blog for another time.)

Of course, anyone who knows Vernon won’t be surprised to learn that he was heads and shoulders above a lot of us in his talents as a reporter and editor. He met with the president of the university without a hint of trepidation. He wasn’t afraid to take on the SDSU Students’ Association when they wanted to bring the Collegian under the university’s control. He had an inner drive and calm confidence.

He was also a fairly decent mud volleyball player. (Again, another blog for another day.)

After graduating from SDSU, I landed at a small newspaper an hour from Sioux Falls. Vernon took off as a reporter with KELO news. We continued to meet up on weekends to hang out, talk journalism and find our way into adulthood. I think that’s when he dubbed me “the Rule Master” for my penchant for directing our weekend activities. Without Vernon’s friendship at that time, I would have been one lonely girl in a small Minnesota town where everyone my age was long gone or married with kids.

Like everything he does, Vernon killed it at KELO. He took on major news stories and became a recognizable face in Sioux Falls and South Dakota. He even has a beer named in his honor - the Downtown Vernon Brown ale. Come on, how many people can say that?

In 2002, Vernon left KELO and joined SDN Communications. I was sad he was leaving journalism. After all, the world of journalism needs Vernon Browns. But I understood his need to try something new, and I wasn’t surprised when he thrived at SDN. He helped raise SDN’s name recognition and grew the company’s influence. SDN has seen incredible growth in the past 20 years, and Vernon played a role in that.

Vernon also ran for and won a seat on the Sioux Falls City Council which he held for eight years. He’s served on countless boards and councils. I wasn’t surprised by this either. He’s a guy who cares about his community and wants to play his role in making it better.

And now Vernon is on his way to SDSU at the end of September. He’ll work out of Sioux Falls helping to build SDSU’s partnerships in the Sioux Falls region. I expect great things as always.

A year ago, I began writing blogs for Vernon at SDN. So, I’ll miss working with him in that capacity. But he won’t get rid of me that easily. We’re people who might not speak for months and then pick up where we left off without hesitation. He’s that kind of friend.

Congratulations Vernon. SDSU is lucky to have you, and I do not doubt that you will kill it at this job as you have at everything you’ve ever done. I will add, however, that I’m still the better raisin dancer, and I like to think I remain the "Rule Master." But don’t worry my Jackrabbit friend, there’s still time.