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Lee Brown

University Risk Manager and 2017–18 Staff Council President

Administration Building, fourth floor
At OKCU since May 2014

What do you do in your job? 

Lee is responsible for health, safety, and insurance at Oklahoma City University. He deals with the university’s insurance policies, worker’s compensation claims, and insurance for groups that use space on campus. He researches and assists in writing policies, such as for housing security and IT security. He assesses how the university handles what little pollution it creates. He “looks out for all of the little things,” and ultimately, he saves OKCU money. 

More and more organizations are hiring risk managers, and larger public universities have several, he said. Lee reports to Chief Financial Officer Catherine Maninger. 

“I think the biggest thing about being the risk manager is making sure you’re aware of as much as possible,” he said, so he can connect people, programs, and policies. “You can highlight, spot, evaluate, bring to attention, and advise.”

For example, he and Mark Clouse, director of facilities, worked together following insurance losses to place facilities employees in the buildings most prone to flooding during major storms so any water could be abated quickly.

Lee has compiled a list of more than 200 risks that a university could face, so he pays as much attention as possible to events involving any of those, he said.

Lee spent six years working in insurance—for Progressive and Travelers—before coming to OKCU.

“The insurance world has broad opportunities for employment,” he said. “From an adjustor’s perspective, you go from taking the claim to writing the estimates for the damages, interviewing the injured, and things of that nature, or you can move into what I do, which is risk control, which is a more holistic approach that makes sure it never has to get to insurance. That’s why I love what I do.”

What is your background?

Lee’s parents both served in the Air Force, and he was born in Germany. He grew up in San Bernardino, California, and joined the Air Force at age 18 in 2000.

“My plan going into the military was to be a cop, get a criminal justice degree, and get out and go to law school,“ Lee said. Instead, he scored well for computer literacy and became an air surveillance technician or, officially, an air battle manager. He considers himself lucky. He served at Tinker Air Force Base during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming a senior surveillance technician. In those roles, he tracked enemy aircraft and ships and ensured commanders on the ground had up-to-date information. His job dealt heavily with radar and data link systems.

Lee served in the military eight years and went on to get a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership and a master’s in management from Southern Nazarene University.

He is married to Kanika Brown, career services coordinator at OKCU, and they have a 15-year-old sophomore, Jasmine Brown, and a 6-year-old kindergartener, Xavier Brown. He met Kanika after hearing her DJ on Power 103.5, liking the sound of her voice, and checking out her MySpace profile. “The rest is history,” he said.

In May 2018, he went to California to see his mother step off a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train for the last time as engineer for her retirement celebration. “I’d venture to guess she’s the first African American woman to retire from BNSF, at least in Southern California. It’s a big deal for us.”

Lee achieved several firsts, too—first in his family to get a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, and first to serve in combat.

What do you like about your job?

“The staff—they’re dedicated. They want to do things the right way, and they want to do things the best way. It’s not just doing it right and getting by—they want to excel at what they do. So any ideas I’ve had or policies I’ve recommended, for the most part, they’ve been taken and run with. It is not so much because I said it but because people believe in it and want to do right.

“That’s the highlight—that and the students. Doing safety walks, talking to the RAs, having that personal interaction with them to identify what risks they can come across. It’s fun—getting all the what-if questions from 18- and 19-year-olds kind of keeps you on your toes. There’s a rumor that if you get hit with a golf cart on campus, the university will pay for your tuition—not true!”

What do you like about OKCU?

“The strategic plan, the change in the mission, and the enhanced focus on what we’re here for is invigorating. The future, I think, is bright. We’re not standing pat. We’re not allowing complacency.”

What’s something about you that others may not know?

“Huge Thunder fan,” Lee said, repeating it two more times. “Nick Collison, who just retired, is my favorite Thunder player, and right after him is Mr. Westbrook … and then Sam Presti.” He admires Collison—“Mr. Thunder”—for his loyalty to the franchise and Russell Westbrook for his talent and strong work ethic. “His work ethic is beyond reproach—you will not outwork him.” Lee watches every game: “I might have to shut it down to read bedtime stories and stuff, but the Thunder is on, period.”