by Dana Basile
Thousands of students have walked the hallways of Dowling College. Some we see intermittently between classes, others we sit next to for four years and forget their name in the years after graduation. We form short term friendships with some students and others we befriend for life. However, very few students can leave their mark on a college and its students as James Browning has.
James has been something of a chameleon at Dowling – so many things to so many people. He is an avidly participating student in class, a helpful tutor in the tutoring center, a friendly dorm mate, but what I hear people call him the most is simple but speaks volumes: a friend. He has found friendship in what is sometimes thought of as the unlikeliest of places: with professors. As Dr. Rosenstreich said, “All the names of the Great James Browning– Jacques, Giacomo and Diego are three that I know of – reflect his many qualities and gifts. But the name that everyone who knows him would most like to call him is my friend.”
James’ resume reads like someone’s 20 years his senior. It’s astonishing how much work and dedication one person can contribute to his academics and activities. He won several literature contests and performed in a variety of musicals in high school: Music Man - chorus and understudy for Winthrop, Damn Yankees - chorus, Bye Bye Birdie - lead character, Randolph Macafee, Anything Goes - the cameraman, and Fiddler on the Roof - Motel the tailor. At Dowling, he performed in Songs for a New World and played Joe in Schoolhouse Rock this month. Being graduated 5th in his class from Rocky Point High School with honors was just the start. A mere three years later, in May 2010, James received his Bachelor’s Degree in Romance Languages from Dowling College as the class Salutatorian, with a pristine 4.0 GPA. His list of honors is lengthy, from being a member of Member Phi Sigma Iota, an International Society of students of Romance Languages, to holding the rank of president of Alpha Chi, the National College Honor Society. James has also been recognized by Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. He recently received a Graduate Assistantship in the Dowling College Education Department.
While working on his undergraduate degree, where he specialized and became fluent in Spanish and French, James took the opportunity to travel abroad to Peru for a semester. He spent four months immersed in Latin American culture and worked as a teacher’s assistant for ESL students in Lima. Just the thought of how many activities James dedicates his time and energy to is enough to exhaust any mere mortal.
The ease with which James succeeds in whatever subject he ventures into is both a desirable and enviable trait. Professor Saroli states, “James is a conscientious young man who has limitless potential and seems to be able to accomplish anything he sets his mind to.’’
Perhaps one of his most incredible qualities is his ability to teach – and not just from a textbook. James teaches from somewhere much deeper: his heart. When he speaks, students listen. If he doesn’t know an answer to a question, he finds it. He is unrelenting and determined, and his students in the tutoring center reap the benefits of his everlasting devotion. Dr. Rosler, a professor who has remained close with James throughout his pursuit of his undergraduate degree and the days after, describes his passion for teaching: “James has a secret. It goes beyond his love for learning and for knowledge. He knows how to study, and he wants to share the secret with as many people as he can. He is relentless in this endeavor, and he does not desist until he teaches students to teach themselves. The result is simply smiling faces, students that share a secret that will never die.”
In his time in the tutoring center James has helped a multitude of students study for and pass their exams, and on the way he has also made a few friends. His colleague and good friend Kathleen Scott tells me that James has helped her practice for a vocal audition, taught her how to use Microsoft Word, and has gone as far as helping her paint her kitchen! “James’s favorite saying at the Tutoring Center is ‘stay fresh’,” she says. “As a colleague, I found James to be dedicated and capable of tutoring all levels in a multiplicity of subjects. He is equally versed in the sciences as well as the humanities.”
Editor-in-Chief of the Lion’s Voice, Ramona Sav Nolan, has worked closely with James on the school paper where James doubles as editor and staff writer. She says, “Teaching is an art and James Browning is an exceptional artist. His thirst for knowledge is equal to his love for teaching. Working with James at the Dowling College Tutoring Center has been a unique experience which encompassed scintillating conversations, an abundance of laughs, and, most importantly, the fascinating opportunity to see him doing what he loves most: teaching. His brilliant mind allows him to learn on his own; seeing a Romance Languages Major tutor subjects such as Botany, Finance, Statistics, Math, and many others has been quite impressive! Besides his self-teaching skills, James Browning possesses another rare talent: he is able to make the most difficult concepts seem easy. I was fortunate enough to be tutored by him for one of my science classes; needless to say that, with his help, I got an A+. James Browning once told me that the most joyful part of teaching is the moment of recognition his students experience when ‘they really get it, when their faces light up because they constructed their own meaning and are able to figure it all out’ with a ‘little help’ from him. That ‘Wait a second! I know!’ visual expression on his students’ faces is priceless to him. James Browning was born to be a teacher; I know he will share many moments of “discovery” with students throughout the years to come.”
In the scary world called college and the life that follows, a true friend’s value is immeasurable. Having someone like James to share the walk through one’s college years is a rare and special gift. Whether they know him as their tutor, their student, their teacher, their colleague, or their dorm mate, many at Dowling are proud to call him their friend.