Alumni Profile: Jonathan Brown ’68

Jonathan Brown '68

Author and alumnus Jonathan Brown '68, holding a copy of his 2023 memoir, "Of Course It’s True Except for a Couple of Lies."

Current Location | Dividing time between Fair Oaks, CA and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Current Industry | Author, and retired president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Motivation | Figuring out why the world works the way it does
Recommended Reading | Life After Capitalism by George Gilder and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky


A deep connection to family lore and the need to document his legacy was part of the inspiration for a memoir from Jonathan Brown ’68, Of Course It’s True Except for a Couple of Lies. The book, published in 2023, is a collection of individual stories about a life full of experiences and comfortably wrapped in humor.

“I had lymphoma in 2019, and my daughter said to me, ‘Dad you have a bunch of stories and I want you to get them down,” explained Brown. “I started documenting the legacy of my namesake, Jonathan Archer (who came to California in 1849) and tales from the rest of my family to explain why I am who I am. I talked to Lynn Beck (former Dean of the Benerd School of Education) about how to get organized and get published, and the stories turned into chapters on life and values.”

Brown chose to study international relations at Pacific, with an emphasis in economics and politics. “For me,” Brown said, “Pacific was a place to be accepted for who you are and have the opportunity to grow and change, which is what a university ought to be -- a very personalized place. In Mexico, many University employees describe their work as 'formation.' The best universities in the US believe in not just a set of courses but in developing an integral person.”

After Pacific, with the encouragement of then-president Robert Burns '31, '46 and two of his professors, Brown began graduate school in DC only to be lured away to a series of public policy jobs (White House, both sides of Congress and the California legislature). He eventually found his way to higher education advocacy and served as president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities for 20 years.

A scholarship to grad school and learning how to tell a compelling story were not the only things he picked up from Pacific. “During my freshman year in a Western Civ class with Professor Donald Grubbs, I listened for 15-minutes to him compare Goldwater and fascism before I started debating him,” said Brown. “I never had an experience at Pacific where I couldn’t question what a professor was telling me. I did a lot of lobbying in my career, and that taught me to not only talk but also to listen. It helped tremendously in advocacy and public speaking, and the willingness to take risks in my career.”

Another important reminder of his time at Pacific? “My wife, Quinlan ’68, and I met at Pacific. She’s a big reason for my success and has been my best friend and guide and confidant for 54 years.” Together they have two grown children and five grandchildren. Right out of Pacific, they spent time serving on the Pacific Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. “The price of a Pacific education is high but the value is greater,” said Brown. “Grads need to go back and contribute, not just money, but ideas and mentoring. That’s what continues to make University of the Pacific strong.”

Brown is forging ahead with his career as a writer. He has already started a second book, a fictional narrative on what might have happened if his namesake, Jonathan Archer, had survived. His current book is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.