Dr. Dennis Brown, who has served as Lee College’s president since February 2012, was awarded a special honor as the 2019 Refiner of the Year. 

This is the 33rd year a Refiner of the Year has been named. Brown received the recognition during a banquet hosted by ExxonMobil at the Springhill Suites Tuesday night. 

“I am absolutely humbled,” Brown said. “The relationship Lee College has had with ExxonMobil for a long, long time, dating back to our start in 1934, has been nothing short of amazing. In my career, I have never seen a relationship between business, industry, and a community college like there is between ExxonMobil and Lee College. It is outstanding. And there is so much more still to come.”

Brown is the ninth president of the college. He had previously served at El Paso Community College, where he was the vice president of instruction and chief academic officer. 

In April 2018, Brown announced he would retire in January 2020, which led to an intensive presidential search. In September, the college’s board voted 9-0 to select Dr. Lynda Villanueva, the provost and vice president for academic affairs and student affairs at Brazosport College, to succeed Brown. 

Brown also serves on several boards across town. This includes the Baytown Chamber of Commerce, Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital, the Baytown/West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation, and Economic Alliance Houston Port Region boards. He and his wife, Darlene, have two children and six grandchildren.

Jason Duncan, ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant manager, had the pleasure of  announcing Brown as the winner of the award. 

“The recipient is a person whose activities have made exemplary and lasting contributions for the good of our community here in Baytown,” Duncan said. “Our 2019 Refiner of the Year has been a tremendous asset to the area, having served in a leadership position for the last eight years and leading more than 7,000 students each year in higher education.”

Duncan said Brown arrived in Baytown in early 2012, “ready to serve the greater Baytown area.”

“He was quoted very early in his arrival to Baytown in regards to the job growth in the area, saying, ‘Lee College is the epicenter of what is going to happen. Why? Because we have been and are going continue to providing the support to this industry through students for the workforce.’ So, we took him up on that quote and met with him to launch - at the time - was an unheard of collaboration between nine local community colleges. The challenge? Develop a workforce training initiative to help us meet the demand for the workforce needed for our expansion project.” Duncan said. 

Duncan added Brown did not hesitate to help the petrochemical giant. 

“And very soon the Community College Petrochemical Initiative – CCPI - was born,” Duncan said. “With funding from us and leadership from Dr. Brown, the initiative grew very quickly and has far exceeded our expectations.”

Duncan said Lee College had done an outstanding job as the lead institution for this effort.

“When we look at the data, the success has been astounding,” Duncan said. “For example, the nine community colleges collectively have seen a 60% increase in technical fields since the onset of our Community College Petrochemical Initiative - a huge achievement.”

Thousands of students in the region have been put to work in high demand, high paying careers, Duncan said. 

“This is something that should make us all proud,” he said. “Together, we’ve won many awards in the last few years for this workforce program– both state and nationally – that have been based on our college and corporate collaboration benefitting not only the learning excellence of students, but the economic prosperity of our community, making Baytown a better place to live and work.”

Duncan thanked Brown for always having his door open to them as well as the community.

Duncan also talked about some of the accomplishments of his employees. 

“Our ExxonMobil Complex celebrated a huge anniversary this year – 100 years devoted to this community,” Duncan said. “We realize that each one of our employees also plays a part in the rich and diverse history of the ExxonMobil Baytown Complex. We are blessed with a workforce who loves to give back.

Throughout each year, in addition to their hard work and efforts inside the

plant, our employees participate in many activities that directly support the

community. One area that we love to highlight at this event is their support

in the annual campaign for the United Way of Greater Baytown Area and

Chambers County. I am very pleased to share that ExxonMobil employees

and retirees have pledged approximately $1.7 million dollars for our local

United Way agency. This is the 19th year in a row that we’ve topped the

$1 million mark in donations.”

Duncan said his employees also set a record attendance for helping at this year’s United Way Day of Caring. 

“About 800 employees joined other volunteers to improve our city,” he said. “On behalf of our leadership team, we want to thank our entire workforce for their continued dedication each and every day. It is their efforts that make us so successful and giving back to our community.” 

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