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Adam Brown Reflects on DeForrest Jackson’s Legacy

Adam BrownWhen Adam Brown (BS/Adv ’94), executive strategist with Salesforce.com and CCI BOV member, heard about DeForrest Jackson’s passing, he was moved to reflect on Professor Jackson’s impact on his career. Adam agreed to let us share his tribute as a way of reminding us of the remarkable things that often happen between professors and their students.

“Other than my father, Professor Jackson had the most significant influence on my choosing a career in marketing. Sometimes abrasive and always unorthodox, Professor Jackson’s style very much emulated the creative directors and agency heads that I would soon work for in the real world. I didn’t appreciate it then, but I certainly appreciated it later.

There were many parallels in our two lives. He was president of my fraternity (he waited to share the fact that we were fraternity brothers until the week before my graduation). He graduated from the same school as my Dad (Emory). Both of us honed our careers at The Coca-Cola Company. His lovely wife, Eleanor, was from Austin, TX (where I now live).

In 2006 I can remember calling DeForrest and Ellie the day I accepted the job at Coca-Cola. At that point DeForrest was having trouble hearing, so he recommended that I write him a note. On paper. In an envelope. With a stamp. “Professor Jackson, don’t you have email?” I asked. “NO!” was the curt response.

My new office at Coca-Cola Headquarters was next door to the chief historian of the Company – a legend and almost 40-year Coke veteran named Phil Mooney. As I got to know Phil, I asked him if he remembered a DeForrest Jackson. Oh yes, he remembered DeForrest – he remembered DeForrest quite well. (Aside: DeForrest was a bit of a legend at Coca-Cola. The man who helped name Sprite and Fresca didn’t consider timidness and polite diplomacy cornerstones of his work style at Coca-Cola either). But Phil did me a favor, and went into the vast Coke archives and found a few pictures of a younger (but no less vibrant) DeForrest standing next to a costumed character named Sprite (yes, there was an actual cartoon character named Sprite).

I sent my paper-based note and the pictures to Professor Jackson. And DeForrest quickly wrote back, his flowy handwriting and sharp wit unencumbered like his hearing. I still have that note.

Professor Jackson’s style was unlike any other teacher I know, and it was exactly what I needed at the time. I will remember his booming voice and laugh. I will remember his turtlenecks – lots and lots of turtlenecks. But most importantly I will remember his high expectations for me and his other students – and the satisfaction he engrained in me when I delivered.

May his memory be a blessing.”