Zac VanderLey—Staff Writer
Mark Volkers always knew when Austin Brown neared the digital media lab. The digital media production instructor had learned to recognize the cadence of Brown’s feet—the long, sandaled strides that preluded conversations about movies.
Once, when Volkers’ film criticism class planned to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey, Brown said: “Can I sit in on that film with you?”
“Yeah, you can,” Volkers said. “But are you sure you want to watch it again? It’s probably the hardest film of the whole semester.”
“Last year, I saw the beginning two to three minutes and the last two or three minutes. I slept through all the rest,” Brown, who’d previously taken the class, said. “And I really want to see that film.”
Volkers laughed. After Brown switched his major from engineering to digital media production, he’d gotten to know him well.
“Only Austin is that honest,” Volkers said.
On April 18, Brown, a senior at Dordt University, passed away due to medical complications. He planned on graduating this May.
In addition to digital media production, Brown participated in PLIA, the Dordt Improv club, Dordt Media Network, and Dordt Gaming Guild.
This semester, Brown walked into Brad Hickey’s office on a cold, February day to investigate the Gaming Guild, telling the Student Support Specialist and Director of Esports he thought the guild was a “gimmick.”
As Hickey explained the guild’s purpose, he noticed Brown studying the five-piece canvas on his office wall.
“Do you like that picture?” Hickey said.
“Yeah, that’s Skyrim,” Brown said, pinpointing image’s location within the video game.
Shortly after, Brown joined the Gaming Guild, attending events and communicating with other members on Discord chats.
“He was always willing to help,” Hickey said. “He was very generous and very kind.”
When the guild outgrew their room in the basement of Covenant Hall and relocated to Kuyper Apartments, Brown and another student volunteered to move gaming chairs, computers, and other equipment to the nearby building.
At the end of the moving day, Brown wanted to talk to Hickey, but Hickey needed to locate the key to the Gator.
“If you’re still here when I get back, then we can talk and I can take the Gator with you back to facilities,” Hickey said.
“Yep, I’ll be here,” Brown said.
After Hickey returned with the key, Brown sat on the Gator, still waiting, still smiling.
“He reminded me of one my friends when I was young,” Hickey said. “He loved to make people laugh and tried to make me laugh with all sorts of different things. He got some good laughs out of me.”
On the Gator ride, Hickey and Brown discussed the Marvel Universe. While Hickey favored the older Marvel movies, Brown preferred the newer releases, especially Avengers: Endgame.
As they finished their debate, Brown walked away, then turned back towards Hickey.
“You’re wrong,” he said, laughing.
Earlier this semester, Brown watched a Marvel movie with Jonah Hofmeyer, a sophomore digital media major. They had met through the digital media department and had worked on projects together. Last year, Brown edited Hot Debate, a short film he, Hofmeyer, and other students created after COVID-19 canceled the Prairie Grass Film Challenge.
After they watched the movie, Hofmeyer and Brown struck up a movie-related conversation, walking the equivalent of “three Dordt walks” through campus.
“He had obvious passion for digital media,” Hofmeyer said. “His dream was to edit a Marvel movie.”
Last week, Dordt Student Activities remembered Brown through a showing of Marvel’s Endgame in Campus Center.
“Austin was a great brother who was willing to drop anything to help me or any of our other siblings,” Alex Brown, a sophomore at Dordt and Austin’s younger brother, said.
“He didn’t have a mean bone in his body and loved every aspect of his life, especially his family and the friends he made along the way at Dordt.
“He is deeply loved, and I will miss him dearly and mourn the loss of life so young but celebrate the man I knew and am honored to have called him my brother.
“I learned so much from him and yearn for the day when I will see him again in glory.”