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Candy collection sparks conversations

When you join a Zoom meeting with Terry Brown, interim director of the IUPUI Office for Enrollment Strategy and Insights, his face might not be the only one looking back at you. Princess Leia, Bart Simpson, Bugs Bunny and other pop culture characters might appear in the background, in the form of colorful candy containers.

This is just a small section of Terry Brown's extensive Pez collection, on the wall of his ho... This is just a small section of Terry Brown's extensive Pez collection, on the wall of his home office.

Brown was already well known among faculty, staff and students, thanks to his 41 years as an Indiana University employee, mostly in the admissions office. But his Pez dispenser collection wasn’t widely known around the IUPUI campus and beyond until recent years. 

“I think my reputation related to Pez really came out of the pandemic and working from home,” Brown said. “I have a display on the wall in my office of just Pez dispensers, and it is always a conversation starter.”

Terry Brown, Interim Director for the Office for Enrollment Strategy and Insights at IUPUI, is a ... The office display is about one-sixth of the collection, according to Brown. He does not know exactly how many dispensers he owns but estimates it’s between 1,800 and 2,000. Brown remembers his mother buying him his first Pez dispenser, Batman with a cape, in 1968. He gradually acquired more as a child.

“Back then it was less about collecting and more about the candy,” Brown said with a chuckle before admitting, “I no longer like Pez candy, but don’t tell Pez I said that!”

Over the years, Brown became active and enthusiastic about finding new and interesting Pez dispensers. His collection now includes international and educational variations. One unique dispenser was part of a series of U.S. presidents.

Terry Brown's Pez collection includes a Richard Nixon dispenser. “I always say my favorite Pez is Richard Nixon because it’s an anachronism, right? He’s like the last Pez subject that you could think about,” Brown said.

The internet has made collecting Pez dispensers easier, which Brown appreciates, but he also enjoys making unexpected discoveries.

“I had some friends that were going on a tour of Europe, and they found dispensers in Germany that I’d never seen before, from a cartoon series that’s not popular in the United States,” he said. “Pez is worldwide, and different versions can be released in different countries. Your eyes open wider because you recognize there are more out there than you know.”

Another pleasant surprise for Brown has been the reaction to his collection from students, staff and faculty of all ages.

“Almost everyone that I’ve talked to has had a Pez, at some point,” he said. “There’s this nostalgia factor. It has been nice. People usually have a smile on their face, just asking and talking about it.”

See more of Brown’s Pez collection — including a dispenser of his likeness — by clicking through photos captured by IU photographer Liz Kaye:

Tia Broz is a communications consultant for IU Studios.