The Passing of Eleanor R. Brown

To the Williams Community,

I was saddened to learn of the recent death of Eleanor R. Brown, who retired from Williams in 1989 as a lecturer in the biology department. Ellie, as her colleagues knew her, passedaway on May 2 in the Boston area.

Born in 1921 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Eleanor was married to Fielding Brown, who retired as a professor in our physics department in 1993. He survives her.

Following her graduation from Middlebury College in 1943, Ellie became a medical department dietician for the US Army, serving at Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, Colo., and at Station Hospital at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

She came to Williams in 1960, working as a lab assistant in the psychology department until 1965. She pursued her master’s degree in biology at Williams, and did research in Tokyo under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health studying cataracts in mice, which was the topic of her thesis. After receiving her master’s, she taught and became the manager of our introductory biology, physiology, and genetics laboratories. I am told she was the heart and soul of those labs, and while her no-nonsense approach in the labs made students think she was reverting back to her Army days, it also helped ensure their success. Ellie trained the student teaching assistants, developed new labs, wrote the lab manuals, and did Friday run-throughs with the TAs to make sure the lab exercises scheduled for the following week would work. And I am sure her Winter Study trips to the Galapagos Islands were very popular.

In 2003, Ellie was featured in the Williams Alumni Review, along with a few other retired faculty members. At the time, she reported that she and Fielding had a “very active social life,” and had traveled the world visiting family and friends in Burma, Thailand and Egypt. And that she was managing a subscription dance service in Boston that invited members to several formal dances each year, but she still subscribed to Science and kept abreast of developments in her field.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by four daughters: Angela Brown, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University; Elizabeth Brown, a professor of microbiology at Oregon State University; Marcia Brown of Toronto, Canada; and Lucinda Brown of Norwich, Vt.; four grandchildren; and a sister, Clarinda Marshall of Mobile, Ala.

A private memorial service is being planned.

Our thoughts are with Eleanor’s family at this time.


Adam Falk