Richard P. Brown, Jr., Honors Father’s Legacy in the New Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building
Richard P. “Dick” Brown, Jr., Esq., wasn’t at all sure he wanted to talk to Drexel about his gift to the College of Arts and Sciences. “Why do you want to interview me?” he asks. Only with the assurance that the article will focus on his father, Mr. Richard P. Brown, Sr., ’03, HD ’47, does he acquiesce.
A 1903 graduate of the Evening College at Drexel Institute and the recipient of an honorary doctorate in Engineering in 1947, Mr. Brown (1884–1976) served as vice chair of Drexel’s Board of Trustees from 1946 to 1956 and then as chair from 1956 to 1958. He remained honorary chairman for the rest of his life. A founding member of the A.J. Drexel Society, Mr. Brown received the A.J. Drexel Paul Award in 1970. He established The Richard P. Brown Scholarship Fund in 1960, and a lab in Stratton Hall at the College of Arts and Sciences also bears his name.
Recently, Dick donated $100,000 to Drexel for the Richard P. Brown Research Laboratory and Meeting Room at the College of Arts and Sciences, which will be housed in the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, currently under construction.
On a summer morning, Dick sits in his office at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in downtown Philadelphia, where he was a senior litigator and now serves as counsel, and talks about his father. “He was born in 1884 in Philadelphia and went to the William Penn Charter School,” Dick says. “His father, Edward Brown, was an inventor. He ran a small business making machines for measuring high temperatures in steel mills and blast furnaces. My father went to work there.”
Edward Brown founded in 1857 what later became the Brown Instrument Company. Early in Mr. Brown’s career, Thomas A. Edison asked him to visit his laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ, and showed him an early incandescent light bulb. Edison asked Mr. Brown if he could measure the temperature of the filament in the light bulb without breaking the bulb, but Mr. Brown told him there was no way doing that.
In 1934, Brown Instrument Company merged with Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company, now known as Honeywell. Mr. Brown was ahead of his time in global connections through a longtime professional relationship with Yamatake, which was established in Japan in 1920 and later joined Honeywell to become Yamatake-Honeywell.
Mr. Brown retired as vice president and chairman of Honeywell in the late 1930’s and subsequently entered politics. “He became the first Secretary of Commerce [1939–1940] in Pennsylvania under Gov. Arthur James,” Dick says. “Pennsylvania was the first state in the Union to set up a Department of Commerce. Marjorie Scranton of the Republican National Committee later asked him to run for governor of Pennsylvania, but my mother asked him not to.” Edith Brown thought her husband already had spent too much time away from their children, Richard, Jr., and Anita.
After the outbreak of World War II, the Defense Plant Corporation tapped Mr. Brown to manage 125 plants in Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. Among Mr. Brown’s numerous other civic activities, he was chairman of the Pennsylvania State Planning Board, served on the World’s Fair Commission, and was a member of the Interstate Commission on the Delaware River Basin.
Gail Hearn, Ph.D., professor of Biology at Drexel, made the initial call to Dick regarding the new naming opportunity at the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building. “My students and I really appreciate the character of our Stratton Hall research lab, the Richard P. Brown Room. It gives us space to spread out our maps, plan our research expeditions, and gather for discussions. We wanted to be certain to recreate that positive experience in the new Integrated Sciences Building, and what better way than to give the new space the same name? It was pure serendipity that I happened to know Richard P. Brown, Jr., and could share those thoughts with him.”
As his father had done before him, Dick attended Penn Charter School. Founded in 1689 by William Penn, it is one of the oldest Quaker schools in the country. From there, Dick “went to Princeton, then the Navy, then Penn Law.” He now is an Overseer of Penn Charter School, and he serves on numerous boards including that of WHYY, Inc., of which he is a former chairman. We would tell you more, but we promised this profile would not be about him.