Mercer Memories: William O. Brown, CLA ’46
William O. Brown graduated from Mercer University in 1946 with a major in physics and minor in math. He retired from NASA in 1994, following a successful career as a field engineer, and he currently lives in Titusville, Florida. Now 95, he was the oldest living alum in attendance at the Homecoming Half Century Club Brunch in November.
Here are five things to know about Brown:
1. He has a long association with Mercer.
Brown became an official Bear in 1940, but his connection to the University goes back much further. His parents’ work allowed them to live in Mercer housing. His mother was the manager of the Mercer bookstore, and his father did recruiting/liaison work for President Spright Dowell.
His family moved into a duplex on College Avenue when he was in Alexander II grammar school and remained there until 1943. Brown said tuition for a quarter at Mercer cost $100 then, but he got a $25 discount because his father was a Baptist minister.
“When I was at Mercer, it was one block, and now it’s miles of campus,” he said. “The campus has just ballooned from when I was there.”
2. He is a World War II veteran.
Brown enlisted in the Army Air Forces and was called to active duty in 1943 when he was still a student at Mercer. As an air navigator, he was assigned to the 55th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, flying missions in Guam and Japan. His squadron was the last Allied plane in the air when Japan surrendered. After the war, he returned to Mercer and completed his degree in August 1946.
3. His career took him from Tennessee to Texas.
Brown’s impressive career took him to Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida. He did field engineer work for Halliburton, Chrysler’s Jupiter program, the Apollo program, nuclear power plants near Nashville, and NASA.
“It was unusual and interesting,” he said of his career.
4. He met his wife at Mercer.
Evelyn Zynn sat in front of Brown in one of his classes, but they didn’t really get to know each other until they went on a tennis double-date with a pair of friends. Evelyn was very athletic but had never played tennis before, and Brown was surprised but impressed when she cursed after missing a ball. They started dating shortly after.
“She became the love of my life. We had a wonderful life together. We raised three beautiful children and had eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.” Evelyn passed away in 2013.
5. Mercer prepared him for many aspects of life.
“Mercer was the foundation of everything that I’ve ever accomplished, and I owe most of my success to the background and training that I received at Mercer University,” Brown said. “My fondest memories were primarily of Kappa Sigma. Friendships that were forged in college, they lasted a lifetime.”
Brown said he learned how to dance and went on his first date with the support of his brothers in Kappa Sigma Fraternity, of which he became president. He was also involved in the Mercer Players, the Ciceronian literary club, Alembic Club for scientific literature and research, and Alpha Psi Omega national theater fraternity.