Of all the Legends of Anderson Hall, there is probably none who would be more interested in the restoration and renovation of the historic building than Ernest Chalmers Brown.
As the College’s Engineer from 1916 until 1961, “Brownie” (as he was best known) knew the campus, its historic buildings and grounds better than anyone.
He was born in 1889 on the John Brown Farm, which would later become the College’s Dairy Farm. As a 5-year-old, he saw the annex added to Anderson Hall. At age 6, he saw Kin Takahashi’s Bartlett Hall rise from the ground, and at age 9, he saw Fayerweather Hall completed.
Enrolled in the College’s Preparatory School in the seventh grade, Brownie cut concrete for Voorhees Chapel during the summer of 1904 – just before entering the 8th grade.
He was a student at MC through his freshman year. He often told people that he “quituated” from Maryville College, but he stayed long enough to meet a good-looking girl named Jessie McCully. They married in 1912, had two children and always lived within a stone’s throw of campus so that Brownie could take care of any maintenance emergency that might arise.
Brownie’s official employment with the College began in 1910. In his time at the College, he oversaw approximately 20 major construction projects and numerous renovations – everything from rebuilding Carnegie Hall to guiding crews for the Fine Arts Center. His common-sense approach saved the College money and sometimes, embarrassment.
But Brownie was more than the College Engineer. A story in the 1958 Maryville College Bulletin termed him “a unique ambassador of goodwill.”
When Ralph W. Lloyd became president in 1930, Brownie told him that he wasn’t a member of the discipline committee and that he didn’t tattle on students. But Brownie did take the time to counsel wayward students, was a mentor to the hundreds of undergraduates who worked under him, and faithfully supported the College’s athletic teams.
He never forgot that the College was first and foremost about students, faculty and staff – and then buildings and grounds. His heart for them, his lively humor and the sticks of Juicy Fruit gum he handed out to students and acquaintances made him a favorite across the generations.
When he retired from MC in 1961, Brownie set a record for the most consecutive years of service – 51 – a mark that has never been surpassed and may never. Well-liked in the community, he could have, undoubtedly, worked elsewhere for more money and less headache. But he loved Maryville College and was loyal to her. And that loyalty is still paying off. Just ask Physical Plant Director Andy McCall, who today benefits from Brownie’s good planning and careful records.
If only Brownie could see his campus – and his Anderson Hall – now!
When his family was asked recently what Brownie would think about tonight’s honor, daughter Lois Brown Murphy ‘37, wrote: “He loved Maryville College and all the students attending, and Anderson Hall had a special place in his heart.”