Walter H. Brown, former Board of Directors chair, dies

Posted on January 29, 2015 by Staff Writer

It is with sadness that we report the death of Walter H. Brown, former chairman of the Sweet Briar College Board of Directors, honorary member of the Class of 1949 and emeritus director. He died Monday, Jan. 26, 2015.

Brown served on the board from 1986 to 1995 and as chairman for most of his tenure. A tireless advocate and fundraiser for the College, he worked on the Strategic Planning Steering and Development committees and chaired two finance committees. He traveled extensively for the College, cultivating campaign leadership gifts from board members and top prospects. He and his late wife, Catherine “Bunny” Barnett Brown ’49, served on the Campaign Leadership Committee.

In 1999, Walter and Bunny accepted an invitation to serve on Sweet Briar’s Centennial Commission. At Bunny’s 50th Reunion, the couple presented the “Giving Us Wings” sculpture to the College as part of her class’ Courtyard Project.

Walter Brown Walter H. Brown served on the Sweet Briar Board of Directors from 1986 to 1995 and was chairman for most of those years.

Upon Brown’s retirement from the board, his fellow directors adopted a resolution thanking him for his “steady stewardship of this institution and for the diligence, energy, and care which were so apparent in every effort he made on Sweet Briar’s behalf. …”

The resolution noted his determination to keep Sweet Briar among America’s top-ranked liberal arts colleges and further thanked him for his “generosity of spirit — and inspiration to all who served with him — and for his great good humor, which enlivened and enhanced all occasions, from serious meetings to festive Recognition Dinners.”

Brown was born on June 9, 1923, along with his twin brother Charles, in Germantown, Pa., to Harold G. and Martha F. (Henderson) Brown. The family, along with older brother Harold G. “Red” Jr., moved to Westfield, N.J. He attended Westfield High School and The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., where he and his twin brother participated on the football and track teams. He then went to Yale University, against the family tradition of attending Princeton University (where both of his brothers and father attended). Yale-Princeton football games were made more interesting with the twin brothers playing against each other.

During his Yale years, Brown served as a lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1943 to 1946. He returned to Yale where he proudly graduated with the Class of 1945W.

He and Bunny, also of Westfield, married in 1950.

In 1947, Brown joined the New York Trust Company, where he spent time supervising the bank’s business relationships in Europe. In 1957, he was appointed vice president, focusing on the bank’s European and Latin American business. In 1959, he joined Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York City to help further its banking interests abroad, became a partner in 1968, and assumed overall supervision of the bank’s international banking activities in Europe, Latin America and the Mideast. In 1988, he gave up day-to-day responsibilities but remained a general partner.

Brown, always a supporter of education, was a trustee at The Hotchkiss School and vice chairman of the Yale Alumni Board, in addition to his Sweet Briar service. He has held positions as vice chairman of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce, trustee of the American-Scandinavian Foundation, director of Westvaco Corporation, and was a member of the Columbian American Chamber of Commerce, New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Bankers Association for Foreign Trade. More recently, he was a director of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce and the Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum. He was also an honorary member of the Princeton Class of 1946.

Brown is survived by his four children: Walter H. Brown Jr., Catherine G. Erickson, Rebecca K. Holmes and Harold G. Brown, 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, as well as many nieces and nephews.

As he was such a strong believer in education, in lieu of flowers, please make any memorial contributions to the educational institution of your choice.

A memorial service on campus will be announced at a later date.