Dr. Ray Brown (’62)
“I was smart enough to get by in high school, but I never really applied myself. But that changed when I got to college. I really started working.”
A native Memphian, Ray Brown says he was spurred into the engineering field by the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite, by the Soviet Union in 1957. “There was a huge hue and cry to ramp up our technology, and engineering looked like the promising career for everybody. At that time, Christian Brothers College was the only place to study engineering in Memphis.”
During his collegiate career, he was nominated to be sophomore class president and later served as president of the Student Government Association. He says the most important lesson he learned at CBC was that “hard work is (almost) always rewarded.”
“I had the great good fortune to have Brother Lambert Thomas as a calculus teacher my very first semester here,” Ray says. “Quite frankly, it changed my life. I was so impressed by him. He truly was a master teacher. We had a quiz every day of class. We met every day, and we had a quiz every day. I can remember students in a calculus class on their feet arguing about things like limits, and anyone who has ever been in calculus or math will realize what an accomplishment that was on his part. By the end of my freshman year, I had decided that I wanted to go into academia, and furthermore, I wanted to go into academia here.”
After graduating from CBC with his BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1962, Ray headed to Notre Dame University, where he earned his MS in Mechanical Engineering in 1964 and his PhD in 1968. He returned to Memphis and CBC in 1967 and was hired as an Assistant Professor. During the ensuing 55 years, he rose through the faculty ranks to full Professor, served as Dean of the School of Engineering from 1992 to 1999, and was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement from full-time teaching. He still teaches a class or two each semester, including courses in the Mechanics of Materials and Thermal System Analysis and Design (which is his specialty). He has been honored by CBU as Distinguished Lasallian Educator in 1999 and with the Brother Lawrence Egbert Award For Distinguished Service in 2016.
Ray has also provided services as an engineering consultant and is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE), Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, and Sigma XI Scientific Research Honor Society. He was recognized by TSPE with its Distinguished Service Award in 1997.
I guess the thing that I’m most proud of is our students we’ve graduated some extremely successful citizens — not only good engineers and successful engineers, but good citizens. There’s an old saying that I learned long ago that says ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ I took that to heart. I think you do the best with where you are.