A longtime resident of Lawrence and emeritus member of the Department of Mathematics faculty at the University of Kansas, Robert Dillon Brown (known as Bob to most of his friends), died on vacation with his wife and one granddaughter in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 23, 2016. Bob was born November 26, 1933 in the small town of Paris, Arkansas. He was the first of two sons had by Robert Marion Brown and Margaret Marie Brown (neé Dillon) and moved with his parents to San Carlos, California in 1941, when he was seven years old. Bob graduated from Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California in 1951 and subsequently attended the University of California, Berkeley.
Originally intending to be an architect, he received his B.A. in mathematics in 1955, becoming the first person in his family to graduate from a four-year college. At Berkeley, Bob was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity and completed four years of R.O.T.C. training. From 1955 to 1957, he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stationed in Virginia and then Japan, where he supervised the construction of runways and roads. Bob then returned to the University of California, Berkeley, completing his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1963.
With job offers from U.C.L.A. and the University of Kansas, Bob chose the latter, largely because of the chance to work with a prominent, specialized research group run by Professor Nachman Aronszajn and funded by the Office of Naval Research. Bob subsequently spent the entirety of his career at the University of Kansas, teaching there for 46 years – from 1963 until his retirement in 2009 (with one academic year on sabbatical, 1972-1973, as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow in Scotland). Eventually reaching the rank of full professor in 1988, Bob served as Associate Chairman of the Department of Mathematics for 22 years (1979-2001). Especially devoted to pedagogy, he received numerous teaching awards, including the math department’s Graduate Student Association Teaching Award (in 1972, 1978, 1987, and 1994), the Mortar Board Distinguished Educator Award (1982), the University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence Award (2004), the Max Wells Teaching Award (2005), and the university-wide Chancellor’s Club Career Teaching Award (2000).
A few years after moving to Lawrence, Bob met Sharon Ruth Burton, who was a schoolteacher in her hometown, Kansas City, Kansas, at the time and subsequently worked for the Lawrence Unified School District for 24 years. They married in 1968 and raised two sons in Lawrence: Bill Brown, currently a resident of Olathe, Kansas and the broker/owner of Tom Jones Realtors; and Jeffrey Dillon Brown, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri and is an associate professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis. Bill and his wife, Allison Brown, have three daughters – Kylee, Kalista, and Kolby Brown – while Jeff and his wife, Jessica Rosenfeld, have two daughters – Samantha and Alexandra Brown – making a total of five granddaughters upon whom Bob assiduously doted in his later years. Bob was particularly close with his younger brother, John Richard (Rick) Brown, who preceded him in death in 2009. Rick’s daughter, Marnie, lives in Redlands, California with her husband, Bryce Ryan, and their two daughters, Annabelle and Adeline.
An accomplished cook, expert gardener, enthusiastic traveller, and revered grandfather, Bob devoted much of his time after retirement to these passions, as well as performing service for Meals on Wheels and the Endacott Society, among others. He will be fondly remembered by family, friends, and colleagues as a kind, patient, compassionate, and quietly joyful bon vivant.
The family will greet friends on Friday, August 5, 2016, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street. There will also be a Celebration of Life at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 20, 2016, at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts Street, which all are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to Meals on Wheels, which can be sent to the mortuary, or contributions toward the R.D. Brown Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Mathematics at the University of Kansas. For this latter, please send any gifts to KU Endowment, PO Box 928, Lawrence, KS, 66044, with “R.D. Brown Award in Mathematics” in the memo line or make an online gift at: www.kuendowment.org.