I’m attempting a new series! Fine Young Scholars will focus on the education of a specific family member per post. For the first post, I will begin with one of the most educated: my grandfather, Harold Lyle Brown (known as Lyle).
Lyle grew up a practical, steady teenager in depression-era Alliance, Ohio. His father was a millwright for the Alliance Steel Foundry and his mother stayed at home and kept house. They got by, but this penny pinching, stressful time period clearly made an impression on him. When asked what his interests were as a youth, adult Lyle remembered that the main one was “getting a job and earning some money!”
He graduated from Alliance High School and decided that he wanted to continue his education, knowing that this was key to a bright future. Mt. Union College was about three blocks from his house, a convenient location that would allow him to live at home during the duration of his education there. But how to afford it? Ultimately, he ended up borrowing $125 and enrolled as a student in 1939. He went in initially unsure of what he wanted to major in, but settled on math and science.
Mt Union College was established in 1846, affiliated with the Methodist Church, and sold itself as a co-ed, equal opportunity option for education. Today it still promotes that ideal, proclaiming on its website in large bold letters its commitment “to affordability” and beneath that offering an “education accessible to students of all backgrounds.”
Alpha Tau Omega was organized in 1865 after the Civil War and made its debut at Mt. Union in 1882, being the first national fraternity on campus. Its initial goal was to unite the north and south, Union and Confederate men, in an atmosphere of peace and brotherhood. By the time Lyle joined, it was one of 95 collegiate chapters. The fraternity’s signature colors are sky blue and gold and the flower a white tea rose.
My grandfather’s involvement in this particular fraternity is a bit puzzling to me. Lyle was outdoorsy, enjoying long hikes and hunting pheasants with friends, but was not athletic and did not participate in sports. However, ATO was known for its athletic members and for excelling in football and basketball championships. Also puzzling was his specific role within the fraternity. In 1940 and 1941, he held the appointed role of the Worthy Sentinel, which meant from my understanding, that he was the person in charge of admissions to the fraternity and of managing the blacklisted members. This was also a surprise. For all intents and purposes, Lyle was an introvert, a quiet person by nature, who was friendly and pleasant to speak to, but not outgoing. However seemingly uncharacteristic, I think ultimately he liked the camaraderie.
He was noticeably absent from the yearbook in 1942, his senior year, for a good reason…
World War II was heating up in Europe and Lyle was keeping up a correspondence with one of his fraternity brothers who was in flight school (to become a fighter pilot) in Texas. His friend informed him that they were starting a new navigation school at Mather Field in California and were accepting people with three years of college, which Lyle had. Inspired by his friend, Lyle figured he would give it a try, beginning his career with the U.S.A.F as a navigator.
After the war ended, he returned home and married his sweetheart, Lois Begert in 1945. Their son Jerry was born in 1948, the same year that Lyle ended his career with the U.S.A.F. (temporarily- they would recall him for the Korean War) and returned to Mt. Union college, finishing what he started several years earlier. After almost 8 years of being away, he struggled to get back into the groove of school life, calling himself “a poor math student,” but finished. It appeared that when he bounced back, he did so with gusto and completed two graduate programs, receiving his masters in secondary education from George Peabody’s Teacher’s college in Tennessee, where his young family lived in a trailer no bigger than a living room. He was offered a job as a math and science teacher in McGuffey, Ohio and was later appointed the Executive Head of the school there. Lyle had been interested in counseling from the start, and minored in it at George Peabody. Eventually he would go on to become a guidance counselor in Virginia, where the family eventually settled after much bouncing around.
I think he served as a role model and inspiration for my dad, his son Jerry, who would go back to school in his adulthood for a graduate program in English at George Mason University. He wanted to be a teacher and probably would have been, had cancer not ended his life in 1996 at the age of 47. I think he would have been a great teacher, just like his dad.