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SF attorney, former trustee Robert Minge Brown dies at 83

STANFORD -- San Francisco attorney Robert Minge Brown, a former president of the Stanford Board of Trustees, died Sunday, Nov. 27, of heart failure. He was 83.

Brown, a resident of Hillsborough, died in Albuquerque, N.M., during a family visit.

Much of Brown's life was intertwined with the university: He was a student athlete, a class president and student body president, a Rhodes scholar and a volunteer fundraiser.

A partner in the San Francisco law firm McCutchen, Doyle, Brown and Enersen, Brown also served as a university trustee from 1965 to 1981. He was elected board president in 1971, during a contentious period in university history.

In 1972, Brown helped launch the five-year $300 million Campaign for Stanford. He stepped down from the presidency of the board when his five-year term expired in 1976, noting that he spent at least one-third of his time working on university business. In 1980, he served as chair of the Board of Trustees search committee that recommended Donald Kennedy as successor to President Richard Lyman.

When Brown left the board at age 70 in 1981, his colleagues praised him for, among other things, “helping to guide the university out of a time of severe stress, then devoting his efforts to assuring victory in the Campaign for Stanford.”

Born in Mobile, Ala., on Oct. 16, 1911, Brown moved to San Francisco with his widowed mother and new stepfather in 1920. Having skipped three grades in school, young Brown in 1921 came to the attention of Stanford psychologist Lewis M. Terman, who recruited him for a study of 1,500 gifted youngsters - those with IQ over 135.

His outstanding achievements as a Boy Scout led to an invitation by Adm. Richard E. Byrd to accompany an expedition to the South Pole. Brown's mother decided he should not go.

When Brown was 13, Terman invited him to enroll at Stanford. “I refused because I had a certain amount of common sense,” Brown told a campus audience in 1986. Instead, he started his Stanford career at 15.

Participating in a discussion with two other “gifted children” then in their 70s, Brown said he thought it was not a good idea to advance gifted children too much on the academic ladder because it put them at a disadvantage with fellow students.

Brown credited his athletic ability for enabling him to “fit in” at Stanford. He placed second in the mile in the Pacific Coast Championships.

He earned three letters in track at Stanford and received the Jake Gimbel Award for the male senior with the best competitive attitude from the Department of Athletics.

Brown earned a bachelor's degree with great distinction in history from Stanford in 1931 and served as student body president in 1931-32 while he was a first-year student in the Law School. He won a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated with a bachelor of civil law degree, with highest honors, from Oxford in 1934.

At Oxford, he earned letters in track, tennis and rugby.

He joined McCutchen, Doyle, Brown and Enersen in summer 1934. Brown served in Naval intelligence in the Pacific theater during World War II, holding the rank of lieutenant commander when he was discharged in 1945. He then returned to the law firm, specializing in corporate finance and public utility regulation until he retired in 1980.

At Stanford, Brown was active in the Stanford PACE Campaign (Plan of Action for a Challenging Era), which raised more than $100 million during 1961-64. He was a member of Stanford Associates, an organization of volunteer fundraisers. He and a son, Douglas, were the only father-son recipients of the Associates' Gold Spike Award for distinguished fundraising service to Stanford.

His non-Stanford service included 10 years as a trustee of Mills College in Oakland. He was a former board member of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Hewlett-Packard Co., Greyhound Corp., San Jose Water Works and Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation. Brown also was board chairman of California Water Service Co.

He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973.

Brown remained an active sportsman all his life. He especially enjoyed golf, and was particularly proud of having shot his age at 81.

Brown is survived by two sons, Douglas Minge Brown of Albuquerque and Harrison Minge Brown of Menlo Park. Douglas earned a bachelor's degree in history from Stanford in 1959 and an MBA in 1961. Harrison earned bachelor's and master's degrees in physics at Stanford in 1966 and 1971.

Also surviving are a daughter-in-law, Sarah, and four grandchildren of Albuquerque and numerous nieces and nephews. His wife, Gloria, died in 1990.

A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, El Camino Real at Chapin in Burlingame.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers contributions to the Robert Minge Brown Memorial Fund, c/o Office of Development, 301 Encina Hall, Stanford, CA 94305-6076.



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