NCCU Celebrates the Life of Dr. Walter Brown, First Ph.D. Recipient at NCCU

Posted March 11, 2022, 4:23PM
Walter Brown, Ph.D., '48, '55

North Carolina Central University remembers Walter Matthew Brown, Ph.D., '48, '55, who passed away on Feb. 12, 2022, at the age of 94.

A native of Durham, he attended the then all African-American Hillside High School and later enrolled at then N.C. College (N.C.C.) for Negroes where his professors challenged him and encouraged him to achieve and believe great things. Following an interruption of his academic studies from 1945 to 1946 to serve in the U.S. Army during World War, he returned with one singular goal - to complete his bachelor’s degree.

Brown graduated from formerly named N.C.C. at Durham in 1948 with bachelor’s degrees in biology, sociology and education. As a student, he joined the Gamma Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and was also a guest columnist for the Campus Echo newspaper. He received his master’s degree from New York University in 1950.

In 1950, Brown began his career in higher education as an instructor at Bennett College in Greensboro, and career guidance counselor for selected high schools in N.C. He returned to N.C.C. at Durham in 1952 to enroll in the college’s newly-created doctoral program under the guidance of Rose Butler Browne, Ph.D., who served as the third chair of the institution’s Department of Education. In 1955, Brown became the first of five students at the university to receive a Ph.D. degree in educational guidance in psychology. He also was the first student to graduate with a Ph. D. degree from any historically Black college or university in the U.S. He completed his post-doctoral studies at Boston University on a Danforth Foundation scholarship.

He joined the faculty of N.C.C. at Durham as an associate professor of education from 1955 to 1965. In his role, he established and served as director of the university's first Career Placement Bureau; chairman of the Committee on Undergraduate Recruitment; and director of Student Teaching all with distinction and a great level of service.

In 1980, after employment in the private sector, Brown returned to his alma mater as professor of education and later served as the first dean of the School of Education from 1989 until 1992. Much of his success was attributed to his work ethic and management style. Brown was best described as a capable administrator who set clear goals and provided sound leadership to achieve them.  Brown was awarded professor emeritus status for his years of service as a distinguished leader and was feted at an awards program in appreciation of his service and tenure in the School of Education, where he touched the lives of countless students, colleagues and the community. He also held the distinction of serving as the first University Marshal from 1986 to 1992.

He remained a loyal and steadfast supporter and donor to the university, who shared his talents and skills as the first president of the N.C. Central University (NCCU) retirees and an active community participant. His life and service has been committed to NCCU’s motto of "Truth and Service" in all endeavors of life.

Brown's life, which he narrated in vivid detail, is chronicled in his highly-praised 2010 memoir, “I Walked the Sloping Hills.” He also shared his talent and expertise as a gifted calligrapher whose work can be viewed in the illustrated children's book “The North Carolina Alphabet,” which was co-written by his colleague, former NCCU Professor Pamela George, Ph.D. He was resident calligrapher for Durham's Hayti Heritage Center and taught calligraphy in the NCCU Art Department and at Durham Technical Community College.

His career spanned a significant period of change in American life, and university history from the Jim Crow segregation to a period of advancement free of discrimination. His record of leadership and service intersected with every president and chancellor at NCCU from the founder Dr. James E. Shepard to the current chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye, Ph.D.

Brown was a member of the Beta Theta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha and the Alpha Tau Boule' of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc.

His wife Ozie, who was also an NCCU alumna and career staff member at the university, preceded him in death in 2008. Brown is survived by three daughters Judith, Jacqueline and Jennifer Brown.

A remembrance service of Brown's life will be held on his birthday, Sat., April 9, at 11 a.m., at Trinity United Methodist Church in Durham.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to NCCU’s Walter and Ozie Brown Student in Distress Endowed Scholarship Fund.

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