The Rev. Dr. Coleman B. Brown, 80, of Madison St., Hamilton, NY, passed away peacefully Sunday, December 14, 2014. A beloved teacher, minister, and mentor to generations of seekers and students, he was Colgate University’s chaplain and professor of philosophy and religion for nearly three decades.
He was born June 27, 1934 in Evanston, IL, a son of Lloyd Warfield Brown and Nancy Coleman Brown and older brother of David Warfield Brown. He attended public schools in Evanston, graduating from Evanston Township High School in 1952. In 1956, he graduated from Princeton University, magna cum laude. Following that, he entered Union Theological Seminary in New York City and received a B.D. (M. Div.) in 1959. He was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry, Presbytery of Chicago, in March 1963, where he served an inner-city church, Olivet Presbyterian, until 1968. He was active in the civil rights movement, clergy protests against the Vietnam War, and community service throughout the 1960s. He was a Graduate Fellow at Union Theological Seminary from 1968-1970, studying the works of Martin Luther King Jr. and Reinhold Niebuhr. He joined the faculty of Colgate University as an instructor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion in the fall of 1970. In the early 1970’s, while a member of the Colgate faculty, he served as supply minister to the Millers Mills Community Church in West Winfield, NY. He received his Ph. D. from Union Theological Seminary in 1979.
At Colgate, while continuing to teach courses on religion and philosophy, he served as the University Chaplain from 1974-1989. Students of many backgrounds found his courses life-changing and profound; and the vibrant fellowship of the ecumenical University Church that he led welcomed “believers, seekers and doubters,” as he often said. He was Acting Dean of Students 1976-77 and served as chair of his department from 1993-1996. Upon his retirement in 1996, he was named Professor emeritus and Chaplain emeritus, continuing his pastoral counsel, part-time teaching, and extensive correspondence with many former students, friends and colleagues.
Coleman was the recipient of the Phi Eta Sigma (Student) Teacher of the Year Award in 1992; the Colgate Alumni Corporation Distinguished Teaching Award in 1993; Colgate Administration’s Prize for Inspirational Teaching in 1996; and the Unitas Award from Union Theological Seminary in 2007. He was also given an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Ursinus College, State College, PA, in 2007. In 2010, he received the Princeton University Class of 1956 Distinguished Classmate Award. Even as Lewy body dementia took a toll on his body and mind, his affirming spirit burned bright and in May 2014, he was delighted to win the Pierpont “Pete” Noyes Memorial Courage Award for “never giving up, facing problems, hard work, and cooperation” from the Chenango Water Exercise Group.
On August 18, 1956, Coleman married his high-school sweetheart Irene Catherine Mayer in Evanston, IL who survives. Also surviving are his brother David and family; children Justin L. Brown and Sabine Tibbetts of Ipswich, MA; Susan R. Brown-Zimmerman and Joel Zimmerman of Melrose, MA; Bradford C. and Shannon Brown of Charlotte, NC; Joshua E. Brown and Zoe Richards of Burlington, VT; and ten grandchildren: Miranda, Rosalie, Silas, Coleman, Danielle, Caleb, Abraham, Sarah, Anna Josiah, and Isaiah.
Friends are invited to have Coffee with Coleman’s Family on Saturday, December 20, 2014 from 11am to 1pm at the Parish House of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Madison St., Hamilton.
Funeral services will be held at 2pm at St. Thomas’ Church.
A memorial service to celebrate the life of Coleman Brown will be held at Colgate University in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory may be made to the Coleman and Irene Brown Scholarship Fund, c/o Colgate University, 10 Oak Dr., Hamilton, NY 13346, www.colgate.edu/makeagift; or to a charity of one’s choice.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Burgess & Tedesco Funeral Home, 25 Broad St., Hamilton.