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Chico State

Fond Farewell: Mechanical Engineering Professor Fayette Brown

Stars shine above Trinity Hall.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Professor Emeritus Fayette “Al” Brown, who taught mechanical engineering for 24 years, passed away January 16. He was 91.

Born April 6, 1927, he grew up in Canton, Ohio, and served in the US Air Force during World War II. Following the war, he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Ohio University in 1952 and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from University of Washington in 1956. In the 1950s, he worked briefly for EW Bliss as a mechanical engineer, then as a flight test engineer for Boeing, and later as a mechanical engineer for Standard Oil. He married his wife, Beverly, in 1954, and they moved to California to raise their family.

In 1959, he was hired at Chico State College, where he would carry out a 24-year career in education that would take him across the globe while also consulting on private and federal projects.

Brown brought immense knowledge from his academic and professional career, and was always eager to solve challenging mechanical problems, said Professor Emeritus Bob Donahoe, who worked with Brown for a number of years and also partnered together on several consulting projects.

“We had a lot of good times together, traveling to different jobs and working on projects,” he recalled. “He was a pretty mellow fella. He went with the flow and was a really nice guy, easy to work with.”

Al Brown stands at a rock wall with sprawling hillsides behind him.
Brown traveled throughout his life, teaching and consulting in countries around the world. Photo courtesy of Randy Brown.

Professor Emeritus Charles Allen describes Brown as not only a colleague but a friend, as they lived next door to one another for many years. His passion for teaching and engineering was always evident.

“He was very likeable and got on well with the students,” he said. “I was very impressed with him the first time I met him, with his general knowledge, his knowledge of the politics of that time. And he was a great friend of the [University] president at that time, Robert E. Hill.”

Brown traveled extensively throughout his life, including consulting in Pakistan, teaching engineering in Syria as a Fulbright lecturer, and serving as a visiting professor at the University of Karishruhe, the oldest engineering school in Germany. He was also awarded a NASA Faculty Fellowship and consulted for the National Science Foundation and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Science Education for an improvement project in India.

In 1962, he participated in nuclear bomb tests near Yucca Flats, Nevada, while working for the US Radiological Defense Lab and was called back to active duty by the US Air Force to assist with training during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the summer of 1966, he supported research at a US Navy testing station at China Lake.

After his first retirement in 1983, Brown began another 30-year career as a consulting engineer for Boster & Associates. He also retired from the US Air Force Reserves in 1985 as a lieutenant colonel, after 32 distinguished years of service. Eventually, he and Beverly settled in Penn Valley and then Grass Valley.

He is survived by Beverly, children Melanie Mader, Pam Fisher, and Randy Brown, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Services with full military honors were held earlier this month at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery.