'Doc' Brown memorial service planned Dec. 13

  • November 14, 2008

Dr. Charles Harmon "Doc" Brown, the first director of the Student Health Center and a fixture at track and field and cross country events worldwide, died Nov. 11, following a brief battle with cancer.

During his 16 years leading the health center, he also served as assistant coach to the university women's track and field team during a golden era that saw a handful of CSUEB athletes head to the Olympics, where Brown also coached.

A memorial service is scheduled at 1 p.m. Dec. 13 at Hillsdale United Methodist Church, 303 W. 36th Ave. in San Mateo. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial gifts be sent to the Hillsdale United Methodist Church, 303 W. 36th Ave., San Mateo, CA 94403; or to a favorite charity.

"He was a superb physician and a very effective and compassionate boss," said Dr. Sharon Friedman, a physician at the Student Health Center who worked under Brown. "Many athletes of Olympic caliber enrolled as students at Cal State Hayward to take advantage of his coaching."

As a CSUEB student, Marie Kemper competed in shot put, discus and javelin events under Brown's guidance.

"He didn't work with just the athlete," said Kemper, who today works on campus in the application systems department. "He cared about the whole person . . . He was your coach, your mentor, your friend."

When financial difficulties pressed her to consider leaving college, Brown hired her to handle clerical work. When two teammates needed a place to stay, Brown's family took them into their home.

"You didn't just see him on the track from 3 to 5 p.m.; he was part of your life." she said. "You just developed this bond with him that has carried throughout the years."

Born in Washington, D.C. in 1930, he attended Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, graduating cum laude in 1952. His collegiate sprint hurdling career included winning four conference individual championship titles and setting school records in the 120-yard high hurdles and 220-yard low hurdles.

Brown then attended George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. In 1956, he served as an intern at DePaul Hospital in Norfolk, Va., before heading a year later to Atlanta where he served as resident and chief resident of Internal Medicine at Emory University Hospital.

Drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1961, Brown was transferred to the West Coast, where he became a lieutenant commander at the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Lab in San Francisco. He also joined the staff of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, a connection he maintained until his recent illness. Following naval service, Brown accepted a position at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Livermore.

He arrived at CSUEB in 1973 and retired in 1990 but remained active as a consultant, seeing patients at the health center until recently. .

An early advocate of women's track and field, Brown began coaching in 1953 and went on to coach at the club, school, collegiate and national levels, primarily focused on throwing events. He coached several regional and national champions and three Olympians. He coached the Millbrae Lions from 1962 to 1974, CSUEB from 1974 to 1992, and San Francisco State until 2008.

He coached 10 U.S. national teams at events, including the Pan American Games in Winnipeg in 1967, the Goodwill Games in Moscow in 1986 and the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He also headed an American team that traveled to China in 1975 as part of a cultural and sports exchange program.

Serving as an official, physician and drug-testing coordinator, Brown participated in track and field and cross country meets and road races statewide and around the world. He was the U.S. team's physician at the 1982 Pan Am Games in Venezuela, the 1985 World Cup in Canberra, Australia, the 1987 World Championship in Rome and the 1991 World Championship in Tokyo.

Brown did some of the earliest work on the effects of distance running and strength training on women to demonstrate women's physiological and performance capacity - in part to dispel existing beliefs that women would somehow sustain "harm" by running more than 800 meters or taking part in a weight training regime.

He chaired the Sports Sciences Committee of USA Track and Field (USATF), and served from 1985 to 2007 as a member of the International Amateur Athletic Federation's (IAAF's) Science and Anti-Doping Commission, as well as chairing IAAF's Education Subcommittee. He recently helped the Ladies Professional Golf Association develop its drug-testing policy.

Brown received many awards, including the Joseph Robichaux Memorial Award from USATF for his contributions to women's track and field (1983); the Dick Barbour Meritorious Service Award from the Pacific Association of USATF (1989); the Robert Giegengack Award from USA Track and Field for contributions to the sport (1995); the Tom Moore Lifetime Service Award from the Pacific Association of USATF (2004); the IAAF Veteran Pin for meritorious service to the cause of word athletes (2007); and the Heliodoro and Pat Rico Lifetime Achievement Award from USATF (2008).

Brown is survived by his wife Eula Love "Lovie" Merrihew Brown; brother William Tenney Brown; daughter Martha Brown; son Charles Brown; and two grandchildren.

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