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H-SC dedicates Brown Student Center

A crowd of Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni and their families gathered Nov. 3 to celebrate the origins and purpose of the new hub of campus life during the Brown Student Center Dedication.

Dr. Larry Stimpert

As stated on the H-SC website, the new student center, completed earlier this year, was made possible in large part by a major gift from Orran Brown and Ellen Brown. Orran Brown is a 1978 graduate of the college, and he is in his second four-year term as a member of the H-SC Board of Trustees.

“Orran Brown, along with his wife Ellen Brown, have always been passionate about education and the future that an education can provide,” Hampden-Sydney President Dr. Larry Stimpert said in his remarks. “As a trustee, Orran reviewed the need for this student center and wanted to make the center a reality. Orran and Ellen made their gift in honor of his parents, Anne and Ryland Brown. The gift is a legacy to his parents’ lifelong belief in the power of education to improve an individual’s well-being and that of his or her family.”

Orran Brown also gave remarks during the dedication.

“It’s a really special day,” he said after the event. “I didn’t expect it to be that emotional for me, but it’s kind of hard to get through, because talking about my mom who passed away two-and-a-half years ago, it just brings it all back up. They would be so proud that their names are here. It’s just a really special time for us.”

He noted that his father is 93 years old and wanted to be there for the dedication, “and he was really sad that he couldn’t. He just doesn’t travel anymore…”

Orran’s mother, Anne Brown, had a preview of what a college education could do for her children. Orran said she was the first from her family to go to college back in the 1940s, but she was not able to finish.

“My mom was always pushing us to get better, and she suggested this school to me,” he said. “She’s the one that said, ‘You should go to Hampden-Sydney,’ and that’s why I ended up here. So, it’s really kind of nice closure being able to leave their name here, something I never thought would be possible.”

He added that a lot of other people also played significant roles in making the building a reality.

The H-SC website cites that in addition to the Brown family, major funding was provided by Robert K. Citrone, a 1987 graduate, Robert D. Taylor, a 1973 graduate, William G. Pannill, William L. Pannill, a 1977 graduate, Ferguson Enterprises, Thompson Hospitality and the Class of 1979 Reunion Gift.

Brown explained that former H-SC President Dr. Chris Howard and former Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Allen really pushed the idea of the new student center and got it going. He said that Howard came and visited him and his wife in Richmond.

“At that point the Eggleston Library was still here, and it was empty and dark right here in the middle of campus, and it was like that for several years,” Brown said. “And he had the idea of the student center and what would be in it, and he was raising money and asked us for a certain amount and said, ’You’ll be able to name the building if you do this.’ And so Ellen and I got really enthused about it, not because we were going to name the building, but the idea was such a powerful thing about how it would fit in here and what would go on in here.”

The school website notes that Brown Student Center “is home to the offices of Students Affairs, the Student Court, Student Government, Career Services, the Flemming Center for Entrepreneurship, the post office and Tiger Inn. There are also spaces for student clubs and organizations.”

When Brown was a student at H-SC, he was Student Court chairman, and he majored in government and foreign affairs.

“The teachers here were what really pushed me, because when I was applying to law school, I was going to go to U.Va., because they have, obviously, a great law school,” he said. “One of my teachers said, ‘If I were you, I would shoot for the top … You should apply to Harvard or Yale or both.’”

Brown said he thought he would never get in there, “but I applied to Harvard and got in.”

He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and is a founding partner of BrownGreer, a law firm in Richmond.

“We design and run claim settlement programs, class-action settlements,” he said. “We’re a mutual claims administrator, like we’re the administrator for the NFL concussion settlement, that class-action settlement. We did BP oil spill claims since 2010, just now finishing that up.”

For Brown, what has made these opportunities possible is clear.

“I came from a tobacco farm and then ended up going to Harvard Law School, and it’s because of this place,” he said of Hampden-Sydney, the place his mother pointed him toward.