Baylor Mourns Passing of Retired Biology Professor and Former Strecker Museum Director

June 4, 2008
News Photo 4477Bryce Brown

Retired Baylor University biology professor Bryce C. Brown, who also served for years as curator and director of the Strecker Museum - the predecessor of Baylor's Mayborn Museum - died June 2 in Waco at the age of 88.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, June 6, at the Brazos Funeral Home, 1124 Washington Ave., with burial following at Oakwood Cemetery. Visitation will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at Brazos Funeral Home.

Brown was born in Harlingen on May 7, 1920. He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, where he began his life-long fascination with reptiles and amphibians, keeping a small "zoo" in his own backyard. After graduating from Harlingen High School in 1938, he earned a zoology degree from the University of Texas in 1942. He joined the U.S. Army and served three years in the China Burma India Theater during World War II in the field of malaria control. In 1945, he returned to Texas and married Lillian M. Seeliger, who preceded him in death in 1990. He earned his master's degree in biology at Texas A&M in 1948, and later his doctorate in vertebrate zoology from the University of Michigan.

Brown began his long academic career at Baylor in 1947, where he eventually became professor of biology, teaching zoology, herpetology and vertebrate biology. He also served as curator and later director of the Strecker Museum, where he initiated the museum studies program at Baylor.

"It is impossible to adequately describe the numerous contributions made by Dr. Bryce Brown; however, it is easy to say that what he accomplished in his 35 years at Baylor University's Strecker Museum left a lasting legacy," said Dr. Ellie Caston, director of the Mayborn Museum Complex and senior lecturer in museum studies. "Bryce saw museums as educational resources for the widest possible audience long before many of his contemporaries in the field. Hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Mayborn Museum have been the beneficiaries of his vision of what a museum can be."

Caston also noted that even with the meager resources available in the early days of the Strecker Museum, Brown persevered to organize, preserve and expand the collections, move the museum to a higher level of professionalism and provide learning opportunities for visitors of all ages. Brown's pre-professional museum studies degree program was the forerunner to what is now the department of museum studies at Baylor, she added.

Brown mentored many undergraduate and graduate students, often taking them on zoological field trips to Mexico and other locales. He published 27 articles in herpetology and was active in various scientific organizations, including serving as president of both the Texas Herpetological Society and the Texas Museums Association. He was director of the Central Texas Science Fair from 1957-83, further encouraging science education for children. After retiring from Baylor in 1983, Brown continued his interest in natural history with overseas trips to Africa, India, Australia, the South Pacific and elsewhere.

He was preceded in death by his wife Lillian M. Brown and by his three brothers. He is survived by his five children: Roy B. Brown and wife, Helen. of Orlando, Fla.; Leo D. Brown and wife, Paulette, of Baton Rouge, La.; Brent A. Brown and wife, Ellen, of Waco; Alton A. Brown of Richardson; and Carol B. Johnson and husband, Douglas, of College Station. He also is survived by 10 grandchildren: Esther M. Brown; Joel M. Brown; Kenneth W. Brown, Richard L. Brown and wife, Gina; Lisa V. Brown; Albert E. Brown; Eric Y. Brown and wife, Stacey; Seth R. Johnson; Naomi L. Johnson; and Aaron B. Johnson. He is also survived by one great-granddaughter, Lili Yukika C. Brown.

Memorials may be made to the Texas Herpetological Society or the Mayborn Museum at Baylor University.

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