Bright Shall Thy Mem’ry Be: In Memoriam

Norris ‘Brownie’ Browne

A longtime supporter of all things UNH, Brownie loved his Wildcats
Durham’s Three Chimneys Inn on fall weekends when the University of New Hampshire football team was playing in town was Norris Browne’s home away from home.

Browne ’55 would drive up from his residence in Wilton, Conn., on Friday and make the rounds: stopping by the Field House, visiting the Jerry Azumah Performance Center to say hello, then heading to the field to check in on practice before he landed at Three Chimneys — which would then become UNH Football Central for the weekend.

Game after game, year after year, Browne’s friends and family members gathered to talk about their beloved Wildcats, watch their beloved Wildcats (Norris preferred to walk the sidelines during the game) and then talk more about their beloved Wildcats after the game.

“I’ve got to say for years at every Homecoming, he’s been like the ringleader for a gang of us, a gang of us that has been shrinking like crazy,” said Len Willey ’55, a longtime UNH friend. “It was Brownie that got us going, would tell us what we were going to do. He was a fun guy, an intelligent guy and he loved UNH, that’s for sure. … We are sure going to miss him.”

A two image collage structure (left and right side) in which the tallest, portrait (left side) black and white photograph shows Norris Browne '55 in a downward crouched position getting ready to hike the football as a center for the UNH team and the shorter, smaller (right side) landscape photograph shows Norris Browne in Sept. 2021 being honored as Donor of the Game for his steadfast support of both athletics and academics at his alma mater smiling and posing for a picture with a picture frame in his hands next to the UNH football team mascot
Norris Browne ’55 played football and lacrosse as an undergrad. In Sept. 2021, he was honored as Donor of the Game for his steadfast support of both athletics and academics at his alma mater.
Norris August Browne, a generous supporter of both athletics and academics at UNH, passed away at age 89 on Sept. 17, 2022.

At UNH, he played football and lacrosse, eventually leaving the teams to focus on his studies.

An engineering major who went on to have a successful career in manufacturing, Browne came to UNH a proud Mainer from the small town of Madison.

Norris and Tom Tracy ’55 met at UNH in 1951 when they lined up beside each other as undersized linemen on the football field.

“He was an offensive center and weighed 150 pounds. I weighed 149 and was a left guard and middle linebacker,” Tracy said. “We were two of the smallest guys on the whole team, but we got into some games. He was a tough little son of a gun. Oh God, did we love it. We loved to hit those big guys and put them down on the ground.”

Norris joined Theta Chi, later serving as the fraternity’s president.

“Brownie just loved people,” said Chan Sanborn ’55, one of the fraternity. “He was one of those guys who could rally people around the flagpole. I was talking to Billy Pappas, another member of our group, and he said, ‘Chan, we just lost the leader of our class.’ He just had that ability to get people together.”

Former head football coach Sean McDonnell ’78 called Brownie “an old-school UNH guy.

“He would come to Friday practices and would call me Seanie. Not many people called me that and I loved it when he did. … He was loyal, dedicated and extremely generous” to various athletic programs, engineering programs and other campus initiatives. Browne was the main supporter of the weight room for the past two decades of upgrades and a major donor when the Jerry Azumah Performance Center opened and when it was renovated. He also supported the stadium renovation and the mechanical engineering program.

On Sept. 17, Browne’s family gathered in his hospital room to watch via livestream as the Wildcats took on North Carolina Central. They enjoyed a shot of Scotch one of his grandkids had snuck in. When the game ended, Browne asked everyone to leave; he was going to take a nap. He died about an hour later.

For Browne’s children — Joe, Thomas and Katie — the game-watching was part of a tradition, where each would come up from Florida for a game during the fall to spend a weekend with Dad.

“It was a great time building those memories,” Joe said.

— Allan Lessels