Merredieth “Mike” Astor Brown, BSN, RN, Class of 1972, was born on Sept. 26, 1929, in Madison, West Virginia, a small coal-mining town. Mike’s dad was a coal miner during the Great Depression. This left Mike responsible for the care of his mother, siblings, animals and chores. Mike was often seen riding his pony to help his widowed grandmother with gardening, yard work, tending to livestock and whatever else she needed. When the time came, instead of becoming a coal miner, as many did, Mike joined the U.S. Navy. He attended Naval Hospital Corpsman School and was soon deployed to Naples, Italy.
While in Naples, Mike assisted in preparing a hospital in a local community where he often cared for civilians and even delivered several babies. Unsurprisingly, Mike became fluent in Italian, providing communication between locals and sailors. He recalled the time a local fisherman fell into the water and was drowning. Mike resuscitated the fisherman and stayed with him until they reached the hospital where doctors could continue medical care. Because of this, Corpsman Brown received naval accommodation. An article was even written about his bravery and medical knowledge in several Italian newspapers along with his hometown paper, Coal Valley News.
After returning to the states, Brown married a local woman from Madison and fathered three girls. Mike’s naval duties continued being later assigned on the United States’ first completed supercarrier, the USS Forrestal, heading back to Naples. As a corpsman, he was a scrub nurse in the operating room, maintained care for over 5,000 men aboard the ship and sutured wounds all while running an 80-bed sick bay. Mike even cleaned debris from needles and sharpened them by hand for reuse after sterilization. He remembers being on an aircraft carrier at when the flight cable broke causing it to whip through several men on the top deck, killing six men that day. Mike tended to the wounded and prepared the fatalities to be flown home.
In 12 years, Mike became Chief Brown having served in the Korean War, Bay of Pigs, Israeli-Lebanese conflict, Vietnam War and other struggles. During his tenure, Mike was assigned to the Marine Amphibious Forces at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and eventually assigned to Fort Worth, Texas where he would later retire. On March 7, 1969, at the age of 39, Mike ended his naval career with full honors, an event witnessed by military personnel, civilians and the local news.
Mike Brown was raised with values such as hard work and community service that his parents instilled in him, values that he passed on to his children. He volunteered to help with the Color Guard, local charities, various indigent people and victims of AIDS. One time, Mike even demonstrated to his children’s Girl Scout Troop how to administer first aid. Having witnessed the condition of the times, Mike decided to continue his education in nursing.
Mike worked and attended school full-time while raising three daughters full-time as a single dad. Remarkably, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from, what was then, Harris College of Nursing in 1972.
As a registered nurse, he was fortunate to have worked in places from Alaska to Florida. Mike also taught nursing in West Virginia, Florida and in Texas. In an even longer list of work experience, Brown specialized in head and neck oncology. He had a genuine interest in helping the terminally ill, so he helped start up a hospice program in Florida. Interested in helping people, his community and bettering society overall, he transitioned to working in public health. He also spent time working in cardiac care, medical surgery and recovery, pediatrics, and with psychological patients. Mike spent many years in long-term care as a Director of Nurses in various facilities. His youngest daughter, a registered nurse, often worked with him in long-term care. Eventually, he retired at the age of 75.
“That’s how driven he is,” said Jan Brown, one of his daughters. “My dad is always talking about education. He believes in it so strongly.”
He believes that everyone should have access to education. Brown’s father only had a fourth-grade education, but he wanted his children to receive higher education. Today, all of Mike’s children have degrees in the fields of health and education.
To this day, Mike still volunteers at his local church for various activities. You can’t miss him sweeping his neighborhood sidewalk, so the kids and elderly don’t have to step on pine needles and pinecones as they walk. “He makes friends with everyone who passes by; he enjoys people,” said Jan Brown. He also volunteers at nursing homes by facilitating and playing bingo with the patients. To this day, he still misses working in nursing and aspires to go back and teach.
In May of 2022, at the age of 92, Brown attended his 50th class reunion at Texas Christian University. The two-day event was “beautifully executed in a way that only TCU could have prepared” noted Brown.
“Through 20 years of military service and raising three children, his dedication to education has never wavered,” said Jan Brown. “The pride Mike has for TCU has continued for over 50 years even to this day. He is the type of person that represents Texas Christian University.”
Mr. Mike Brown has respectfully donated his class ring to Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences, not just because it is unique, but above all, to honor his dedication and pride for Texas Christian University and the School of Nursing.
The ring was made in 1972, at Haltom’s Jewelers, a Fort Worth master jeweler, in gold with Brown’s birthstone and the medical caduceus on top of the stone.
Biography provided in part by Mike Brown’s daughters: Teresa G. Hawley, Jan L. Brown and Karen S. Nelson.