College of Business honors its founding dean

Mary Ann Browning, widow of the late Dr. Elmer R. Browning, and their son Robert R. Browning, unveil the portrait honoring Browning as the first dean of what is now ECU's College of Business. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Mary Ann Browning and Robert R. Browning unveil the portrait honoring the late Dr. Elmer R. Browning as the first dean of what is now ECU’s College of Business. Robert is the son of Elmer Browning and Mary Ann is Robert’s wife. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

By Steve Tuttle
ECU News Services

A classroom in the Bate Building was dedicated on Thursday to the memory of the late Dr. Elmer R. Browning, who served as the first dean of what is now the College of Business during a 32-year career on the faculty.

“We are extremely proud of where we are and where we are going,” said former College of Business Dean James Bearden, “but we have deep roots and that’s what we’re honoring today.”

“I’m pleased that you all came today to witness this, because (Browning) has a special legacy here,” Chancellor Steve Ballard said at the ceremony. “(Because of Browning), this is a college in ascendency.”

Browning and his wife, Marie, an English instructor, both taught at East Carolina from 1932 until 1968. The Brownings served under five presidents of the college. Browning also was faculty manager of the student store and the Y-Hut. He also served as the school’s postmaster for many years.

Browning’s son, former N.C. Superior Court Judge Robert R. “Bob” Browning of Greenville, said East Carolina’s business school “was the love of his life. East Carolina is a part of my heritage.”

He said seven family members have graduated from East Carolina, including his wife, Mary Ann, two of their children and their wives.

Elmer Browning was the first instructor hired in the new Department of Commerce. The department started with two instructors, 11 students and 25 typewriters. The curriculum was entirely a teacher education program with an emphasis on typing, shorthand and other office skills.

In 1960 the department was elevated to the School of Business with a curriculum that focused on professional business and management.

Beginning in the mid 1950s, Browning began a dogged effort to achieve accreditation for the School of Business from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

When that recognition finally came in 1967, East Carolina became just the third accredited school of business in North Carolina—the others were at UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University–and one of just 132 in the nation.

When Browning retired in 1968 the School of Business had grown to 1,800 students, 51 full-time faculty members and 20 graduate teaching fellows.

Today it has more than 3,000 undergraduate majors and nearly 1,000 graduate students.

In 1962, the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity and three other student groups raised money to commission an oil portrait of Browning. The portrait was hung in the lounge of Rawl, where the School of Business was centered until moving to the Bate Building in 1988.

That portrait, after cleaning and restoration work, will now hang in Room 1400 of Bate. A plaque will be mounted on a wall outside the classroom paying tribute to Browning as the first dean of the business school.

A native of Logan, W.Va., Browning received his undergraduate degree from Bowling Green College of Commerce. He received a master’s from Marshall University and a doctorate from Colorado State University. He came to East Carolina after serving as principal in West Virginia high schools.

He died in 1990 at age 86.

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