Charlie Brown and friends

Dr. Charles “Charlie” Brown was putting the finishing touches on his doctoral dissertation in 1969 when his typewriter broke. After buying a new machine, he had only $5 in his bank account.

Not long after, Dr. Brown was hired at Plymouth State to teach computer courses and supervise the campus computer center. Despite his lack of wealth, he immediately set about paying back the $1,450 that made it possible for him to earn his undergraduate degree at the University of New Hampshire, Durham—even though the funds were granted to him, not borrowed.

When he’d repaid what he thought of as a debt by 1975, Dr. Brown received a letter stating he was the first alumnus ever to return grant money. That made him proud.

So, Dr. Brown continued giving in all ways throughout his 43-year career at Plymouth State and long after his retirement in 2013, at age 73.

In 2000, Dr. Brown created the Charles E. Brown Applied Computer Science Scholarship, and one year later, he set up the Elaine Vaillant Brown Informational Technology Scholarship, named for his late wife. Both funds were endowed by 2007 and now provide roughly $3,000 each year to two deserving students.

“I really missed teaching. I set up something that will help the students, the way I was once helped,” Dr. Brown says, noting that people don’t need to have a lump sum of cash to endow a scholarship. “The secret is to start small and continue to contribute.”

Dr. Brown holds a bachelor’s, a master’s and a PhD in chemical engineering, and his service to Plymouth State was long and steadfast. He served as supervisor of the computer center, director of academic computing, and was one of three founders of the University’s Computer Science Department in 1981 and taught in that department until 2006.

Over the years, he introduced roughly 7,000 students to computer technology, had 13 bosses and moved his office 13 times. His joy in teaching was interacting with all students—those who sat in the front row, eager to learn, and those in the back who needed extra encouragement.

In 2006, Dr. Brown was asked by a dean to tackle a mammoth project—scanning a collection of 47,000 photos documenting the history of the Brown Company paper mill in Berlin from the late 19th century through the mid-1960s. This work is accessible now online via the University’s Museum of the White Mountains at

Scanning the collection took Dr. Brown seven years to complete; he retired the same year he brought the project to a close.

Giving of himself continues to help Dr. Brown thrive. “It’s all because two donors helped me complete college,” he says, noting he would love to motivate other donors to give.

Consider this calculation by Dr. Brown: If one in 10 alumni of Plymouth State endowed scholarships, eventually, no students would have to pay tuition. “It would be self-sustaining.”