Building for the future - Texas A&M dedicates newest facility

It was standing room only April 22, 2005, when movers and shakers of the state's chemical industry joined campus VIPs in ceremonies to dedicate the Jack E. Brown Engineering Building.

Lead donors Frances and Jack E. Brown '46 PETE MEEN were honored along with other founding contributors for their support of the impressive seven-story facility - constructed at a cost of $38 million including $7.2 million in private funds.

"This new facility will secure Texas A&M's place at the forefront of chemical engineering teaching and research and, on behalf of the entire university, I thank Mr. and Mrs. Brown for their generosity in helping to make this day possible. It is my hope that, for many years to come, those who work and learn here will see his name on this impressive building and be inspired by his dedication to his profession and his alma mater, and his many contributions to the future of both," Texas A&M President Robert Gates said.

A formal portrait of the Browns, which graces the first-floor lobby, was formally unveiled, and each founding contributor received a personalized memento.

A&M System Regent Erle Nye, Chancellor Robert McTeer, Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering G. Kemble Bennett, chemical engineering Department Head Ken Hall and AIChE student President Michael Adams joined Gates in expressing appreciation for the building's impact on student education, campus prestige and the economic well-being of the state.

The building is believed to be the first constructed for chemical engineering education in two decades, according to Hall, holder of the Jack E. and Frances Brown Chair in Engineering. The architecturally distinctive building has safety features that go beyond those customary for academic construction. Classrooms and computer laboratories are on the first floor, and departmental offices and the Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center, are on the second.

The remaining five floors contain research laboratories that will handle approximately $5 million in research for 2004-05. These include a shared equipment laboratory for materials research and a floor of clean rooms. In development is a supercomputer cluster, which currently includes 100 Apple G5 nodes (200 processors) and links to a similar setup at Texas A&M-Qatar to provide international supercomputing. Future plans call for up to 1500 clusters.

Established more than 50 years ago, Texas A&M's chemical engineering program emerged in the last quarter-century as a national leader for chemical engineering research, now ranking in the top 10 nationwide based on annual expenditures. Its undergraduate and graduate programs are nationally ranked at 18th and 25th, respectively.

Profile: Jack E. and Frances Brown

Jack E. Brown PETE MEEN is almost as passionate about sailing as he is about supporting his alma mater.

Whatever the weather - at sea or in life - Jack and his wife, Frances, have steered a steady course and shared the benefit of fair winds. Their generosity to Texas A&M includes a $5 million gift toward construction of the Jack E. Brown Engineering Building.

Texas A&M and the College of Engineering are very special to me, and it is an honor to be able to support both of them with this gift," said Jack, a principal in Wagner and Brown Ltd., one of Texas's largest independent oil and gas producers. Frances added: "A&M is a place where we believe the instructors work hard at teaching students to be real people - people who contribute to society and who are responsible individuals."

Jack enrolled at Texas A&M in summer 1942 just three days after graduating from San Antonio's Breckinridge High School. Like other Texas A&M students at that time, Jack interrupted his education to serve in World War II. After three years with the Army's first occupation troops in Japan, Jack returned to Texas A&M in January 1947. During his senior year, a friend introduced him to Frances Van Fleet. The two married in 1951.

After graduation from Texas A&M, Jack worked as a roughneck in Abilene and an engineer in Alice, Texas, before heading to Venezuela with Texaco. By 1957 he was back in Texas, working briefly with J. E. Jones Drilling in Midland before launching a career as a self-employed oil producer. He and geologist Cy Wagner joined forces in 1962. Wagner and Brown has since grown to encompass activities in most oil- and gas-producing states and several foreign countries. Jack has served on industry advisory councils for both the Texas A&M University College and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the college in 1989.

The couple previously endowed the Jack E. and Frances Brown Chair in Engineering and contributed major gifts to the George Bush School of Government and Public Service. They are members of the A&M Legacy Society, Endowed Diamond Century Club and The 12th Man Foundation gold level.

"Jack and Frances Brown are truly loyal friends to Texas A&M and the engineering program," said G. Kemble Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of engineering. "Thanks to their foresight and through their generous support, the legacy the Brown family has created on this campus will impact Aggies for many generations to come."

From Texas A&M Engineering News 5.1

Founding Contributors

Area Contributor(s)
Jack E. Brown Engineering Building Frances and Jack E. Brown '46
Ernest A. Baetz, Jr. '47 Conference Room Ernest A. Baetz, Jr. '47
BASF Process Safety Laboratory, BASF Student Lounge BASF Corporation
Brown-Ingram Gallery The Children of Frances and Jack E. Brown '46 - Peggy Brown Ingram '97, Van M. Brown, Patrick A. Brown '80
Dow Chemical Floor The Dow Chemical Company
Fluor Undergraduate Computer Laboratory Fluor Corporation
Ray B. Nesbitt '55 Undergraduate Study Area Ray B. Nesbitt '55
T. Michael and Olive E. O'Connor Conference Room T. Michael and Olive E. O'Connor
Rohm and Haas AIChE Student Office Rohm and Haas Company
Shell Oil Company Foundation Classroom The Shell Oil Company Foundation
Gene L. Tromblee '70 Graduate Study Area Gene L. Tromblee '70
Building Benefactors Bechtel Foundation
Michael J. Ginty '79
Robert H. Schas '44
Norman J. Tetlow '66