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Oldest Alum Stayed Young Until The End

October 2013

See an SAUtv interview with Glenn Brown in 2011

Ken Brown's dad wouldn't let him use the log splitter.

"I'm too young," he explained. "At 76."

Yes. At age 105, Glenn Brown '29 still was cutting - and splitting - his own wood, his son said. He also was active in the stock market and was driving his own car until early August, when he drove to his son's farm Mercer County, Ill., farm to catch a ride to see his doctor in the Quad Cities.

"He wound up in the hospital that night," Ken Brown said.

Glenn Brown died on Sept. 21 as St. Ambrose's longest living alumni, forever grateful for the education he received here, even if the small private college a half-hour northwest of his family farm near Viola, Ill., was not his first choice.

"He did not choose St. Ambrose," his son shared. "His dad did. He came home from a baseball tournament and found a priest sitting in his living room with his father, who had just registered him for St. Ambrose."

Glenn Brown wanted to play baseball in college, but St. Ambrose did not have a baseball team in the late 1920s. So he played basketball instead and learned the lessons that would help him become an entrepreneurial success for the rest of his well-lived life.

Although he studied to be a teacher, Glenn Brown began his career in the finance sector of the tire industry, came home to run the family farm, and ultimately purchased the Viola Auction Co.

In his "retirement," he successfully raised and raced standardbred harness horses.

Glenn Brown gave generously to his alma mater, and hand-delivered a check, his annual donation, to Alumni Director Anne Gannaway just weeks before he died.

Brown was the first alumnus Gannaway met when she joined the Alumni Engagement Office in the summer of 2012. In their last meeting, she said, "He was talking about the secret to living a long life, and the thought that when you give, you don't give with the idea of getting something in return. You give because it is the right thing to do."

As a result, the sage, time-tested Ambrosian told her, rewards still serendipitously came his way, typically in the form of a new friendship or an enhanced relationship and, always, a quiet sense of purpose.

"He had a great perspective on life," Gannaway said. "He believed in hard work."

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