Donald Brown, Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Research Scientist Emeritus at the Center for Research Learning and Teaching (CRLT) at the University of Michigan, died November 5, 2019 at the age of ninety-four.

Professor Brown received his A.B. degree from Harvard University in 1948, and his Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1951. From 1951-1964, he was faculty at Bryn Mawr College prior to joining the University of Michigan in 1964 as a professor of psychology and research scientist at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT).

During Professor Brown’s early tenure at the University of Michigan, he was inspired by student disruptions in the early 1960s which motivated him to consider alternative educational models. His efforts with the Pilot Residence Hall Program led to establishing the Residential College in 1967 with Theodore Newcomb, the first of its kind. Professor Brown and Newcomb conducted a longitudinal study on residential-academic units with a consortium of five universities. Professor Brown and his wife June have given generously to support need-based scholarships for the Residential College.

Professor Brown was also co-director and instrumental from inception of the Integrated Premedical-Medical Program (Inteflex), from 1972-1994. This joint venture between Michigan Medical School and LSA, offered a combined program for selected premedical students that incorporated a humanities program in conjunction with medical studies. This program merged Professor Brown’s intellectual interests in understanding the factors that shape students’ educational experiences and outcomes with his social and political concerns about educational efforts. Both the Residential College and Inteflex were developed by the CRLT and Professor Brown was instrumental in both institutions.

Professor Brown published numerous articles on student development in higher education, education in medicine, psychophysics of judgment and cognition, and women's life-span development. He was active in the American Psychological Association, serving on the editorial board and executive board, from 1968-1985. During this time, he and his colleagues, launched a new journal Teaching of Psychology (TOP). This journal was published by APA for teachers of Psychology at the undergraduate level. He was known for training teaching fellows and implementing numerous evaluations on the effectiveness of classroom instruction and was appointed director of CRLT from 1983-1994. The CRLT was also one of the first centers of its kind in the country with a dual role encompassing service to the faculty and research on the basic problems and conditions of instruction. In 1993, he received a Distinguished Faculty Governance award from the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA).

The major reoccurring theme of Professor Brown’s work is that intelligence and intellectual ability alone are not the single predictors of academic success: personality and social factors, along with structural and environmental factors, also play a crucial role in determining which students will live up to their potentials. He spent his entire academic career at the University of Michigan Department of Psychology prior to retiring in 1996.

After retirement, Professor Brown occasionally taught an honors course entitled, “Why Grandpa Went to War: The Psychology of Obedience and Drives Toward World War”. This course was to help younger generations understand the geopolitical, economic, social, and historical forces that led to the War and reshaping of Europe.

He served for a time on the Board of Intercollegiate Athletic Control at the University, served on the Board of Habitat for Humanity in Ann Arbor, and from the mid Sixties to Seventies served as an Education Consultant in the Peace Corps, working in places like India, North Africa, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Professor Brown and his wife relocated to Baltimore in 2013, where he lived until his passing. Professor Brown married June G. Brown, and had three sons, Peter, Thomas, and, J. Noah Brown. He is also survived by a sister Ellen Barber and several loving grand and great-grandchildren.

Contributions in his memory may be sent to The University of Michigan Residential College, please use the following link: Donate Online.

There will be a gathering to celebrate and remember Donald R. Brown, at 7:00 pm on Thursday, December 19th, in the Clipper Mill room at Roland Park Place, the continuing care retirement community where the Browns have resided for the last 6 years.  

Roland Park Place is located at 830 W. 40th Street, Baltimore, MD 21211.  The number is 410-243-5800, but please feel free to call their son Noah Brown cell:  202-246-1688 or email at with questions or concerns.