Thomas S. Brown, 98, Westtown School teacher

Thomas S. Brown
Thomas S. Brown
Posted: January 13, 2011

Thomas Shipley Brown, 98, a Quaker educator formerly of Westtown, died Wednesday, Jan. 5, at Kendal at Longwood, a retirement community in Kennett Township.

For 22 years, Mr. Brown served on the faculty of Westtown School, a Quaker college preparatory school. He taught English, Latin, and the Bible and was dean of boys and head soccer coach.

For five years, he was on the faculty of Earlham College in Indiana, and for six years, he was principal at Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio. Then, from 1969 until retiring in 1977, he was first executive secretary of the Friends Council on Education in Philadelphia.

Mr. Brown served on the board of Westtown School from 1990 to 2002, when he became an emeritus member.

"He involved himself in the everyday lives of his students, bringing to them a clarity of mind and a passionate love of learning as well as love of the land, the joys of simple community living, and service to others," his daughter Janny Sterrett said.

During World War II, Mr. Brown, a conscientious objector, continued teaching at Westtown. Because so many of the staff were serving in the military, he recruited students to help in the kitchen and with janitorial duties. It gave the students a sense of responsibility, and the tradition continues at Westtown, his daughter Margaret said.

Mr. Brown attended Westtown School and sent his five children there. After graduating, he earned a bachelor's degree from Haverford College, where he played on the soccer and cricket teams. He earned a master's degree from Harvard University.

For 20 years, Mr. Brown spent summers operating Back Log Camp in the Adirondacks, which his grandfather Thomas established in 1929. He began working at the camp in his youth and met his future wife, Ann Bennett, there. Their children helped out at Back Log "from the time we were old enough to hold a broom," Margaret Brown said. The camp closed in 1968.

Mr. Brown represented the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends at the World Council of Churches gathering in Amsterdam in 1948 and in London in 1952. He was clerk and recording clerk of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and the Westtown Monthly Meeting and served on the board of Pendle Hill, a Quaker study center in Wallingford. For the center's 50th anniversary in 1980, he organized a chicken barbecue and picnic for 100 people and involved his children. "It's the kind of thing as a family that we did," Margaret Brown said.

Mr. Brown loved figure skating, soccer, canoeing, hiking, and cooking indoors or out. He grew enough vegetables in his garden to share with the community, his family said.

Mr. Brown's wife of 61 years died in 1997. In addition to his daughters, he is survived by a son, Thomas Jr.; daughters Mary Alice James and Anne Randall; 12 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held Saturday, Jan. 15, at 10:30 a.m. at Kendal at Longwood, 1109 E. Baltimore Pike., and 2:30 p.m. at the Westtown Monthly Meeting at Westtown School, 975 Westtown Rd., Westtown Township.

Memorial donations may be made to Westtown School, 975 Westtown Rd., West Chester, Pa. 19382.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or

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