Tribute - Vincent R. Brown (1962-2011)
Psychology professor made major impact on othersVincent Brown, a former UT Arlington psychology assistant professor who was an associate professor at Hofstra University since 2001, died August 13 at age 49.
He was remembered by friends and colleagues as generous with his time and knowledge, always willing to share his expertise as well as a laugh with others.
"He was a bright, caring, and faithful friend and colleague," said Paul Paulus, psychology professor and former dean of science. "He had so much more to give the world. His untimely passing has left a big hole in my life and is a major loss to the field."
Dr. Brown had been on leave from Hofstra and from 2008-10 worked at the National Science Foundation, where he served as program director for the Perception, Action, and Cognition program in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences.
"Vince was a throwback to an older, kinder, gentler style of scholar," said Daniel Levine, a professor of psychology who knew Dr. Brown for 20 years. "He didn't pursue a specialty, milk the system for funding, and build an empire around it; rather, he hung out in pubs, worked at a leisurely pace, and scribbled ideas on paper or napkins. He took after the physicists who had worked with his father at Los Alamos, and even named his favorite cat Einstein though it was female."
"I remember the day Vince interviewed for the assistant professor position at UT Arlington," Paulus said. "He wore a wrinkled white shirt with no tie — a bit different than the typical candidate. Yet his quiet intellect shone through, and he was hired for the position.
"He was one of the most dedicated teachers ever in our department and collaborated on projects with many of the department's faculty. He had a knack for understanding the problems on which others were working and adding his significant insights and modeling skills to take them to a new level."
He received several NSF grants over the course of his career.
"He played a key role the development of several major collaborative grants, including some all-night writing sessions," Paulus said. "After I gave a talk on my research, he came to me with some ideas about developing a cognitive model of group creativity. From that point, we developed a phenomenally productive intellectual partnership. He greatly enhanced the scope of my work, was a great co-mentor to my students and a dear friend. When he left UTA, we continued our collaboration and shared many visits at UTA and at his other institutions."
He had continued to work with several of his UT Arlington colleagues since leaving, and he returned to UTA for a sabbatical in the spring of 2007. He also worked at Clarkson University and the University of Richmond.
"Vince was a source of inspiration and someone who I could emulate professionally," said Scott Coleman, an adjunct instructor in psychology who as a graduate student took a class of Brown's and co-authored with him. "He was a sincere person. His passing is very tragic. Science and psychology were a 24-7 endeavor for Vince. In some ways, he never left UTA entirely.
"Through his friendships and willingness to collaborate with others both within and outside his area of interest, Vince regularly visited UTA. On those occasions, groups of Vince's friends would gather for trips to the Ballpark or for informal dinner parties. He leaves behind many memories of good times and a sorrowful feeling that he is now gone."
Dr. Brown was born in Seattle and graduated from high school in Los Alamos, N.M. He earned a B.A. in philosophy from Carleton College and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California, Irvine.
He was a cognitive psychologist with a background in studying perception and attention. Much of his research involved the development and testing of mathematical and computational models of cognitive processes. At UT Arlington, he worked with Paulus in studying the cognitive processes underlying group idea generation, commonly referred to as "brainstorming".
"Vince was always at ease with both students and senior colleagues, and eager to take on any project, continually expanding outside his original areas of expertise," Levine said. "While at UTA, he organized our department colloquium series and brought a multidisciplinary array of speakers to our campus."
More recently at Hofstra, Dr. Brown had worked on developing a more detailed understanding of the brainstorming process, as well as on research problems in memory and semantic processing.
His funeral was held August 29 in Los Alamos, N.M. He is survived by his mother, Della Brown, of Los Alamos; brother, Ken Brown, of Fort Worth; sister, Cindy Brown of Albuquerque; and sister, Diana Anderson, and brother-in-law, Greg Anderson, of Denver.