(Charles) Allen Brown
December 30, 1953-March 17, 2013
Allen Brown exercised his right under the Oregon Death With Dignity Act to close his battle with cancer. As a long-time supporter of this option, he was proud and grateful to live in a state that allowed him to meet dying on his own terms. He was surrounded by many friends. He was an atheist to the end.
Allen was born in St. Louis, MO, to Don and Mary Brown, both of whom preceded him in death. He was also preceded by his older brother Donald. He moved to Southern California at a young age, spending most of his youth in Oxnard, CA. His parents instilled in him a lifelong love of learning, and he pursued his curiosity with amazing intensity. Starting from "The Boy's First Book of Electronics" during grade school, he filled his life with the pursuit of technical innovation.
Allen's initial battle with cancer was with Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was 17. This experience led Allen to live each day as fully as he could. His zest for life was infectious, and his ability to bring people into the action from the sidelines was incredible.
After receiving a BS in Physics from UC Santa Barbara in 1976, he started a career in the microelectronics industry with National Semiconductor. In 1980, he moved to Corvallis to work for Hewlett-Packard, eventually retiring from Agilent in 2006. His contributions to the field are reflected in 12 patents and many other innovations. As soon as he arrived in Corvallis, he knew he was home.
Inspiring kids to take an interest in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) was a special passion with Allen, although it was impossible for anyone old or young to be around Allen without feeling inspired. At heart a technologist, Allen also filled his life with merging technology with art in such areas as Kinetic Sculpture Racing and FIRSTŪ robotics. He started in kinetic sculpture racing in 1995 with Beetlemania, and then went on to create his beloved sculpture Rex (1996-2009). With Rex and his team, Allen traveled to races from Port Townsend, WA, to Ventura, CA. He modified Rex to take up to 3 passengers at a time after the close of the day's racing, and delighted countless spectators with a chance to ride on a sculpture. If a ride on Rex inspired anyone to build a racer of their own, or do anything with creative technology, Allen was gratified. Team Rex had a collection of unusual human-powered vehicles for crowds at daVinci Days and other events to try. His Mousetrap kinetic sculpture is unique for its ability to be carried in airplane-checked luggage. As a mentor for FIRSTŪ robotics, starting in 2004 with the first Corvallis High Spartan Robotics Team 997 entry, Allen inspired many young potential technologists. Among those benefitting from Allen's guidance were teams from CHS, Crescent Valley, Philomath High, and the Scalawags Venture. Allen would also freely offer help to any team that needed it at robotics competitions, imbuing many high school-age students with the spirit of gracious professionalism. He taught welding to many, some as young as 12, and his home and shop were a nexus for many creative efforts. Allen encouraged innovation, and always viewed failure as a chance to learn something new.
Allen was a licensed pilot and toured with a motorcycle. He loved to travel. During his life he visited places including Japan, Australia, and Tunisia. After receiving his cancer diagnosis in 2010, he took several 'trips of a lifetime', going to Poland, Ukraine, India, Madagascar, the Galapagos Islands and Amazon River. He loved to ski and snowshoe. He hosted weekly groups of friends for game nights. He greatly enjoyed conversations on a wide range of topics, and could always be counted on for well-reasoned and intelligent opinions. The discussion might grow spirited, but never mean-spirited.
Allen is survived by his sister Sharon and her family from Redmond, WA, his brother Robert and his family from Ventura CA, and the memories of his many friends. A bench in his honor will be placed in Starker Arts Park, and those wishing to contribute to its cost can send donations to the Allen Brown Memorial Fund at the OSU Federal Credit Union in Corvallis. His legacy of inspiration lives on through the many lives he touched and also through the Allen Brown STEAM Inspiration Fund, which will contribute to science and technology outreach.
A private celebration will be at Allen's house on Thursday, 2013-03-21. A public celebration will be held during daVinci Days at a time and place to be determined.
Listening to: Joni Mitchell
Reading: Annals of the Heechee - Frederik Pohl