Marjorie Lee Browne
Following her father’s passion for mathematics, and with his encouragement, Dr. Marjorie Lee Browne would become one of the first African-American women to earn a doctorate in mathematics.
Earning a bachelor’s degree from Howard University she taught at a few schools while she also worked on her master’s degree at the University of Michigan during the summers. Being offered a teaching fellowship at the school in 1947, she was able to devote more time to her own education and earned her PhD in mathematics in 1949.
Returning to teaching after earning her doctorate, Browne would make a lasting impact on the lives of undergraduate and graduate students as well as secondary mathematics teachers and their students. Joining the faculty of North Carolina College, now North Carolina Central University, she taught both undergraduate and graduate levels courses.
In 1951 she was named chair of the Mathematics Department, a position she would hold until she made the choice to step down in 1970. In 1960 Browne was the lead author of a grant that led to the awarding of $60,000 from IBM for the creation of an electronic digital computer center – thought to be the first of its kind at a historically black college.
And while she was dedicated to the students of the college she was also dedicated to improving mathematics education. During the summer she would lead classes for school teachers as part of NCCU’s National Science Foundation Institute for secondary teachers. Browne spent 13 years directing the mathematics section of these Institutes and wrote four sets of lecture notes that could be used by the participating teachers in their own classrooms. For her work on the continuing education of secondary teachers, Browne was the first recipient of the W.W. Rankin Memorial Award for Excellence in Mathematics Education.
Retiring in 1979, Browne sadly passed away in the same year. But in honor of her dedication to mathematics education the Marjorie Lee Brown Trust Fund at North Carolina Central University was established. This fund sponsors the Marjorie Lee Browne Scholarship and the Marjorie Lee Browne Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series.
Written by Angela Goad