The lasting impact of Dr. Charles (C.B.) Browning

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It was with great sadness that we learned of the recent passing of Dr. Charles Benton Browning, who from 1979 to 1997 served as dean and director of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Known as “C.B.” to his friends and colleagues, he suffered a stroke on Nov. 30, 2015 and passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida. He was 84 years old. He is survived by Magda, his wife of nearly 60 years; his children Susan Kreps, Charles Browning Jr., Steven Browning, Karen Bassetti, Heidi Dahlander and Gary Browning; 15 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

The successes of Dr. Browning and his administration were as numerous as they were timely and effective, with many of them continuing to provide dividends to Oklahoma and the region to this day. Dr. Browning was the second individual to serve as dean and director of what we now know as DASNR, which brought together the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and the university’s two state agencies – the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service – under a single administrative unit.

Not since the days of Carl P. Blackwell had an OSU dean of agriculture been forced to deal with the challenges of such a depressed agricultural-sector economy that had devastated farm families, local communities and the overall Oklahoma economy, but that was the state of things in 1979 when Dr. Browning came to Stillwater from the University of Florida, where he had served as dean of resident instruction for 10 years.

Dr. Browning worked tirelessly with state legislators and developed close ties with many of the cooperating partners with whom DASNR continues to enjoy close working relationships. As America’s farm crisis deepened through the 1980s, and with Oklahoma’s state budget reeling under the impact, the Browning Administration put into place a comprehensive, in-depth plan of coordinated education, research and Extension activities. The results of many of those activities and the professional and personal relationships that made them possible are in evidence today:

  • The creation of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program, which enhances participant awareness and knowledge about the needs of agriculture relative to communications, government roles, resource allocation and both national and international economic policies.
  • The Stillwater campus’ 30,000 square-foot Animal Science Building on Monroe Street, originally constructed for $4.5 million and bringing together what had been three separate departments: animal science, animal husbandry and dairy science.
  • The $30 million OSU Noble Research Center, made possible in part thanks to Dr. Browning’s successful effort to create and implement an agricultural gifts program with the OSU Foundation.
  • The creation of the OSU Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center, initially a $16 million facility that has received widespread recognition for its teaching, research and Extension programs relative to the state and national food industries.
  • An increased emphasis on both applied and basic research, resulting in significant scientific breakthroughs by not only OSU researchers but by others in various career fields.
  • The establishment of the OSU Agricultural Alumni Association.
  • A special emphasis on educational efforts and research in biotechnology, for which Dr. Browning received national notoriety.

Though only a partial list, it is readily evident why Dr. Browning was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 1997. His legacy for DASNR, the university and all of Oklahoma has been of lasting importance.

Born in Houston, Texas on September 16, 1931, Dr. Browning spent most of his childhood in Burleson, Texas, and graduated from Burleson High School. He was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas Tech University in 1955. He continued his studies at Kansas State University, where he first earned a master’s degree in dairy science and then a doctoral degree in animal nutrition.

While at Kansas State, he met Magda, and they were married in 1956. Two years later, he began a successful teaching and research career at Mississippi State University, where he rose to the rank of full professor and was honored with the university’s Outstanding Professor Award. In 1966, he became the chair of the dairy science department at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. He then became dean for resident instruction in 1969.

A strong proponent of developing international ties for agriculture, Dr. Browning helped develop agricultural education in Honduras, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Japan, Ethiopia and Mexico. His academic influence and generosity extended beyond the university as well. He and Magda hosted foreign-exchange students for many years and frequently invited OSU students from many academic disciplines to join them for meals at their home. Some of those students have remained lifelong friends. Following his retirement from OSU, the Brownings moved back to Florida to live closer to a number of their children, grandchildren and close friends.

A devoted husband and father, Dr. Browning enjoyed spending time with his family. Throughout his years at the university, Magda and his children frequently accompanied him on his many business trips, and they traveled – often camping out, another love of his – throughout the United States and Europe.

Please join us as we remember one of our own who played an important role in doing so much for so many. C.B. Browning was truly an individual who embodied the land-grant mission. For those wishing to honor Dr. Browning, the family respectfully requests that memorial gifts be made to the Dean Charles Browning Professorship in Food Science and/or the Dr. Charles and Magda Browning Agriculture Scholarship and direct support to the OSU Foundation, 400 S Monroe, Stillwater, OK 74074. Gifts may also be given online by visiting OSUgiving.com/memorialfund and designating in memory of Charles Browning in the comments.