Philip Brown, 1939-2011

June 16, 2011

A technician on whom the University of Essex depended for more than 30 years for his "technical ability, dedication and organisation" has died.

Philip Brown was born in Colchester on 4 October 1939, the youngest of three siblings. After attending Endsleigh Secondary School, he was something of a jack of all trades, working briefly for British Rail, doing carpentry for local pubs and helping to build part of the University of Essex. In 1968, Mr Brown gained a City & Guilds qualification in electronics and joined Essex as a technician in its audio-visual service (originally known as the Educational Technology Unit). He was to prove an outstanding practical engineer who maintained the university's equipment in the best condition.

Those he worked with were slightly in awe of his technical knowledge and ability: if a piece of equipment did not exist for a particular job, he would build it.

David Cleveland, former assistant director of the Audio-Visual Centre at the University of East Anglia, worked under Mr Brown at Essex in the 1970s. "After the early morning rush of setting up equipment and dealing with enquiries, the technicians would meet in his room for a tea break, where he would hold forth in his usual way about the rights and wrongs of the university and the world in general, (while) demonstrating the latest colour television. They were times filled with fun, for he liked to laugh and enjoy his colleagues' company," he recalled.

Mr Brown was always enthusiastic about new projects. When the university commissioned a film to boost admissions in 1973, he quickly got involved, taking control of the sound recording. Taking advantage of his interest in the history of Essex and its surrounding countryside, he also suggested that the university setting should be filmed. When his idea was taken up, he took it upon himself to drive the cameramen to prime locations.

David Tilley, a former physics lecturer and part-time director of the Educational Technology Unit at Essex, said that Mr Brown was a collector of everything from stamps and coins to "anything to do with steam trains and aeroplanes". He was also a huge jazz fan and a long-time member of the Colchester Jazz Club, about which he co-authored a book, Ain't Misbehavin' - The Story of the Colchester Jazz Club.

He was appointed chief technician in the audio-visual service in 1993 and retired in 2002 after almost 34 years of service. Mr Cleveland said: "The university depended upon his wide interests, technical ability, dedication and organisation, as many universities do with their technicians, without often realising it."

Mr Brown died on 8 April 2011 after suffering heart failure. He is survived by his wife Val and two daughters.

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