Related: Academics, Celebration

Remembering Professor Nancy Brown


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Professor Nancy Pollard Brown, a beloved member of Trinity’s faculty in English from the 1960’s to the 1980s, died in Oxford, England this past August.  Tributes from her former students are abundant, some of them reproduced below.  Trinity is planning a memorial Mass in her memory for late spring 2016.  In an email to one of her former students Dr. Marianne Novy ’65, a Shakespearean scholar the University of Pittsburgh, her nephew Bob Grose wrote about Professor Brown,

“You may be interested to know that Nancy continued as an active scholar until fairly recently, still engaged on her life’s work on Robert Southwell (she would have been well into her research on Southwell when you were at Trinity). In recent decades she also spent a lot of time studying art history and undertaking related travel around Europe, as well as walking in the countryside, visiting churches and other ancient buildings, bird watching in Scotland and elsewhere, and holding court for her various networks of friends at home in Oxford. She was always eager to talk about Southwell and his period, which she was able to bring vividly to life through her finely-detailed knowledge of the politics, events and personalities of the time. I guess this reflects your and so many others’ experience of her teaching at Trinity. Totally in character, she left her body to medical science – contributing to the education of others from beyond the grave!”

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Dr. Novy and Sr. Anne Mary O’Donnell ’62, SND, who also taught with Professor Brown at Trinity, wrote this beautiful tribute to her:

“We write with the sad news of the death on August 18 of Nancy Pollard Brown, Trinity Professor Emerita, born 17 February 1921. Nancy taught many students Shakespeare and other courses from 1959 until 1986. She ran Trinity’s Oxford program from 1983 to 1985 and after her retirement from teaching moved back to Oxford. She continued her scholarship on the sixteenth century English Jesuit poet Robert Southwell and other Catholic writers of his time, and published her last article in 2010. After retirement she maintained a wide range of interests, including traveling, walking, bird watching, art history, and entertaining her friends and relatives with unfailing graciousness.

“Nancy won the E. Harris Harbison Award for Gifted Teaching from the Danforth Foundation, and it was well deserved. Many students remember her fondly for her brilliance and dynamism in the classroom as well as for her extraordinary kindness and generosity to her students. We both received extra mentoring because we were going on to graduate school in English (partly inspired by what we learned from her). As each of us became seniors, in different years, she gave us (Sister Anne with Elaine Zablotny, Marianne with Mary Evans) a tutorial to prepare, nominated us for fellowships, and drove us to an interviews if they were required. But her generosity was far from being confined to those hoping to follow in her footsteps. For example, in Marianne’s senior year, she took a group of students, including several non-English majors, to Cape Hatteras over spring break to study for comprehensive exams on the beach.

“Some special memories: Sister Anne recalls that Mrs. Brown took the Junior Sisters who were English majors on tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library, especially into the Reading Room. Even today, she writes, “I remember my awe at being allowed into the inner sanctum. Over the years I visited Mrs. Brown in Oxford several times. I distinctly remember 2001 (with Sr. Joan Ferraro, ’63) and 25 July 2011 (the last time). On the latter occasion she drove herself and me to Church Hanborough for lunch at the ‘Hand & Shears’ and a visit to the 12th century church, where I took the picture here reproduced.”

“Marianne remembers ‘When we visited her in England, she gave my husband an off-the-beaten-track book when he was writing on Poussin, and this introduced a whole new direction into his work. On another visit she took me to lunch and to the Church of St. John the Baptist in Burford, and showed me the memorial of the 17th century Levellers executed there.’ “

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Tessa Merdler Green ’62 sent this poem in memory of Nancy:

In Memory of My Professor and Friend, Nancy P.   Brown

She was British to the bone and somebody I own

I longed to resemble.

She was scholar and teacher, lover of birds,

chiseled of feature.


She used to say her students were her “daughters” –

and so, in many ways she was mother to us. She taught us that dignity is not dead,

that the Middle Ages were not dark,

that the Renaissance was more than Shakespeare, that a professor can be humble.


Indeed she was not proud, nor did she raise her voice,

never loud, always gentle, kind and thoughtful.


Like the books she treasured she was rare.

She dwelt among the spires of Oxford

– beyond compare.

August 24, 2015

Tessa Merdler Green, TRINITY Class of 1962

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Nancy Brown Church Hanborough SS Peter  Paul 07-25-11

Do you have memories of Professor Nancy Brown?  Share them in the comment section below or send them to me at and I will add them to this blog.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: