Peru, Nebraska– Marion Marsh Brown, a Nebraska-native author, was commemorated on Peru State’s campus on February 27. Brown is an alumnus and former faculty member of Peru State College
As part of Nebraska’s and Peru State’s Sesquicentennial celebrations, four Peru State students hosted a panel and give presentations on a few of Brown’s books as well as background on Brown’s life. The Peru State College Library also assisted in the project, providing Brown’s books at the presentation and giving the student’s access to their archive for Brown’s work, including notes and former drafts Brown wrote before final release. Two of the students also met with Brown’s son, Paul Brown, who was also in attendance of the event.
English Professor Dr. Bill Clemente and retired English Professor Dr. Dan Holtz were the faculty advisors for this commemoration. Dr. Holtz has studied Brown’s work and life for many years.
Dr. Holtz said, “I first became familiar with Mrs. Brown’s work in the fall of 2000 semester when I devoted most of my sabbatical time then to reading her books and correspondence. From that work, I wrote an article which appeared in the Heritage of the Great Plains journal. I also made a presentation about Mrs. Brown at a Western Literature Association Conference in Bozeman, Montana.”
Dr. Clemente said, “This project offers four excellent PSC students an exciting research opportunity and a chance, which does not happen often enough, to share their results with the Peru State College community. I am excited for the students.”
The four PSC students involved in the project were Ashley Peiman, Alyssa Grell, Taylor Finke and Quentin Victor. The event was hosted in the CATS conference room with presentations at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. for the entire Peru State community. Dr. Bill Clemente took footage of the event.
Ashley Peiman, a junior from Lincoln, said “When Dr. Holtz and Dr. Clemente approached me about the Marion Marsh Brown project, I knew I wanted to be part of it because it would be a great way to gain research experience. It was also exciting to meet with Brown’s son to see the impact her work had when her books were first published.
Alyssa Grell, a junior from Grand Island, said “I loved the chance to explore the work and life of an author, especially an author whose history is so connected to Peru. As an education major, Prairie Teacher was special for me because I got the chance to explore what it meant to be a teacher in a time and place vastly different from my own.”
Quentin Victor, a senior from Auburn, said “It was a great experience working with Dr. Clemente and Dr. Holtz before I graduate, there’s a lot you can learn from them, and from someone’s body of work like Brown’s, especially in how it can inform your own writing. I’m also from Auburn, so it felt right to learn about Brown who came from the area.”
At the presentation, the four books that were discussed were:
Young Nathan, a biographical story about revolutionary icon Nathan Hale.
Prairie Teacher, a story about a rookie teacher in the sandhills with greater aspirations.
The Silent Storm, a biographical story of Anne Sullivan, teacher of Hellen Keller.
Marnie, a biographical story based on a transformative year of Brown’s own childhood.
Born on Bonnie View Farm near Brownville, Marion Marsh Brown has published 20 books as well as hundreds of short stories and magazine articles throughout her 70-year career as a writer and a teacher. Several of her novels detail historical figures and their accomplishments, including Nathan Hale, Francis Scott Key, and Sacagawea.
After graduating from high school in Auburn at age 14, Brown attended Peru State College to study English. At Peru State, Brown wrote for the college newspaper and the yearbook. She taught in rural Nebraska communities before marrying Gilbert S. Brown, an attorney who lived in Omaha. In 2000, at the age of 92, Brown passed away.
Brown received many awards for her works, such as the Sower Award from the Nebraska Humanities Council and the Mari Sandoz Award from the Nebraska Library Association. Peru State College and the University of Nebraska-Omaha have awarded Brown honorary doctorates, and UNO now hosts a Marion Marsh Brown Writers Lecture Series in which well-known writers speak on campus each spring in celebration of Brown’s love for literature.
For more information about the presentation, including photos and video, contact Dr. Bill Clemente at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ashley Peiman and Quentin Victor contributed to this release.