Alice Maxine “Pat” Browne, 81, known through her work at Bowling Green State University in popular-culture studies, died Friday of congestive heart failure in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Mrs. Browne was the longtime editor and business manager of BGSU’s Popular Press. She and her late husband, Ray B. Browne, who died in 2009, founded the press in 1967 to publish the Journal of Popular Culture. It later published the Journal of American Culture and books before being sold to the University of Wisconsin upon Mrs. Browne’s retirement in 2002.
Mrs. Browne also organized the annual national conference of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association from the early 1970s until her retirement.
Her husband, whom she married Aug. 25, 1965, was a nationally known BGSU professor of popular culture and an expert in the field.
While he was the visionary behind the press and the conferences, Mrs. Browne played a strong role in their development and success.
She was, in some ways, the backbone of the operation.
“Dad was the CEO and Mom was the chief operating officer,” the couple’s son, Glenn Browne, said. “It couldn’t have happened without her. It couldn’t have happened without either one of them. They were a team, absolutely.”
Daughter Alicia Browne agreed.
“The big ideas were his, but actually making it happen took her,” she said.
The Brownes helped lay the groundwork for the popular-culture field at a time when the prevailing opinion in academia was that studying everyday life was a waste of time.
“It was frowned upon, laughed at, considered a joke,” Glenn Browne said. “They took a lot of criticism from everywhere.”
Despite her critical role in the administrative side of things, Mrs. Browne was content to remain out of the spotlight, tucked away in the background. Her children described her as modest, humble, and a bit shy.
“My dad loved to talk about what he was doing and was very comfortable with that,” Alicia Browne said.
“My mom didn't feel the need for the attention and was less comfortable with it all. She was proud of what she did, but didn't feel the need to gain attention for it.”
The couple started BGSU’s library of popular culture in 1969. It now bears their names as the Ray & Pat Browne Library for Popular Culture Studies and is one of the premier collections of artifacts in the United States. A few years ago, Mrs. Browne contributed funds to the Ray & Pat Brown Scholarship Fund for BGSU undergraduates in pop-culture studies.
“That was very important to her,” Alicia Browne said. “It took her 10 years to work her way through college. Supporting a student meant a lot to her.”
Mrs. Browne also was a fan of travel, reading, gardening, history, and of the English culture. She twice took trips around the world with her husband to promote the study of American popular culture on the behalf of U.S. Agency for International Development.
“Travel was always her passion,” Glenn Browne said. “She was traveling into her late 70s. I think just two years ago she went to England.”
Mrs. Browne was born April 29, 1932, in Ozark, Ala. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and is survived by her daughter, Alicia Browne; sons, Glenn and Kevin, and three granddaughters.
Visitation is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday at Holman Funeral Home in Ozark, Ala., with the funeral service to follow at 11 a.m.
The family suggests donations in Mrs. Browne’s honor be made to the scholarship fund or the popular-culture library at BGSU, or to any local library, educational institution, public radio station, or public television station.