Dave Brown said that when he arrived at Clemson University as an incoming freshman in January 1963, he remembers seeing a crowd of about 200 reporters, 500 highway patrol officers and 100 students.

Dave and Susan Brown, left, pose for a photo with Clemson University President James P. Clements.

Dave and Susan Brown, left, pose for a photo with Clemson University President James P. Clements.

Harvey Gantt, the first African-American student at Clemson, stepped foot on campus about the same time Brown did.

Any fears of the tumult that had gripped other Southern campuses quickly subsided. While Clemson’s integration was peaceful, it left Brown with an unforgettable first impression of a university that would become a beloved alma mater.

Brown received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering in 1966. A half century later, he is chairman and founder of United Mechanical Corporation in Charlotte and remains active as a Clemson alumnus.

“I have been pleased that I have been allowed to connect my career and passion for engineering to the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson,” he said. “I am passionate about applying sound engineering fundamentals to the solution of problems in the ‘built environment.’”

Brown said it has been exciting for him to play a part in the development of the student ASHRAE chapter at Clemson. ASHRAE stands for the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

“ASHRAE is the one international organization that has shaped the built environment worldwide through the development of the International Building Code Energy Standards,” Brown said. “I personally believe that mechanical engineering students should have an introduction to ASHRAE before they finish their college experience.”

To name a few of his other activities as an alumnus, Brown has:

  • Established mechanical engineering endowments for faculty members and to fund scholarships for students
  • Helped fund endowed chairs with gifts to Palmetto Challenge
  • Served on the College of Engineering and Science Will To Lead campaign committee
  • Held events at his home and club that connected the dean with engineering alumni
  • Been helping plan his class’ 50th reunion

“People are pretty passionate about that relationship with Clemson,” Brown said.

Brown, who was from Columbia, served in the Marine Corps Forces Reserve before arriving at Clemson. His classroom experiences and relationships with his professors left a mark on him.

As a student, Brown remembers taking pop quizzes, or what his professors called “unannounced classroom exercises.”

Robert Moorman, who was then head of the engineering mechanics department, once wrote on Brown’s paper, “Your answer was correct, but your solution was fraught with peril,” he remembered with a laugh.

It’s a phrase Brown has since repeated to others.

Brown went on to graduate with honors and start United Mechanical Corporation. The company has been providing heating, air conditioning and ventilation services to commercial and industrial clients in the Charlotte area since 1977.

The business is staying in Clemson Family. Brown said he plans to pass along the company to two employees. One of them is Bryan Griffin, who also holds a mechanical engineering degree from Clemson.

One of Brown’s neighbors is also a Clemson alumnus. Gantt, who went on to become Charlotte’s first African-American mayor, lives about a block from Brown.