Not Rich, Not Famous. . .

By The Editors / March / April 1998
December 28th, 2007
Just as Vanity Fair was publishing an article in its February issue portraying Brown as a mecca for the offspring of the rich and famous (see page tk), Stanley Owocki '73, an associate professor and researcher in astrophysics at the Bartol Research Institute of the University of Delaware, was sending the BAM this tribute to his father, Chester Owocki. The story of the elder Owocki's cheerful sacrifices for his son's education are likely to resonate far more among alumni than the New York monthly's portrait of a jet-setting student body:

"My dad passed away recently. He was not a Brown alumnus, but he was proud that he had made it possible for me to attend such a prestigious university. Dad was smart enough to go to any college, but he grew up during the Depression in a Polish immigrant family, working in a bakery and scrounging for scrap metal to sell to junkers. His dream, he once told me, was to be a surgeon. Instead, he joined the Army, fought in two wars, and became an auto mechanic.

"My dad was always determined that his own children would have the resources to go to college. But his support went far beyond the financial. He often visited me during my years at Brown - to cheer with me at a football game, to lift my dejected spirits after a failed romance, to encourage me when I felt overwhelmed in my studies, to calm my frenzy during the campus-wide anti-war strike of 1970, and to proudly celebrate my graduation. Isaac Newton once said, `If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.' Dad was my giant.

"As I dressed to attend my father's wake, my mother urged me to wear his old overcoat, one that he hadn't worn in decades. At first I resisted, but then I reluctantly put it on. I reached into the pocket and felt some sort of card. Pulling it out, I saw that it was a ticket for the 1969 Brown freshman parents day, when Dad had come up to attend a luncheon and football game. Like an artifact in a time capsule, that card had sat in the pocket of his overcoat for twenty-eight years.

"After all those years, I felt as if I was standing once again on my dad's broad shoulders. Once again, I was basking in his pride, companionship, and love."

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March / April 1998