Margery Lemon Brown, chairwoman of the English and humanities department at Farmingdale State College and an expert on ancient languages and medieval literature who understood the determination of working college students, died May 3.
The cause of death was a neck fracture due to a fall eight days earlier, according to her family.
Brown, 68, was a voracious reader, art lover and supporter of the arts, humanities and cultural institutions. She read and spoke ancient languages — Greek, Latin and High German — teaching courses primarily in the literature of classical antiquity and mythology.
“Her legacy would definitely be in all of the students she taught because through her they gained a love of learning and reading,” said her daughter, Rachel Brown Littenberg, a transfer articulation manager at SUNY Old Westbury.
Brown Littenberg said that as an educator, her mother sought to play off the interests of her students, such as Harry Potter books and superhero comics. She would deconstruct the characters and themes to compare them with those in mythology and the trials of modern life.
The eldest of six children, Margery Lemon was born in January 1950 in West Palm Beach, Florida, to Cecil and Mary Rose Lemon. The family moved often because of her father’s career in construction sales. She graduated in 1968 from Wolfson High School in Jacksonville.
In 1972, she married Raymond N. Brown III and the couple moved to New York. They settled in Huntington, where they enjoyed summers at the beach and grilling on the deck.
As a 23-year-old newlywed, she decided to return to college for a bachelor’s degree. She attended Stony Brook University while working at the GAP clothing store in the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station.
She took her final exams while she was eight months’ pregnant with her first child in the winter of 1978. Her son, Raymond Nicholas Brown IV, was 4 months old when she walked in the commencement ceremony that spring. She went on to a doctorate program at the university and gave her dissertation three weeks before giving birth to her daughter.
“She was a very determined woman,” said Raymond N. Brown III, a performance engineer at Delta Air Lines. “She touched so many lives as a professor, teacher and mentor to others.”
She started at Farmingdale State College in 1990 as an associate professor, rising to the position of English and humanities department chair.
Throughout her years at Farmingdale, she pioneered distance learning programs, eventually sitting on the Distance Learning Advisory Board. She held positions as director of the Writing Center and the Visiting Writers Program. She served on committees including ones on auxiliary service and public art. In 2008, she received SUNY’s highest honor, the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Friends and family remember Margery Brown as a great conversationalist who did one crossword puzzle each day and three on Sundays. “In pen. She didn’t mess around,” Brown Littenberg said.
Brown also is survived by her mother, Mary Rose Lemon of Stamford, Connecticut; siblings Cecilia Ioannides of West Palm Beach, Theresa Jeanne McCabe of Lake Clarke Shores, Florida, Mary Hope Rappa of Riverside, Connecticut, Thomas Anthony Lemon of Inverness, Florida, and Robert Michael Lemon of West Palm Beach, Florida; and a granddaughter.
The family requests that donations be made to the Dr. Margery Brown Award, care of Marcia Littenberg, P.O. Box 478, Aquebogue, NY 11931.