National University of Health Sciences recently conferred a very special doctor of chiropractic diploma to a student who completed all the requirements of the degree – 60 years ago! 91-year-old Lewis Brown of Philadelphia earned the degree as a much younger man, but a family tragedy and the subsequent closing of his alma mater, resulted in his diploma being lost for decades.
Lewis H. Brown, born on June 3, 1921, had served in the United States Army in England, Italy and North Africa during World War II. Eligible for the GI Bill, Lewis enrolled at the International Chiropractic College in Dayton, Ohio. He carried the load of a full-time student while working a full second shift at the local VA hospital to support his wife and children. His goal was to earn his DC degree and move to Philadelphia to open the “L.H. Brown Chiropractic Clinic,” bringing this effective form of health care to Philadelphia’s black community, which at that time had little access to chiropractic care.
Lewis satisfactorily completed his course of study on time and was scheduled to receive his diploma in July of 1953. However, tragedy visited Lewis and his wife when their 6-year-old son was diagnosed with spinal meningitis and hospitalized for four months. Even after his release, it was clear that their son would require long-term nursing and medical care.
Lewis was forced to give up his dreams of opening a chiropractic clinic, which would have required a great deal of time and money to get started. Instead, Lewis immediately began two full-time jobs to support his growing family. The following years were demanding with an invalid son and four daughters.
Meanwhile, the International Chiropractic College went out of business and closed its doors forever in 1955. Although he had completed all of his studies, Lewis had not been able to tie up loose ends with the college and obtain his rightfully earned diploma before the closure.
Over the years, Lewis established a career of civil service, through which he successfully supported his family in Philadelphia. Through the decades, his wife tried to track down the records held by the International Chiropractic College, but to no avail. “Back then, if a business closed its doors, it was hard to find out what happened to the people and the records,” says Dorothy Walker Brown, Lewis’ wife of 65 years.
More recently, the tools of the Internet age helped her find other chiropractors that had graduated from the International Chiropractic College. She found the name of Dr. Romanuel Washington, Jr., who had graduated just prior to Lewis’ matriculation. In fact Washington, now age 86 and still practicing, had been the first black chiropractor licensed in the state of Texas.
Through Washington and his daughter, Dr. Madeline Washington, who is also a DC, Dorothy found out that our own National University of Health Sciences in suburban Chicago, was the repository of records for several former chiropractic educational institutions, including the International Chiropractic College. A few phone calls later, the registrar’s office of NUHS was able to find the critical document in the university’s archives from the former school.
President James Winterstein and the NUHS board of trustees reviewed the case and awarded Lewis the doctor of chiropractic degree from National University of Health Sciences.
Dorothy received the package in the mail and was able to surprise Lewis with it that evening. “There are no words to explain the pride that I felt when Dorothy handed this large, beautiful diploma to me that said ‘Lewis H. Brown, Doctor of Chiropractic,” says Lewis. “I had put it away in my mind so long ago that it still seems unreal. I focused on working at the two jobs that provided the income that enabled Dorothy to stay at home and take care of our children. Especially, the quality (around-the-clock) care that our son needed. His illness lasted forty-years until his death in 1994.”
“We’re proud to award this well-deserved and long overdue diploma, and welcome Dr. Lewis Brown as one of our alumni,” says President Winterstein.
Although Dr. Lewis Brown never had the chance to practice his chosen profession, he used his knowledge to keep a healthy lifestyle. He has always maintained a healthy diet, exercised every day, and at age 76 he even took up karate. In fact, he’s received his honorary black belt! He is still in great health at age 91, and is an active part of his church, community and family.