Mears, Brainerd (1903-1972)

 

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Brainerd
Mears, Williams Class of 1903, was born in
Amherst, Massachusetts in 1881 to Leverett Mears and Mary V. Brainerd
Mears.   His parents moved to
Williamstown two years later when Leverett joined the Chemistry faculty at
Williams.  Brainerd, or “Bray,”
grew up in his father’s lab and graduated from
Williamstown High School in 1898.

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He
enrolled at Williams in 1899 and became a dedicated member of Theta Delta Chi
fraternity. While at Williams, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and tapped by
the Gargoyle Society.  Mears was also the
best miler on the Williams track team during his career.  He received his bachelor’s degree in 1903
and, two years later, received a master’s degree from the College.   From his graduation in 1903 until 1906,
Mears was an assistant instructor of Chemistry under the chairmanship of his
father.   He then attended
Johns Hopkins University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and
received his Ph.D. in 1908.  He returned
to Williams as a full professor in 1909 after a year at the
University of Illinois and was named Ebenezer Fitch Professor of
Chemistry. Brainerd replaced his father as department chair in 1917.  He was a member of many scientific societies
and was honored by the American Chemical Society as a fifty-year member. He
retired from the College soon after World War II.

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Besides
being a long-time member of the faculty, Mears was also very active in the
Williamstown community.   He was elected
to the School Committee and the School Building Committee in the 1920’s when
his children were in school.  In 1928, he
was elected as town moderator, a position he held for 25 years.  He used his chemical background for practical
purposes like testing local water supplies and milk from surrounding farms for
impurities.  He also served on the Board
of the Williamstown Savings Bank.  He was
first named a trustee in 1926 and was elected president in 1938, a position he
held for 24 years.  The multitalented
Mears was also a volunteer firefighter for more than forty years and enlisted
in the armed forces in both World Wars. 
During the First World War, he taught military skills to Williams
students on campus.  He was a Master of
the local Masonic Lodge and helped to found the local Rotary Club and the
Williamstown Historical Society.  He was
active in the First Congregational Church, was a trustee of the
North Adams Hospital, and president of the Williamstown Welfare
Society.

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He
was married to Sara Bliss and had two sons, who were both members of Theta
Delta Chi during their time at Williams. 
When the fraternity turned over their house to the College in 1966, they
dedicated it to Mears, their most distinguished alumnus and their alumni
treasurer of 25 years.  Brainerd Mears
died in 1972 after a long illness, at the age of 91.

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By
Paul Friedmann (Williams Class of 2000)

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SOURCES:

“Prof. Brainerd Mears, 91 taught at Williams 40
years.”
North
Adams

Transcript
. 14 August
1972
.

Theta Delta Chi file. Williams College Office of the
President records.
Williams College Archives
and Special Collections.

Botsford, E. Herbert, ed.Greek letter fraternities at
Williams, with the story of the Commons Club. 1933.