Peabody Reflector

Into the Future

Willard Brown, BA'49

by Bonnie Arant Ertelt | Peabody People, Summer 2013 | No Comment | |

Willard Brown and "Pearlie Mae"

Willard Brown claims not to be a technological genius. However, the 1949 graduate, who is on his second iPad and often video-chats with his brother in Atlanta, is clearly savvy enough to appreciate what technology can accomplish in today’s world.

Case in point: He is one of the first in America to own the new Tesla model S electric car, a high performance vehicle equipped with a state-of-the-art battery-powered engine, a 17-inch touchscreen and the ability to reach speeds of up to 125 mph. He marvels at how much has changed since his time at Peabody.

“We didn’t have enough technology—we couldn’t even make a soundtrack,” he says when describing a film project he and one of his roommates created for a class taught by Professor Susan B. Riley. “To present our project, my roommate brought in his portable record player and records, and I did the narration. Today, any teenager with a Macintosh can do this.”

Brown, who created United Subscription Service in 1972, has a history of embracing what technology can do for the consumer and the business owner. When the personal computer was popularized by Apple in the late ’80s, he quickly got on board.

“I saw the Macintosh and it looked so simple and intuitive. So, I got a Mac, and now with the iPad, it’s a natural progression,” he says. “If I had ever met Steve Jobs, I was going to tell him I’m so happy I lived long enough to see him develop this. And the same thing is true of Elon Musk and this Tesla. He’s a technological genius.”

According to the Tesla color chart, Brown’s Tesla is pearl, so he named it Pearlie Mae, after his mother. Mapping out charging stations every 250 miles, he drove it to campus from his home in Atlanta for a visit in January, and back again, before heading to Florida.

“People stop me on the street and want to know about it,” he said. “Every place I go, people are thrilled to see the car.”

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