Kenneth Brown '55 Continues to Give
After a long career serving his country with distinction, Kenneth Brown ’55 still finds time to donate blood every two months, shoot firearms competitively, and work with his local police department. At 86, Brown has plenty of reasons to take it easy if he wanted to. His service in the armed forces saw him twice wounded in battle during the Korean War, and a long career in law enforcement saw him involved in one of the most important mafia busts of the 20th century.
“Yesterday I donated another pint of blood, and that makes 201 donations,” or more than 25 gallons, Brown said. “When I was at Ithaca I ran a couple of blood drives, and I still donate every eight weeks because of my experience as a soldier.”
Brown, who ran what may have been the first blood drive at Ithaca College, attended school on the GI bill after serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Within days of deploying, shrapnel from a grenade tore into Brown’s legs. He returned to service only to have an enemy bullet cut through his elbow, permanently disabling him.
After being honorably discharged from the army and awarded a Purple Heart, Brown decided to go to college. Having grown up in nearby Dryden, New York, he said he knew what Ithaca College had to offer.
“It wasn’t just that Ithaca College was local,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do something with my life, and I knew [IC] would be a great start.”
After graduating in 1955 with a degree in business management, Brown went on to join a law enforcement branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that would later become the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. It was while he was working out of the department’s Binghamton, New York, office in 1957 that Brown was involved in what would become a turning point for law enforcement during the 20th century.
In the sleepy, remote town of Apalachin, New York, dozens of criminals connected to the national organized crime operation known as “the syndicate” were holding a covert meeting. Brown was part of a group of state, local, and federal law enforcement officers who arrested 63 members in a single day.
“Us breaking up that meeting and detaining 60-something people involved with the mafia, well that sort of broke the back of organized crime," he said.
Even though the arrests did not result in convictions, Brown said that it was a turning point, marking the beginning of the end of the national mafia.
His achievement led to a career with the FBI working against organized crime—from Wisconsin to Philadelphia. After that, he had a career in private security.
“I retired in ’94 to Montana,” he said. “But I stay busy. I have been on the police commissioner’s board of the Hamilton Police Department, and I am still active with firearms training and interviewing candidates for the department. And I remain a competitive rifle and pistol shooter.”
Despite limited use of his right arm, Brown said he never imagined slowing down, in part because of the lessons he learned at Ithaca College.
“The most important thing Ithaca taught me was to be self-dependent,” he said. “You have to depend on your own background and abilities. Any difference you make will be made by you. I feel proud being a part of the IC class of ’55.”