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Charlie Brown: Luck and Legacy

The longtime Holland Hall figure retiring at 86

Holland Hall has been around for more than 100 years now. And one person can say he's served the school for more than half its long history: Charlie Brown. Over his 56-year tenure, he's played important roles in thousands of students' lives as head football coach, chemistry teacher, dean of students, athletic director, advancement officer, and director of stewardship. "Even people who don't know him have been impacted by Charlie Brown," current Holland Hall head football coach Tag Gross says. "He's a great person, coach, and teacher, but also just had a profound vision for the school." 

Promoting Passion

With numerous championships, a record-breaking win streak, a place in the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame, grants from the National Science Foundation, and more, Brown's list of accomplishments runs long. But it's clear from just a few moment's conversation with him - and his decision to retire at 86 - that his time at Holland Hall hasn't been about trophies and test scores. Helping mold outstanding young people is his passion, and it brings him great joy to see them pursue theirs.

Brown's approach to athletics was different from many other Oklahoma schools'. He and his coaches didn't expect students to specialize in just one sport. Instead, they encouraged them to explore multiple, and made sure they could be involved in the arts and other activities, too. Brown helped cultivate a rich culture of multidisciplinary excellence at Holland Hall, and he says seeing students thrive in it still inspires him.

"I recently went to see our concert chorus and various music groups, and I saw a brilliant young lady sing a solo," he says. "Well, I was out on the track later and saw that she was a hurdler. It's those kinds of experiences that really make teaching fun."

Teaching Values

Brown's coaching is legendary - he's even been recognized by the Oklahoma State Legislature for it. As a coach, he says he hoped to instill traditional, sports-focused qualities like a strong work ethic and sportsmanship in his players, but he also emphasized character-building traits like humility, loyalty, and trust. "I never believed in something called 'trash talking,'" he says.

Brown says during his time at Holland Hall, he's been especially proud of the entire school's approach to students' behavior, too. When students' actions come into question, they appear before a council of their peers. "It's students visiting with students about their behavior. That becomes a valuable thing when students want other students to behave well and represent them well," he says.

Reflecting on Luck

Brown doesn't hesitate to call Holland Hall the best school in Oklahoma. He acknowledges his bias, but it's clear that he knows the school inside and out, as a coach, teacher, and administrator - and as a father of two Holland Hall graduates. He says watching his boys flourish at the school gave him an even greater appreciation for it. 

"As a parent, if your children always want to go to school, you can tell they're in a pretty good school," he says.

Exemplifying the humility he hoped to instill in his football players, Brown says his time at that "pretty good school" has made him one of the luckiest people in education. He even wrote an autobiography, titled "The Lucky One," which gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the stories and relationships that have made his career so remarkable. All of the book's proceeds benefit the Charlie Brown Endowment for Financial Aid.

Brown will still work closely with the Holland Hall community in his retirement, and says he's also looking forward to playing golf and enjoying time with his nine grandchildren and cocker spaniel, Lucky.

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