Display in New Science Building Honors Brewer, Other EKU Veterans
When riots and peaceful protests were a common sight on the nation’s campuses during the latter years of the Vietnam War, Eastern Kentucky University was dedicating buildings and streets to its fallen heroes.
“EKU made a very brave decision to honor graduates who had served and sacrificed,” remembered Jim Brewer, of Independence, Ky., who was among those on hand when the Brewer Building was dedicated and named in memory of his older brother, William Jackson Brewer Jr., in 1970.
When Jim Brewer returned to campus Saturday, Nov. 10, he found an unchanged spirit of gratitude for America’s service men and women. Brewer was among those who spoke at a dedication ceremony for a permanent display honoring his brother and other EKU veterans in a corner of the University’s New Science Building. The display, located near a window in the ground-level atrium, overlooks the former site of the Brewer Building, former home to Eastern’s public safety operations, which was razed in 2007 to make room for the science building.
“It’s with great pride and humility that we’re here to re-dedicate this memorial,” Brewer said. “It may have his name on it, but it’s really for all veterans.
“Our prayer is that when students use this facility that they go over to this corner and think about how different their lives would be today if not for all the men and women who chose to serve and sacrifice.”
Brewer, who was joined by many relatives at the ceremony, said his family owes “a special debt of gratitude” to Hardy Tribble, Edgewood, a 1962 graduate of EKU, for his role in the re-dedication.
“Jack” Brewer, as he was known, was a London native, straight-A student and distinguished military graduate who earned a regular Army commission upon his graduation from EKU in 1969. He was killed during combat in Cambodia in May 1970, his third month of duty in southeast Asia, while serving as an infantry platoon leader.
The Brewer family has deep roots at EKU. The honoree’s son is a graduate, and three sisters attended Eastern.
Lt. Col. Brett Morris (Ret.), former director of veterans affairs and now EKU’s director of admissions, also read a letter from Bob Osborne, 1968 EKU alum and a roommate of “Jack” Brewer.
The display, which includes plaques and personal memorabilia, also honors EKU veterans Paul Van Hoose and John Hanlon, for whom nearby campus streets were named. Van Hoose was killed in Vietnam in 1967 and Hanlon was disabled in the war.
Col. Ralph Newman (Ret.) remembered Van Hoose, his former roommate and a 1963 Eastern graduate, as someone who “would drop whatever he had to help someone else out. He was a special man who touched my life for a short period of time. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t think about him.”
EKU President Doug Whitlock was serving as the University’s director of publications when the Brewer Building was dedicated. The display includes a letter he wrote to the Brewer family shortly after the ceremony.
“Many things make me proud as EKU president,” Whitlock told the crowd. “One is our tradition and heritage of support for and appreciation and respect for the military and those who serve. These aren’t just names on a wall.
“It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to have been involved at the start and to be here today when we perpetuate the remembrance of William Jackson Brewer on this campus.”
The Brewer ceremony was just one of many activities marking Veterans Week on the Richmond campus.