John Whitney Brookes

John Whitney Brookes

Died August 21, 1984

John Brookes and Yale went way back – all the way to one of his ancestors, Eli Whitney. His roommate, Len Richardson, remembers John’s telling him another ancestor had preached hell fire and brimstone in one of the churches on the New Haven Green in the 1800s. John’s brother, A. Sidney Brookes, Jr., can back that up with genealogical research. John was descended from the Pierpont family which came to America in 1640. In 1685 the Reverend James Pierpont became pastor of the First Congregational Church of New Haven. Another ancestor, Timothy Dwight, became president of Yale in 1795 and, Theodore Dwight Woolsey was elected president of Yale in 1846.

John came to Yale planning to follow in the footsteps off his brother (A.S. Brookes, Jr. Y‘61E) by majoring in engineering; but after he took freshman placement tests, the Mathematics Department convinced him to enroll in an honors math program. After that, he changed his major, although he first had to convince his parents there would be jobs waiting for math graduates. John graduated cum laude and became one of the first Yale undergraduates to earn both a B.A. and M.A. in just four years.

John stayed in New Haven as a Carnegie Teaching Fellow and earned a master’s in philosophy in 1968, then earned his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1974, specializing in topological dynamics. His doctoral thesis was entitled Classes of Endomorphisms of Subshifts of Finite Type. That same year John presented a paper Coin Tossing and the Computer at a National Science Foundation mathematical modeling and computing short course. He also donated his mathematical talents to charity, working on the Land Use and Housing Model Project and Statistical Analysis for the United Way.

After New Haven, John became first an assistant professor then associate professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. He became vice chair of the Mathematics Department at Sacred Heart in 1979 and director of Computer Programs in 1981.

As chairman of both the Student Affairs and Academic Affairs Committees, John was instrumental in bringing computing to Sacred Heart. He taught at Sacred Heart from 1970 until his death in 1984.

John died on August 21, 1984, after a short, sudden illness.

The John W. Brookes Memorial Scholarship at Sacred Heart was later established in his memory.

Leonard Richardson remembers: John and I shared a suite in Branford College for two of our undergraduate years. John had a gift for conversation and he put people at ease to talk with him. I believe he enjoyed his studies and life at Yale. He took particular pleasure in the diverse and sometimes surprising perspectives on life and learning that were exhibited by his teachers and classmates. After graduate school I moved to Cambridge, MA, but my wife Joan and I sometimes met John between Boston and Fairfield for dinner. Later, Joan and I moved to Louisiana but John and I stayed in occasional contact by telephone. I learned of John’s untimely death decades ago from a mutual friend (Mike Caldwell, ’65) whose wife Kathy was from Bridgeport. Her family had learned about it from their local newspapers. It seems often that the nicest people – the ones who make the world around them a little brighter – are taken first. So it was with John Brookes. We are the poorer for the loss.

Michel Caldwell remembers: As roommates, I remember John and Lenny Richardson joking about Math professors, writing long equations on the board with their right hand while erasing them with their left to keep students on their toes, or how well a mathematician could hide his tracks in a proof. John graduated with not only a bachelors but a master’s degree. He later worked at Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport involving himself in faculty politics, I understand, where my wife learned he died shortly after graduation.