Honoring Barron Bremner
Cornell College held an event Oct. 29 to honor the legacy of longtime coach, athletic director, teacher (along with many other positions!), Barron Bremner.
The event featured speeches by those who knew Bremner best during his time at Cornell, including former students and colleagues. Before the event, the college’s Alumni Office sought memories from those who couldn’t be at the event. The memories shared on this site are included below, along with video from the event.
Dear Barron. I remember as a freshman being asked by you what my middle name was. I had been warned about this and also knew that you grew up in Iowa Falls, our neighbor to the North. I wasn’ too keen to give you my middle name since I knew you tended to use it when you wanted to “stick the needle in”. So I didn’t give you my middle name even though I was a bit worried about the consequences. By the way, my middle name is Ronald. You probably had that on your roster, but somehow I got away with that.
Thanks for all you have done for Cornell College in so many different ways. God Bless, Jim Brown, Eldora grad, 1964 and Cornell College of 1968
Lance A. Carlson:
My name is Lance Carlson and I attended Cornell College ( along with my twin broher Eric ) from 1967-71 – we wrestled for Cornell as well – Coach Bremner was Dean of Men our freshman year ( 1967 )as Dave Hrouda was our wrestling coach our first year, but Coach Bremner was the wrestling coach our sophomore, junior and senior years.
Two memories of Coach Bremner – as you know, he was an imposing man – and to a young college student/wrestler ( wrestling at lower weights 123 and 130 lbs. ), Coach Bremner was larger than life – the first time I met him, I said “Hi, Barron” – he at once said “why don’t you call me Coach Bremner as that would be more respectful” – I said “I thought that Barron ( and I really thought it was Baron ) was your title – not your first name!” I did it out of respect as I honestly thought he was titled as a Baron around Cornell – we both laughed at my mistake.
Secondly, Coach Bremner did not use road maps when we traveled to away wrestling meets – we would pile into several cars and ask where are we going?
If were were going to Minnesota, Coach Bremner would say “North” and we would follow and if we were going to the Chicago area, Bremner would say “South” and we would follow – trying to follow Coach Bremner was a trip unto itself.
I have kept up by reading about Coach Bremner during these past years – and it has been 40 years since we graduated from Cornell College ( 1971 ) – I congratulate Coach Bremner on all of his accomplishments and wish him good luck in the future.
Lance A. Carlson
Hello Barron –
This is a well deserved honor and I am glad to be able to be there and see you again. After some 40+ years (1961-64)I still remember the road trips and many of the meets. You made the grueling training and weight cutting seem almost fun.
I will always remember the time at a Beloit meet when we had no heavyweight wrestler with us and you asked if I would mind jumping in. I normally wrestled at 137 or 147, but I said “no problem”! You said just stay away and don’t lose all the points by getting pinned. “No Problem”! EXCEPT, in the down position, he flattened me–game over!! You never asked me to do that again. We won the meet anyway.
Look forward to seeing you soon,
I remember you first as a person of uncompromising integrity and second as a great wrestling coach. You demanded respect for the rules and benched those who thought rules did not apply to them even when it meant that the team suffered. Sports would be a lot cleaner today if your example was more widely followed.
Even though you were tough as nail on the important issues, you did have a soft side for the immaturities of college students. One such time was when the wrestling team was in Lincoln Nebraska for a wrestling tournament. As I recall, a few of us visited two team mates in their room. They were very hungry and we them that it was OK to order room service. So when a full breakfast including minute steaks was ordered and eaten and appeared on the bill, you gave us a lot of well earned grief, but did not boot any of us off the team. I was reminded of this when I read the note (above) from “Minute Steaks Maples”. Those were the good old days.
As I matured over the years I learned to appreciate the lessons you taught me. Wrestling was a good experience and provided many fine memories, but the rules of respect & humility that you taught so well have been a mainstay in my life. Thanks to you I am a more humble person.
Lee Olson, Class of 1966
This is such a well-deserved recognition of your contributions to Cornell College and, more importantly, to all of us who had the distinct honor and pleasure of knowing you. I am so glad that I’ll be able to attend the event later this month and personally thank you.
During my time at Cornell (’63-’67) Barron was my tennis coach — yes, tennis (not wrestling/not football) — not exactly thought of as a game that falls into his skillset. And it was true, the actual game of tennis was not (he often said the only player he would cut would be someone who couldn’t beat him)– but in his heart, Barron was always a coach/teacher and mentor of young people – the venue was irrelevant. Like others, I experienced the Barron road trips in college station wagons. What adventures we had — and what stories were told — what laughs we shared. Through it all, though, what was always apparent was Barron’s integrity, discipline, love of life and love of his ‘students’. He would not tolerate unsportsmanlike or rude behavior whether that was on a field, court, wrestling mat or in our college life.
I will always be indebted to Cornell for a fine education – but I am forever grateful for the values you modeled.
Ted Meads, Class of 1967
In 1967, my senior year, you were the Dean of Students while I was President of Mens Senate. As a result, we spent many an hour together contemplating the fate of those who, for example, pulled the sinks off the walls of bathrooms in Merner Hall. It was not easy work but you had an unshakable sense of fairness and a calmness that always put me at ease and allowed me to serve my term without being sued nor physically attacked! I thank you for that.
I, too, played on your tennis team. I was too slow to make the starting six and struggled with my game that year. One day, in frustation, I asked what I could do to be better and you replied: “Crow, just get there before the ball does.” I went on to coach high school tennis for 30+ years and used that piece of advice over and over again.
Truly, you did not have to be a wrestler to be touched by Barron Bremner. Thank you for being a part of my education at Cornell and my life thereafter.
Dave Crow, Class of 1967
I remember you and your impressive work at Cornell during the mid-60′s so vividly. You were omnipresent on the Hilltop: Dean, coach, neighbor (to,among others, my Aunt Liz Isaacs, who spoke so highly of you). Thanks for sharing so many aspects of your life at Cornell and enriching ours. Warmest congratulations on your honors.
Sue (Leigh) Kingston, Class of ’67
I was on the tennis team in the 63-67 era. Not before or since have I had a tennis coach with a 20- inch plus neck, or one who could eat a quart of ice-cream. I remember the road trips, sitting in the rear-facing seat of some old station wagon. (I’ll bet no one was wearing a seat belt!) Like Dave Crow, I coached high school tennis for many years, and often recalled your coaching advice–”end up with the ball on the other side of the net!” Thanks for the memories!
Dick Wedel, Class of ’67
While I am sorry my schedule will not permit me to be present, I want to join countless others in congratulating you on a career in education and athletics that is paralled by so few. Your guidance,wisdom, and friendship was experienced and appreciated by so many of us in so many ways that your years as a Kohawk can even be forgiven(we know the Ram was always close at heart).
I guess baseball was about the only sport you didn’t coach while I was around, so I did not experience your unique coaching skills. But, in my work as the Rams’ Sports Information Director and Baskeball Manager, I did spend many hours in your presence and many of the traits you exhibited were those I tried to emulate in my own career in athletic administration. Even though our paths have crossed seldomly over the years, your frienship and warmth was always evident
in those moments.
Godspeed to you and Ginne in the coming years, thanks for the memories and never forget the sage advice of the immortal bard who said “if you can’t go to college, go to Coe.”
Dick “C.W.” Myers, ’68
Congratulations on this much desired honor. As a freshman trying out for football, my parents wouldn’t let me play in high school, I fondly remember you telling me that I was way too light weight to play but I could try out anyway. To make a long story short, I was doing great until I caught my first pass and was hit high and low-dislocated my left shoulder. Your words of wisdom were stick to tennis. Thank goodness I listened to you. Well sort of anyway. In my senior year you really saved me from permanent injury when I got talked into wrestling for the Gammas and drew a high school state champion, then a Freshman, first round. You mercifully ended the match before he broke my neck trying to pin me. Thanks to you I am still playing and enjoying tennis.
On a more serious note, your treating us as individuals and instilling in us a strong sense of integrity, work ethic and fair play are things that made our experience at Cornell so important to our growing up. Thank you for your being there and giving so much.
Wish you a great night of celebration with your many friends and admirers.
With warm wishes.
Paul Stark, Class of 68
Ann Holcomb Carlson 55′ :
Dear Barron, It was a pleasure to work on the Chicago Club and alumni board with you in the 90′s. You were most helpful. Hope our paths will cross in the future. All the best to you. Duane also sendshis regards. Cheers, Ann Holcomb Carlson 55′
Jeff Hicken Class of 69:
I remember being in gym class with you in the late 60′s. We had to do laps but you exempted anyone who could recite Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” I thought, “Wow! This guy actually knows poems!”
Barron’s coaching acumen is memorable. I recall numerous instances of multiple wrestler weigh-ins and last minute “who-steps-on-the-mat first” ploys to gain dual meet advantages. We wrestlers always benefitted from the knowledge that our coach was in control. Confidence!
Barron was an excellent con man. Needing a few credits to graduate, I was enrolled for an additional semester after my first four years at Cornell. While I was coaching the freshman football team, Barron discussed my previous two knee-injury shortened wrestling seasons and his lack of a heavyweight for the upcoming season. Before I knew it, I was enrolled for a second semester, had an NCAA exemption, and had somehow agreed to “just wrestle in the conference tournament”. Up 7-3 in the finals, instead of coasting to a win, I foolishly (?) threw in the legs and went for the pin only to have it backfire. Pinned by a Kohawk. As I dejectedly walked off the mat Barron thanked me and said “It’s never a mistake to aggressively press on.” Soothing words of balance from a man who always had an angle to win. I tried to convey that message throughout 20+ years of coaching.
Can’t be there Saturday; but managed to make the Gable Breakfast last year. Cheers, Barron!
One of my most terrifying and fondest memories of my freshmen year (1962) involved you! In the good old days, if you weren’t out for a sport, you had to take Required Activity (gym class). You were my RA coach in the fall of 1962. One day, you announced that we were going spend a few weeks in the pool.
Five minutes later we were standing butt-naked behind the diving board. You were standing on the diving board with only a jock-strap on–quite an imposing sight!
You explained to the class that we had to complete a dive off the board to pass the class. You then demonstrated the dive we had to duplicate. You took two leaps up on the board before landing on your rear-end and then somersaulting into the pool. You performed the dive perfectly without harming yourself.
Upon climbing out of the pool, you asked for a volunteer to be the first sacrificial lamb. There were no volunteers. After what seemed like forever, you started laughing and said you were just joking. Until that moment, we all thought we were going to lose our manhood.
It is these kinds of memories that make you a Cornell legend and most worthy of being celebrated this Saturday. Cornell is greater for your years of service and your positive influence on decades of Cornell students.
Tom Jarom, ’66
The first time I meet you I was a senior in high school and you were visiting my school (BGM) on a recruiting trip. You had your “pet” ferret with you in it’s cage. I can still remember you getting us all to come up real close to the cage to see the ferret – once we were close enough you push the trap door and out flew the furry animal (fake of course) and we all scattered out of the room. It was years later when we went to the Coast Guard Academy for the NCAA DIII Wrestling Championships that I got to sit back and enjoy your stories and get to know you. I have appreciated our friendship and your direction over the years. Cornell College, Mount Vernon and Eastern Iowa are much better places because of you!!
Dick R. Simmons
Bob & Beth Engel:
We recall a trustee retreat in Minneapolis that included an evening social event at the symphony in Saint Paul. Cornell had purchased tickets for trustees and spouses. A couple of trustees decided at the last minute not to attend. When we arrived at the site that evening, in the rain, Barron stood outside the hall attempting to sell the extra tickets, noting that Cornell could not afford to waste the money on unused tickets.
Barron was himself a “gift” to Cornell (and no doubt to Coe). His winning personality and wide-ranging administrative and leadership skills served Cornell well.
Tom Diehl ’66:
Congratulations on this well earned and justly deserved honor. You have touched so many lives during your career, especially mine. I have to say through eight years of athletics, and many coaches, you were the best.
I will never forget my first college wrestling match against the University of Wisconsin. I “cut” weight to 177 lbs. only to be informed by you that I would be wrestling the reigning BIG TEN Champion! Needless to say it wasn’t long before I was counting the lights! Barron, you dedicated your life to guiding and educating countless young people and I am very thankful to be counted as one of them.
I coached highschool wrestling and football for 5 years and took one boy to the Illinois State Championships, and had a tackle selected to the All State Squad. I left coaching to become an FBI Special Agent and retired after 30 years.
Best wishes and thank you Coach.
Congratulations on this very deserved recognition of your contributions to Cornell and to all of our lives. As recounted in these tributes, you have been many roles to many people, but in all of them it has always been a privilege and pleasure to spend time with you listening to the stories, and to gather the experience and the wisdom you have shared with us.
Invariably, there was also the humor! I recall travelling with you and two other seniors to a sports banquet in Chicago in April of ’67, driving along Highway 30 (we must have been going ‘East’ on your map) when you spotted a drift of snow across the road. You accelerated the car and we ‘bounced’ over the drift, waking up the other two guys in the back seat. “Well,” you said with a smile and a glance in the rear-view mirror, “no reason to go back and check on that guy!” I don’t think those other two guys stopped looking out the back window for a police car all the way to Chicago.
You were one of a special group of coaches at Cornell in the 60′s who taught us, inspired us and led us to special sporting moments and achievements. But as we look back on those years we recognise that, more importantly, you have simply helped make us a better person for having known you. Thanks for the Gift and wishing you all the best.
Bob Bishop, Class of 1967
A big howdy to you on your special day.
I recall fondly our days together on the Student Affairs staff at Cornell in the late 1960′s. Your warmth and strength were a great foundation for a young dean like me.
Best of all I recall two things about our work:
The Talent Show with OSA skit where you really starred with your “camera” and jokes, and our travel together to Cincinnati for a NASPA meeting when we checked into our hotel room only to discover it was already occupied by a less than full dressed female. You handled both situations with style and good humor. Stuart was very wise to bring you on staff, and I was very disappointed when you moved on, although I realize that being Dean of Men was not the most fun job at Cornell.
You were also a great neighbor and friend. Sue and I cherished our many rich times with you and your family.
Best wishes my friend. You have my love and admiration.
My brother Pat and I had the privilege of wrestling for Barron. Barron was like a father to all of us. None of us had much cash so Barron was more than willing to cut our hair during the season(he preferred a “butch” haircut). He also acted as our personal team physician by using a needle to drain the ears of anyone who developed fluid.
I remember the summer before my Junior year when a few of us were in Mt. Vernon and Barron came over and told us that a neighbor of his was moving and that the mover would pay us to give him “a hand.” When the 3 of us got over there we found out that the guy needed help to move a baby grand. We did get the piano loaded without damage however I’m convinced that the double hernia repair I had some years later was no doubt preciptated by that piano. It was worth it at the time tho as the mover gave us $50 to split among ourselves.
I recall Barron telling me about a time at Iowa when he needed a little extra cash himself. He saw an ad in the New York Times selling used tuxedos. He bought a bunch(don’t recall how many) and went around to all the frats selling them at retail.
Had I never met Barron Bremner I would never have known that “a lean cat is a mean cat” or that “the only difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is three weeks.”
Barron Bremner is a big man with a big heart. My parents adored Barron and he was always very kind to both of them. When our father passed away unexpectedly long after Pat and I had left Cornell, Pat asked Barron if he would be williing to be part of the service. Without hesitation, Barron was happy to give a eulogy which was comforting for all of the family.
I have met 2 people in my lifetime that I truly considered to be “bigger than life.” Barron Bremner is one of those people. I first met him during those formative college years and I learned a lot from him by just observing the way he treated people. That kind gentle touch. He has had a significant impact on my life. I am a better person for having known him.
Barron, I’m sorry that Jeanne and I won’t be able to join you this weekend in Mt. Vernon, however, we both wish you and your family only the best. Congratulations. Kim
So many stories and so little space! When I arrived at Cornell in 1966 you were assistant football coach. Sometime early in my career I found myself at football practice where you demonstrated to me how your knees could move in ANY direction because you had no cartilage or ligaments anywhere around there. Then you told me all about playing second fiddle to Alex Karras on the Iowa football team.
You were also a moving legend around town. Anyone who moved within town called you and your famous pickup truck for help!
But alas, you tired of being low man on the totem pole in athletics so you moved to Coe as athletic director. I remember your last home wrestling meet before that move. The word was out and the whole town turned out at the fieldhouse to give you a loving send-off. It was one of the greatest outpourings of affection I have ever seen – and for a man who was truly loved by the community. It was a great loss for Cornell.
But you eventually returned to Cornell as athletic director. It was in that role that you introduced me to committee meetings over breakfast because you could find no other time to get us together. Sheesh! Not one of your finer innovations. BUT about the same time you introduced the Mt. Vernon 4th of July Picnic. A great innovation! Anyone who wanted to bring meat to grill and a dish to pass would show up at the Bremner Experimental Weed and Crabgrass Farm on Palisades Road. A fun time was had by all.
And the stories could go on and on, but I have used up my space. There are few people who can support the description “universally loved by all,” but you are one of those people, Barron. God bless you. The world is a better place because you have been among us!
There are few that can fill the shoes that you have left at Cornell. Not only did you recruit and coach winning men’s teams, you made sure that the women’s teams had quality on their roster and in their leadership as well.
And if there were a way, I’m convinced that you’d have figured out how to start that women’s wrestling program that we worked so hard to talk you into. You were more than willing, and you’d have had no shortage of team members, but I guess that we were all far ahead of our time.
You leave quite a legacy at Cornell, and I’m glad that I was there while you were creating it.
Sue Williams, class of ’83