Influential Life of Henry Brevard Celebrated

Engineering school colleagues fondly recall alumnus's continuing impact

Henry Brevard. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The recent passing of Henry C. Brevard at the age of 98 marked the end of the distinguished and productive life of one of the University of Mississippi School of Engineering’s most celebrated and generous alumni.

Thus far, more than 600 students since the 1991-92 school year have been able to pursue their dreams of higher education at Ole Miss, and other areas of UM have been strengthened with the Brevard family’s support. Yet Brevard’s influence on the university, the School of Engineering, the engineering profession and the careers of current and future engineers will continue for generations.

“We mourn the passing of Mr. Brevard, but we also celebrate all that he has accomplished in his incredible life,” said David Puleo, dean of the UM School of Engineering. “Mr. Brevard is emblematic of the people who make Ole Miss Engineering special. He is someone who cared deeply about the school and the success of future generations of UM engineers.”

UM honored Brevard and his family in spring 2011 when the renovated Old Chemistry building was renamed Brevard Hall as part of the engineering school’s 110th anniversary festivities. Brevard Hall is a central building within UM’s Engineering Complex on the Oxford campus.

“Mr. Brevard’s passion for the School of Engineering and the University of Mississippi is reflected in his transformative gifts,” Puleo said. “The students supported with his scholarships are making great accomplishments in their careers, and the building that bears the Brevard name speaks for itself.”

Brevard died Feb. 24 at his home in Tupelo, Mississippi. A private family service was held March 22 at the First United Methodist Church in Tupelo, followed by a committal service at the Brevard family plot at the Masonic Cemetery in Amory, Mississippi, the town where he was born in 1921.

Brevard during his freshman days at Ole Miss. Submitted photo

Much of Brevard’s life was devoted to Ole Miss, a relationship that began more than 75 years ago when he became a student in the engineering school. Back then, the engineering school was located in the north wing of the Lyceum.

“When I was a student, the engineering school was very small and the faculty was correspondingly small, but the individual faculty members were very able and professional,” Brevard recalled in an interview a few years ago. “The students were like one big family, doing their work in the drafting room or elsewhere in the Lyceum.”

After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from UM in 1943, Brevard volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps, became a second lieutenant and served as a navigation instructor.

After World War II, he married his college sweetheart, Beth Boozer of Shannon, Mississippi, and initiated a partnership that he once described as his “best-ever move.”

He put his civil engineering degree to work as a member of the Design Section of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he assisted in the design and development of the Grenada Dam and Reservoir.

He then worked as a structural engineer in the Department of Bridge Design of the Mississippi Highway Department. In 1949, he moved to Tupelo, where he and his father-in-law, Riley Boozer, co-founded B & B Concrete Co., the first ready-mix concrete plant in north Mississippi. The company and its affiliates now have 15 concrete plants, including a concrete pipe manufacturing plant and a precast concrete manufacturing plant. 

Brevard remained active with UM, especially with the School of Engineering. He served as president of the Engineering Alumni Chapter and chair of the Engineering Advisory Board and the Woods Order.

He and his family established the Brevard Family Chair in Civil Engineering with a gift to UM.

“I had the honor of having my name associated with the Brevard family through the generous endowment from the Brevards for the chair in civil engineering,” said Ahmed Al-Ostaz, the holder of the Brevard Family Chair in Civil Engineering, a civil engineering professor and director of the Center for Graphene Research and Innovation.

“This chair was established for the recruitment and/or retention of a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering to ensure that quality teaching, research and service will be available for future generations of Ole Miss students.

Henry Brevard, UM student. Submitted photo

“This is only one example of a life filled with many examples that show Henry Brevard’s passion to the University of Mississippi, the School of Engineering and the Department of Civil Engineering, and his commitment to the community,” Al-Ostaz said.

The Brevard family has consistently made annual gifts to the Brevard Family Scholarship Endowment in Engineering, a scholarship that was initially set up in 1991. Endowed funds are held permanently, with the annual income directed to the scholarships.

The family has also donated operational funds for Brevard Hall to be used at the discretion of the dean.

Brevard said he and his family directed their generosity to the School of Engineering as a means to recognize the progress it had made over the years, noting that the school was “poised to make even greater progress in coming years.”

“We have always thought that our scholarship endowment was important to help the school increase the caliber of our already gifted student body and to help increase enrollment to a point of more efficiency per student, considering the funding available,” he said. “Our second purpose has been to make engineering education possible for deserving and talented students who might otherwise not have the means necessary for that pursuit.”

Brevard and his family’s support of the School of Engineering and their lifetime of service to others are examples of how philanthropic acts provide benefits for generations, said Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, chair and professor in the Department of Civil Engineering.

“On behalf of the entire civil engineering department – alumni, faculty, staff and students, I offer our heartfelt condolences to the Brevard family,” he said. “Henry Brevard was a great man, and he will be greatly missed by all the people he has interacted with.

“We want to offer a special thanks for the extraordinary support he provided to the department, the school, the university and the community. Henry Brevard is a superb role model for our civil engineering students and graduates. In addition to being an engineer of integrity, successful entrepreneur and businessman, and dedicated family man, he generously gave of himself to others. He leaves a lasting legacy.”

Besides supporting the School of Engineering, Brevard and his family have shared their generosity throughout Ole Miss. For instance, the Brevard family endowed the Elizabeth Brevard Council Scholarship through the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

Brevard also served as chair of the UM Foundation.

In 1988, he was selected as a member of the UM Alumni Hall of Fame. He has also been honored with UM’s Engineer of Distinction Award and the Engineer of Service Award. 

During his lifetime, Brevard provided leadership to numerous community boards and organizations, including North Mississippi Health Services, the Yocona Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Mississippi Methodist Senior Services, the Baddour Center, the CREATE Foundation, the Mississippi Economic Council and the Community Development Foundation.

In 1949, he was admitted into the National Society of Professional Engineers, and at the time of his passing, he was the oldest living licensee as a professional engineer in the state of Mississippi.

Preceded in death by his wife, Brevard’s survivors include his daughter, Elise Brevard Smith of Ridgeland, Mississippi, his son, David Brevard of Tupelo, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Memorials may be made to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655, with the Brevard Family Scholarship Endowment written in the memo line.