The Legendary Dr. Brewer
Furman has always been blessed with exceptional professors.
of our finest is Dr. Charles Brewer. A native of Arkansas, he has
taught psychology at Furman for over 35 years, and he has received every
major award the university can bestow, including the Meritorious
Teaching Award and the William Kenan Jr. Chair of Psychology. Alumni and
friends have endowed a fund in the psychology department to honor him.
He has also received the South Carolina Governor's Distinguished
Professor Award as well as the Career Achievement Award and
Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Psychological
Over the years, Dr. Brewer has become a legendary
campus figure. When students say they are taking Brewer, it carries
special meaning. Teaching to him is a noble calling rather than simply a
career. He displays an almost holy reverence for learning, and he
shares such passion with his students and colleagues.
quickly realize that Dr. Brewer views learning as an exalted activity, a
rare human privilege that should not be shirked or sullied. He assaults
lazy thinking, and he lets students know when they fall short of his
expectations and their own abilities. Whatever the specific title or
topic of his course, whatever the actual material to be covered, he
remains focused on a broader goal: to teach students how to think and
speak and write for themselves.
Much of what teachers do, he
once told the Furman faculty, is inappropriate and a waste of time.
Dispensing information, he explained, should not be the primary purpose
of higher education. Instead of such fact-limited teaching, he seeks
to help students see the principles behind the details and to become
independent thinkers themselves. He wants them to ask why as often as
they ask what.
Blessed with a rapier wit, keen mind,
extraordinary intelligence and an unflagging elegance and brilliance of
language, Dr. Brewer demonstrates an important truth: great teaching
cannot be reduced to a formula. It is an art, not a science, a messy,
complicated human endeavor that springs from the sincerity and energy of
In his case, he sees teaching as a dramatic art; he
transforms his classroom into a stage. He is as entertaining as he is
learned. His teaching is theatrical, his methods eccentric, his ideals
transparent. His style is urgent, intense and embodied.
himself is a perpetual student, and he is willing to go to great lengths
to excite his students about learning. During his classes, he is known
to climb on the desk or circulate through the room, all the while
displaying his many different moods and manners with an actors sense of
Whatever his methods, he demands excellence. Like an
ultimatum, he implores students not to fall short of their potential.
Write with clarity, conciseness and felicity of expression, he tells
students as they begin their own research projects. And, he reminds
them, such investigative projects always take longer than they do.
Brewer is passionate about professoring and it shows. His eagerness
to help students borders on a compulsion. When asked about his office
hours, he replied: Seven a.m. to seven p.m., seven days a week. He
means it. Students are welcome to contact him anytime about a question
To be sure, learning with Dr. Brewer is not easy; he
has a falcon's eye for error and a passion for precision that forces
students to think before they speak. Impatient with mediocrity, he prods
and cajoles students to do their best. Yet his demanding courses have
made students better scholars and stronger persons. Over 50 of his
former students have gone on to earn doctoral degrees in psychology,
another 50 have earned masters degrees, and another 30 are currently in
Dr. Brewer loves to quote the late 19th century
historian Henry Adams, who said: A teacher affects eternity; he can
never tell where his influence stops. Likewise, Professor Brewers
luminous teaching continues to brighten generations of Furman students
and alumni. He is an audacious, exhilarating force. His credo is
reminiscent of what Kenneth Tynan, the provocative British drama critic,
adopted as his motto: Rouse tempers, goad and lacerate, raise a
Those who have been fortunate enough to know
Professor Brewer as a student or colleague will never forget his
cyclonic power or his infectious love for learning.