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Archive for December 28th, 2022

Harold Edwin Brookman was born on November 5, 1886, in Vermillion, Dakota Territory. He was the oldest of four sons born to Edwin and Anna Brookman. St. Claire Edwin (S.E.) Brookman and his twin brother Edgar were born in 1855 in New York and arrived in Vermillion in the early 1880s. The Brookman twins were millers and later instrumental in the development of electricity in Vermillion. Harold Brookman’s brother Lowell became a city electrician working for the city-owned power plant for several decades.

Harold Brookman was educated in Vermillion, attending the State University (University of South Dakota, USD) majoring in engineering. At USD the School of Engineering existed from 1907 until 1933. Brookman graduated in 1910 and was described in the 1911 Coyote Yearbook as an “athlete (football and track), engineering student and a lady’s man”. A photograph from that yearbook shows Brookman, captain of the track team, with a coyote pup on his lap sitting in the center of  his teammates.

Brookman went on to earn a master’s degree in engineering at State College in Brookings and became a licensed, professional engineer qualifying in drainage, architecture, heating, and ventilation, as well as mechanical engineering. He also studied art at the Trenton Art School. His family mentioned to me that in his spare time, Brookman painted and constructed scaled down exact models of wagons and stage coaches. During World War I, Brookman supervised the manufacture of materials for the Navy.

Harold Brookman was a member of the USD faculty since 1921 garnering honors for his work and admiration from President ID Weeks. When the School of Engineering ended, Brookman developed a program in Applied Science and was Professor and Chair until his retirement in 1959. As part of the program, he helped graduates find jobs or further educational prospects. When Brookman retired received the status of Professor Emeritus and continued to serve the University until his death in 1967.

A letter dated October 26, 1956, found in Brookman’s files in Archives and Special Collections (please see below) was written by President I. D. Weeks to Brookman. A portion of the letter stated “Your genuine interest in all of the University and willingness to do anything to contribute to its welfare has been an inspiration to me. My life has been enriched by being associated with you and I know this is true for countless numbers of students and faculty.”  Friends and associates honored Brookman by endowing a scholarship in his name. Moreover, Brookman Hall, constructed in 1963 was named after him.

Brookman designed the Danforth Chapel and helped renovate several buildings on campus. In a 2019 Volante article, his work on tunnels on the USD campus is described as follows: “Harry E. Brookman, professor of applied science and Brookman Hall’s namesake, designed the first tunnel in 1928 to carry power and steam lines from the old campus power plant to Old Main, a much more pacified purpose than protection from nuclear fallout. As the campus expanded through the next few decades, so did the tunnels underneath them.” (https://volanteonline.com/2019/10/underneath-the-u-the-strange-history-behind-usds-tunnel-system/)

Aside from his service to USD as faculty and university engineer, Brookman was an alderman for the City of Vermillion for six years. In 1929 he helped oversee the construction of the first swimming pool in Prentis Park. The vote from Vermillionites to go ahead with the project received only four more votes than the descenders! In 1936 Brookman designed the Prentis Park caretaker’s house constructed from wood taken from the Municipal Golf Club House.  

Brookman also contributed architectural drawings for a Progress Works Adminsitration grant submitted in 1934 by USD on behalf of the Dakota Hospital Association to construct Dakota Hospital. The Dakota Hospital Association got its money, but the construction of the building was under the auspices of USD that held the warranty deed. Brookman was City Engineer during the late 1930’s to early 1940’s. Brookman also served on the board of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce. Harold Brookman died at the age of 80 years on October 7, 1967.

Thus, Professor Harold Brookman was a dedicated faculty member, supportive of his students, and honored by his colleagues. In addition, he served his community as alderman, Chamber of Commerce board member, and city engineer. Looking through his files at USD Archives and Special Collections, it was evident that Brookman was a student of history who believed that understanding the past would help prepare for the future.

Professor Harold Edwin Brookman (Photograph curtesy of David Gross)

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