Everett B. “Brownie” Carson of Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin Class of 1969, has been honored by the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees with the 2005 Common Good Award, presented June 4 during Reunion weekend.
The Common Good Award honors those Bowdoin alumni who have demonstrated an extraordinary, profound, and sustained commitment to the common good, in the interest and for the benefit of society, with conspicuous disregard for personal gains in wealth or status. It was established on the occasion of the Bowdoin College Bicentennial in 1994, and is presented each year during Reunion Convocation.
Common Good Award recipients personify the idea of the common good as set forth by Bowdoin’s first president, Joseph McKeen. In his inaugural address on September 2, 1802, McKeen reminded his audience, “It ought always to be remembered that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education. It is not that they may be able to pass through life in an easy and reputable manner, but that their mental powers may be cultivated and improved for the benefit of society.”>/p>
For more than three decades, Brownie Carson has been the embodiment of a servant of the Common Good, championing movements for peace, educational and economic opportunity, and the environment. Over the past 21 years, as the executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), he has made a lasting mark on his adoptive home state of Maine, one that will be felt for generations to come.
A native of Lexington, Virginia, Carson traveled a difficult and remarkable path to his graduation from Bowdoin. During his first two years at the College, he competed in baseball and football, participated in sailing, acted in Masque & Gown productions, and wrote for the Bowdoin Orient, the student newspaper. He then left Bowdoin and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for two years and spending five months in Vietnam as a platoon commander. Wounded in combat in February 1969, Carson was discharged from the Marines, and in early 1970 he returned to Bowdoin to continue his studies – and to begin his work as an activist and advocate for the causes he held most dearly.
In 1970 Carson found a Bowdoin campus struggling deeply with anti-war sentiment. Joining that effort, as well as organizing Maine veterans against the war, Carson, at the age of 24, ran unsuccessfully in the 1972 Democratic primary for Maine’s First Congressional District.
Carson worked at Bowdoin the summers of 1970 through 1973 as a teacher and counselor with the Upward Bound program, giving economically disadvantaged students hope for a higher education and more opportunity than their parents before them. In the early 1970s he served in the Poverty Programs of the Maine State Office of Economic Opportunity and with the U.S. Department of Education as an Upward Bound site evaluator before earning his J.D. from the University of Maine School of Law in 1977.
He spent the next six years with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, managing a regional legal services office and providing valuable legal resources for Maine’s low-income community. Late in 1983, he joined the Natural Resources Council of Maine as a lobbyist and staff attorney and six months later was named the organization’s executive director. In the ensuing 21 years, Carson’s diligent work in support and defense of Maine’s environment has become legendary. His well-documented successes as an environmental warrior include the defeat of the “Big A” dam project on the Penobscot River, the creation of a dioxin monitoring program for Maine’s rivers, the establishment of Maine’s 1989 landmark recycling law which has reduced the state’s waste stream by nearly 50 percent, the protection of Baxter State Park by defeating proposed development in the area, and the removal of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River.
Carson’s leadership of the Natural Resources Council of Maine has helped the group become a major factor in the state’s political landscape, and the organization itself has seen remarkable growth over that period. When Carson joined NRCM in 1983, it had a staff of seven and an annual budget of $250,000; today the staff totals 27 and the budget has grown to more than $2 million.
He and his wife, Dana Porter Carson, have two daughters, Becki and Elizabeth. His father, Robert J. Carson, was a member of the Bowdoin Class of 1934. His brother, Walter W. Carson, is a member of the Class of 1965. Dana’s father, Robert C. Porter ’34, and brother, Robert C. Porter Jr. ’66, are also Bowdoin alumni.