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The long shot: Alum Senator Scott Brown reflects on Tufts experience

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 10:11



On the left, Tufts freshman Scotty Brown hits a lay-up in 1978. Now, Senator Scott Brown is running for re-election this Tuesday.


Tufts 1980 Yearbook

Top row, sixth from the left, Brown poses for the TCU Senate 1980 yearbook photograph.


Tufts 1978 Yearbook

Tufts freshman Scotty Brown hits a lay-up in 1978. Now, Senator Scott Brown is running for re-election this Tuesday.

In the fall of 1978, back when Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center moonlighted as a pub several nights a week, when housing issues forced 300 unlucky Tufts underclassmen to shuttle back and forth every day from their residence at the Sheraton Commander Hotel in Harvard Square and when the University President, nutritionist Jean Mayer, gave speeches with a sharp French accent, a handsome, shaggy-haired sophomore known to his friends as Scotty Brown once scored 35 points in a home game against Bowdoin, carrying the Jumbos to a 92-78 win.

The details of how Brown scored these points are not included in the Athletics Department’s archives, but odds are they came from a flurry of long-distance jump shots from the wings and baseline of Cousens Gymnasium. These types of shots would today count for three points, but back then, before the nationwide institution of the 3-point line in 1986, a shot from way back, or “downtown,” earned the same two points as a dunk did.

No matter: For Downtown Scotty Brown, now U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in the midst of a tight race for re-election, drilling a silky left-handed jump shot while wearing a Tufts basketball jersey was as routine as tapping in a lay-up.

‘I could let my hair down’ 

Brown (LA ’81) chose to attend Tufts largely because of the University’s proximity to his home in nearby Wakefield, Mass. Wakefield was a 10- to 15-minute drive from campus — close enough for Brown, upon receiving an emergency call, to quickly get home to protect his mother and sister from stepfathers who were often drunk and violent, according to his memoir “Against All Odds” (2011).

Brown publically revealed the difficulties of his childhood for the first time in his book, which was published the year after the Tufts grad rose to national prominence by beating out Massachusetts Attorney General and democrat Martha Coakley for the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy. He was the first Republican to win a Senate seat in liberal-leaning Massachusetts since 1972.

In his book, Brown recounts growing up in a poor, single-parent home, moving 17 times before his 18th birthday and defending his family from a slew of abusive stepfathers since he was only six years old.

Through this troubling time Brown found solace on the basketball court, where he earned the “Downtown Scotty Brown” moniker as a star at Wakefield High School. Brown was recruited to play basketball and received full financial aid to attend Tufts. Along with majoring in history and minoring in political science, Brown pursued a range of extracurricular activities on campus after moving into Wren Hall as a freshman.

“One of the things I loved about Tufts was that I could kind of let my hair down, and not just be an athlete, but explore any type of musical talents I had and have a good social life,” Brown told the Daily over the phone last week.

These musical talents included playing the role of Hero in the musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Brown said, as well as singing in the Jazz Choir.

“[The choir was] an a cappella group, basically,” he said. “Not like the Bubs, a step below that, but it was a coed group and we’d go out and do shows in Greater Boston. It was a lot of fun.”

Brown was so passionate about the Choir that, although he was unable to participate during his senior year, he expected to continue his musical career and “[make] millions on the album I hope to cut with the group,” he told the Daily in an article published Feb. 27, 1981.

Though Brown’s musical career did not pan out, he has found more success in another activity he began to engage in as a Jumbo — politics.

Brown filled his first political seat at Tufts, when he was elected as a Tufts Community Union (TCU) senator. The role of the TCU Senate apparently hasn’t changed much in three decades, as Brown remembered arguing about how to better allocate the Student Activities Fee and provide improved campus safety, issues that remain relevant on campus today.

“Back then, they were talking about increasing student fees and not using them on things we wanted,” Brown said. “I wanted to make sure we got a good value for our student activity dollars. They would hold events and no one would show up.”

Brown was a junior for the campus’ first-ever Spring Fling in 1980, the result of a TCU budget surplus. Over 30 years later, the Senator was able to recall the name of the first Spring Fling headliner: Pousette Dart Band.

“That was one of the things we were talking about. We wanted to do things that were more outdoorsy and community-oriented,” Brown said. “[Spring Fling] brought the entire Tufts community together.”

When he wasn’t in class, singing, playing basketball or at a TCU Senate meeting, Brown held jobs, as part of his work-study program, at the Dewick-MacPhie Pub and at Cousens Gym, and was a proud brother at Zeta Psi fraternity, where he recalls fondly hanging out on Thursday nights for “chico” parties in the basement.

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