When Chester Brewer asked alumni to come back to MU in 1911 for the first Homecoming celebration, he worried there wouldn’t be enough room for all the alumni coming to town.
He canvassed around Columbia, asking friends, neighbors and faculty to take in MU fans for the weekend. In his house, around 10 to 15 guests slept on cots. Such was Brewer’s passion for Homecoming.
A century after the first Homecoming celebration, the tradition is still going strong heading into this weekend’s centennial celebration where Brewer’s legacy will be honored as he posthumously serves as grand master of ceremonies. The remaining members of the Brewer family will attend the celebration on his behalf.
“In many ways, our Homecoming today is very similar to the first one in 1911,” Mizzou Alumni Association Executive Director Todd McCubin said. “They had the right recipe from day one. And, from day one when students walk on our campus they learn about the Mizzou Homecoming tradition and look forward to participating. Mizzou Homecoming is like a holiday, family reunion and party all wrapped in one.”
Throughout his career at MU, Brewer coached the football, basketball, baseball and track teams while also serving as the school's athletics director and as a professor of physical education.
“For the centennial, we considered many different options but we kept coming back to honoring the person who started it all,” McCubin said. “Homecoming is the granddaddy of all Mizzou traditions. The Mizzou family loves tradition so it only seemed right to honor Brewer.”
Mary Roland, one of Brewer’s grandchildren and a Columbia resident, will be housing the Brewer relatives for what she calls a family reunion of sorts.
“It’s an amazing honor,” Roland said. “When someone’s gone and they’ve been remembered this way, it says a lot.”
There will be 16 members of the Brewer family in town for the centennial Homecoming celebration this weekend.
“We knew that some members of the family were involved in the dedication of the Mizzou Rec Center a few years ago,” McCubin said. “Over the past few months, we have been in touch with a daughter-in-law, a Mizzou grad from 1946 and seven grandchildren.”
Brewer first became part of MU in 1911 and stayed with the Tigers until 1917, when he left to serve his country in World War I. Following a brief stint when he coached football at Michigan State and University of California-Davis, Brewer moved back to Columbia in 1923. He stayed with MU until his retirement in 1947. Brewer died in April of 1953 at the age of 77. At the time of his death, Brewer was still a Columbia resident.
“He was a great leader,” McCubin said. “We often talk about the impact that Don Faurot and Dan Devine had on MU and Mizzou athletics. Chester Brewer built the foundation for those great years. He was a transformative leader for our university.”
Outside MU, Brewer served as a member of numerous organizations in Columbia. He was a member of the American Legion, served on the Board of Directors for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and sponsored the first Boy Scouts troop in Columbia.
“He wasn’t just an athletics director,” Roland said. “He made major contributions to Columbia. When my sister and I read (about his accomplishments) we looked at each other and thought oh my gosh, we must never have watched TV.”
According to NCAA records, as a football coach at MU, Brewer coached for three seasons and amassed a record of 14-8-2. During his final season in 1913, Brewer led the Tigers to a 7-1 record and tied with Nebraska for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“Certainly, everyone knows about him being the ‘Father of Homecoming’ at Mizzou,” McCubin said. “However, his impact was much more than that. He was a successful coach, administrator and citizen. He was a leader of high integrity. We talk all the time about Don Faurot. Brewer hired Faurot.”
During his tenure as athletics director, Brewer played an influential role in the creation of the concrete stands surrounding Rollins Field, as well as construction of the building carrying his name, Brewer Fieldhouse. In 1926, Brewer helped to build Memorial Stadium. Now known as Faurot Field, the stadium stands to this day.
“It was so long ago that people don’t realize how big of a contribution this was,” Roland said. “He was there during two world wars and the Great Depression, and yet still was able to generate enthusiasm and support from people.”