Distinguished Alumni

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually to an individual who attended Centralia College for at least one year and/or has made significant contributions to his or her profession or society in general.

Tim Browning

2024 Distinguished Alumnus

Tim Browning knew where he was headed when he graduated third in his class at Centralia High School in 1960. Centralia College would be the first stop.

“I didn’t know what my ultimate goal was, but I knew I needed an education. Centralia College was a great opportunity. More than two-thirds of my high school class enrolled at CC. It made sense for me.”

Browning took the normal course of classes and found he especially enjoyed history. He was recruited for the debate team and discovered a passion for competition. He graduated as valedictorian in the spring of 1962.

“Intercollegiate Debate was the driving focus of my academic pursuit,” he said. “We competed in tournaments in Washington and Oregon. We competed at Jr. College Nationals in Stockton, Calif., my first year, and at Hutchison, Kan., my sophomore year.   Our competitive success earned me a scholarship at Pacific Lutheran University and I transferred there in the fall of 1962.”

At PLU, Browning earned his bachelor’s degree in Speech and Business, while competing on the national debate team. He then focused on graduate school and possibly law school when a different opportunity was presented.

The Centralia Rotary Club approached him with a potential scholarship, Rotary’s Fellowship for International Understanding, to attend graduate school at the University of Khartoum in the Sudan. He matriculated there in July 1964. There were about 4,000 students and, as far as he knew, Browning was the only American. His roommate was from Southern Sudan. Though he was sponsored by his local Rotary Club, his in-country sponsor was a member of the very important Sudanese Mahdi family. He met many of the nation’s elite, including Sadig El Mahdi, who later served two terms as Sudan’s prime minister.

“I can’t even describe it. I was attending the most exclusive events with all the highest-ranking people,” he recalled. “I particularly remember meeting the Mahdi and attending the wedding of his oldest son. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish my last term. There was a revolution and the start of a civil war that is still raging today. The university was closed and all classes cancelled.”

Browning transferred to the University of New Mexico and finished his master’s degree in Speech and History in 1966. As a graduate assistant and then faculty member, he was responsible for forensics and debate. In 1967, he accepted a faculty teaching and coaching position at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. He returned to the Southwest in 1969 to accept a faculty position at the University of Arizona, where he stayed until 1983.

“I enjoyed that time, but it was hard on my family,” Browning said of his teaching career. “There was a lot of travel. I would teach Tuesday through Thursday and then I’d be at competitions from Friday through Monday. I wasn’t home enough.”

His father owned Browning’s Office Supply in Centralia. In 1983, he wanted to retire and Browning stepped in. He owned it jointly with his dad’s longtime business partner, Carl Johnson, until 1991, when Browning took the office machine sales and repair side of the business to a new location. He bought the Free Methodist Church and turned it into a professional building. His business, Browning’s of Washington, expanded with locations in Centralia, Kennewick, and Longview.

At the same time, he began a career in city politics. In 1984, he joined the Centralia Planning Commission. He was chair from 1987-91. In 1992, he transitioned to the Board of Adjustment, for which he served as chair from 1993-97. From there, he ran for Centralia City Council. He served on the Council from 1997-2012, including more than a decade as mayor (1999-2010).

“My high school class was focused on how we could make our country better,” he recalled. “None of us were fixated on blaming the past. We focused on what we had and how we could make it better. For me, that was why I got into city government, why I’ve always been so involved in Rotary. Forty-one years later, I’m still a Rotarian because I know it makes a difference.”

Browning is a founding member and past president of Twin Cities Rotary Club and currently a past president and member of the Centralia Rotary Club. He’s twice been named Rotarian of the Year. He’s also a founding member and past president of the Twin Cities Chamber of Commerce. He was president and board member for Centralia Babe Ruth Baseball for a decade and previously served on the boards for Lewis County Red Cross, Centralia School District Levy Committee, Lewis County United Way, Boy Scouts of America, Centralia Downtown Association, the Lewis County Economic Development Council, the Centralia Community Foundation, and the Industrial Park at TransAlta. He is currently president of the Centralia School Board. He’s a seventh generation Centralian and a tireless community servant.

“I always felt like this town was my home, a place where you could be an individual,” he said, “a place you could make a difference, for your community and for your family.”

In 2014, competitive academic debate returned to his life. He made many trips to China as Chief Adjudicator of the National English Language Debate Tournament and taught seminars in several Chinese Universities, including his favorite, the Golden Pebble Beach campus of Dalian Minzu University. The COVID pandemic cut short his trips in 2019.

Browning and his son Daniel now own the PostNet International franchises in Centralia and Lacey. Browning remains tight with his CHS and Centralia College classmates, including several previous winners of the Centralia College Foundation’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

“I’m honored to be included with such wonderful people,” he said of his award. “It’s an incredibly important group, who have achieved great success. It has been a privilege to have known so many of them.”

Browning will be formally honored with the 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award on June 20 at the Centralia College Foundation’s Night of Celebration.

Nominate a Distinguished AlumnusNominate a Distinguished Alumnus

The Centralia College Foundation is currently seeking nominations for its Distinguished Alumnus Award. The award is presented annually to an individual who attended Centralia College for at least one year and/or has made significant contributions to his or her profession or society in general.

The recipient of this prestigious award is announced in the spring and recognized at the college’s graduation ceremony in June.


Centralia College Foundation
600 Centralia College Blvd
Centralia, WA 98531-4099