Meet Brother Elmer Brummer, CSC

Brummer_HeadshotScience has made amazing progress over the past 60 years, and Brother Elmer has worked on the front lines — from the early days of computers to his work at the California Institute of Medical Research in San Jose.

“At St. Edward’s University in the late ’60s, they trained me on the IBM 1620,” he says, chuckling. “The students who were learning Fortran would turn in punch cards, and I would run printouts when I wasn’t teaching algebra and biology lab.”

By that time, Brother Elmer had already spent two decades teaching math and science and pursued his master’s degree in New Mexico. Then, just when many people tended to settle into predictable careers, he did what many Holy Cross Brothers have always done: He sought a challenging new path.

“I was on the faculty at St. Ed’s for 18 months, and then started graduate school in microbiology,” he recalls. “The study of microbes and bacteria, and immunology in host-resistant systems, was pretty primitive when I got into it. Then, just like computing, the field exploded.”

Brother Elmer went on to earn his Ph.D. in microbiology at Clemson University. Following that, he did two years of post-doctoral work in immunology at Baylor College of Medicine. He spent a year at San Antonio’s State Chest Hospital, and from there he went to New York University for three years on a U.S. Public Health fellowship.

This was an opportunity to go to a lab that was, at that time, prominent in cellular immunology,” he explains. “We conducted pure research on transfer Brummer_WhiteCoatfactor, which was a hot topic.”

His fellowship finished in 1979, and he began working with the immunology of primary fungal infections at the California Institute for Medical Research. In addition, he has taken two sabbaticals in Japan, the first for six months in 1989, doing medical mycology and collaborating on a chapter of a book.

“I was invited back in 1998 for three months,” he says, “by the Research Center for Pathogenic Fungi in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo. I lived in an apartment across the street from the center, and I was able to go to Mass at a local Catholic church where I remember bowing instead of genuflecting.”

Brother Elmer has now marked his 70th year as a Brother of Holy Cross. He has conducted pure research in breakthrough arenas, from New York to California and Japan, and his name appears on articles in many scientific journals. Yet, for a Brother of Holy Cross, he reminds a visitor gently, “The work is supposed to be secondary to our life in prayer and community. My research was very interesting and time-consuming,” he explains, “but every day I came home to our community of brothers. There is always somebody to share your life with.”

A young man interested in religious life might find this paradoxical. Yet this is the difference between any other man of science and a Holy Cross Brother.  Brother Elmer Brummer finds scientific research, which is geared to measurable results, deeply rewarding. But above all he values the immeasurable!