Mr. Brownell, professor emeritus of educational administration at Yale University, retired from that institution in 1972 after a half-century-long career in education.
A native of Nebraska, Mr. Brownell graduated from the University of Nebraska and worked as a science teacher and principal in the state.
In the 1920's, he attended Yale, where he earned a doctorate in education. He led the Grosse Pointe, Mich., public schools for 11 years before returning to New Haven to teach and head up New Haven State Teachllege from 1947 to 1953, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower named him commissioner of education.
As commissioner, he oversaw the integration of the U.S. Office of Education into the new, Cabinet-level Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Following the Brown decision, he urged schools to accept the decision and helped districts develop plans that would assist integration.
He left federal service in 1956 for the job of superintendent of schools in Detroit. During his 10 years there, he led the battle against one of the nation's highest dropout rates, recruited blacks for top administrative positions, and launched a $100-million building program for the schools.
He returned to Yale in 1966 and taught there until 1972.
A memorial service was scheduled for Oct. 21 in New Haven.