Did you ever hear of Eddie and Sylvia Brown, a prominent business couple living in Maryland?
Well, neither had I. But on Friday the Maryland Historical Society named them "Marylanders of the Year."
Burt Kummerow, left, president of the Maryland Historical Society, is pictured here with C. Sylvia Brown and Eddie C. Brown at a luncheon honoring the Browns as Marylanders of the Year. (Photo: Courtesy of Maryland Historical Society)
As a Charlotte-based website, it’s normally not our thing to look halfway up the Eastern Seaboard in search of folks to write about. But I came across the Browns’ story last week and found it simply too inspiring to keep to myself.
Over the last 15 years, the Browns have given more than $22 million to various causes, much of it going to benefit inner-city youths.
It seems Brown knows something about poverty.
He grew up poor in rural Apopka, Fla. Always a good student, his academic success prompted a local businesswoman to fully subsidize his education at Howard University, where he earned an electrical engineering degree in 1961.
Brown never met his benefactor but knew he wanted to do the same for other poor black youngsters.
After college he joined IBM as an engineer, earned an MBA and worked as an investment manager for T. Rowe Price before founding Brown Capital Management in 1983. His Baltimore-based business was soon able to amass more than $6 billion in assets under management.
In 1996 the Browns established the C. Sylvia and Eddie C. Brown Family Foundation.
Their largest overall gift was $6 million to help build the $20 million Brown Center on the urban campus of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. They also underwrote a number of full scholarships for African American students to attend MICA.
Their second-largest gift was $5 million to the Turning the Corner Achievement Program (TCAP) that guides inner-city Baltimore youth towards success.
They gave a $1 million challenge grant to the Enoch Pratt Free Library -- the largest donation in the library’s 129-year history. Its purpose was to make widely available the library's collection of African American literature then stored in a basement area.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture received a $1 million challenge grant from the Browns to help establish an endowment.
The couple gave other large gifts, of course, but you get the point.
At last week’s awards luncheon, Eddie Brown explained an underlying theme of his giving: “We have tried to create a model of philanthropy that spurs other African Americans of means to become more involved with charitable giving to our community,” he was quoted as saying. “Most of our grants require that other African Americans give up to a third of our gift. Both of us have been very pleased with the results achieved.”
Well done, Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Well done.
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