Eddie C. Brown and C. Sylvia Brown met each other and fell in love at Howard University in 1957. Now the couple is giving back, gifting the beloved HBCU with a $5-million donation — the largest monetary gift from alumni in the school’s history.
Essence has reported that the donation will support Howard’s Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) grant, which contains scholarship funds earmarked for “for students facing financial barriers” and matches funds from federal Pell Grants.
According to Howard, “GRACE recipients saw an average 17% increase in retention and an average four-year graduation rate of 78%, a 32% increase compared to students in the same financial category who did not receive GRACE funds.’”
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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) continue to be among the most underfunded academic centers in the United States. In contrast, the Los Angeles Times reported that the University of Southern California received an estimated $260 million in donations and endowments in 2019. Similarly, in a recent review of the most well-endowed academic institutions in the country, U.S. News and World Report revealed in September 2021 that the top schools on their list received a “range from a low of $11.3 billion to a high of $41.9 billion.” No HBCUs were included on that list.
In a statement from the couple, Sylvia said the donation was not a gift but instead their way of “paying their success forward.”
When the couple met, Eddie was enrolled at Howard’s College of Engineering, and Sylvia was taking classes in the College of Liberal Arts. Although her family had gone to college for generations, Eddie said he was able to attend the school thanks to an “anonymous ‘angel’ donor.”
“He worked his way to becoming founder, chairman and CEO of the nearby Brown Capital Management,” Essence reported. “The firm is a Baltimore-based asset management company that is, reportedly, ‘the second oldest African-American-owned investment management firm in the world.’”
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“I moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, when I was 15. We had a community organizer that would look out for the young Black children in the community,” Eddie said. “He came to me and my mother one day and said, ‘I was contacted by a woman who wants to help a young African American student go to college.’ And it was my 10th grade English teacher, actually, who was a graduate of Howard, [who] said, ‘You should go to Howard University.’”
“Those who are blessed should be a blessing to someone, especially those less fortunate,” Eddie added, recalling something he used to hear from his minister when he was younger. “I was blessed to receive my college education debt-free, and I think it’s important to offer those less fortunate the opportunity to do so as well.”
In a statement, Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick said, “we are extremely grateful to Eddie and Sylvia for making this historic gift to Howard University. The GRACE Grant has helped eliminate financial barriers to education for Howard students, and I am thrilled that the Browns were inspired to commit such a generous gift to this important fund. My hope is that students will be inspired by their story and generosity and that others in our alumni community will consider the many ways they, too, can impact current and future generations of Howard students.”