After falling for one another at Howard University in 1957, Eddie C. Brown and C. Sylvia Brown are returning to support their alma mater. The couple donated $5 million to aid the efforts supported by the Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) grant.
The funds from the grant program have been earmarked “for students facing financial barriers.” It matches funds from federal Pell Grants. The university reported that “GRACE recipients saw an average 17 percent increase in retention and an average four-year graduation rate of 78 percent, a 32 percent increase compared to students in the same financial category who did not receive GRACE funds.”
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are severely underfunded in comparison to predominantly white Institutions (PWIs). This is the largest financial gift in Howard University history.
According to the Los Angeles Times, USC alone reportedly received $260 million in 2019, and $200 million in 2011. A U.S. News report from September found the endowments of ten of the most endowed schools “range from a low of $11.3 billion to a high of $41.9 billion.” There were no HBCUs on the list.
Howard students have spoken out about the schools financial challenges.
Sylvia said the gift is not about giving back but “paying it forward.”
Eddie was studying at the College of Engineering and Sylvia was studying at the College of Liberal Art when they connected. Sylvia hailed from a family who had been successfully pursuing higher education for generations while Eddie was the benefactor of an “anonymous ‘angel’ donor.” He worked his way to becoming founder, chairman and CEO of the nearby Brown Capital Management. The firm is a Baltimore-based asset management company that is reportedly “the second oldest African-American-owned investment management firm in the world.”
“I moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania when I was 15,” said Eddie. “We had a community organizer that would look out for the young Black children in the community. 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.’”
“I remember a minister of ours said something that we never forgot,” he continued. “That those who are blessed should be a blessing to someone, especially those less fortunate. We always remember that. 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.”
“We are extremely grateful to Eddie and Sylvia for making this historic gift to Howard University,” said Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick.
“The GRACE Grant has helped to 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.”