Spotlight on Philanthropy
The charitable efforts of Eddie and Sylvia Brown aim to invest in the education of African American youths while also spurring support from Black philanthropists.
The charitable efforts of Eddie and Sylvia Brown aim to invest in the education of African American youths while also spurring support from Black philanthropists.

Make a Match: Brown Family’s Gift Challenge to Benefit UMB CURE Scholars

Eddie and Sylvia Brown, prominent Baltimore-based philanthropists, are passionate about fixing the underrepresentation of African Americans in a variety of fields. To that end, they have worked with the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) to craft a matching gift challenge designed to stimulate broad-based philanthropic support for UMB’s CURE Scholars Program from the African American community to help address the glaring lack of diversity in the cancer research and health care fields.

Education has always been a cornerstone of the Browns’ philanthropy, having seen firsthand how it can change the trajectory of a life. After growing up poor in the segregated South, Eddie Brown’s life was changed by a scholarship that allowed him to attend Howard University. He went on to become an engineer, designing computer circuits for IBM in the 1960s, and in 1973 became a top money manager and the first African American portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price. From there, he founded Brown Capital Management, which now employs predominantly African American professionals and manages more than $14 billion in client assets, success achieved largely by identifying talent and value that other less-forward-thinking firms passed over.

Another key component of the Browns’ philanthropy is focusing on organizations that serve and celebrate the contributions of the African American community. It is common for their philanthropic commitments to include a matching component to increase charitable giving from other African American-led organizations and individuals. After decades of giving, the Browns have become a philanthropic rock launched into a pool of possibilities, creating a ripple effect of significant and lasting change. This combined mission of investing in the education of local African American youth while motivating the next generation of African American philanthropists made the UMB CURE Scholars Program an ideal pool to jump into next.

The UMB CURE Scholars Program, funded in part by the National Cancer Institute’s Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE), was launched in 2015 to build a comprehensive pipeline initiative that excites and exposes students to careers in health care, cancer research, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). By beginning with students in sixth grade and mentoring them through high school as they prepare for college and beyond, UMB aims to support West Baltimore youth as they grow and become the next generation of cancer researchers, doctors, and health scientists.

The Browns have committed a maximum of $500,000 over five years to match gifts dollar-for-dollar from local African American philanthropists. Over the same period, the UMB Foundation (UMBF) will provide another $250,000 in matching funds. The matching incentive allows the program to build new relationships across the city and state, share the critical work CURE is doing, and leverage this funding into dollars that will have an even greater impact. This level of funding will provide a multitude of opportunities for our scholars — from college tours and preparatory classes to paid internships and connections with mentors. Our scholars are gaining the knowledge, experience, and self-confidence necessary to succeed.

Leveraging extra support from UMBF, via this challenge, CURE will be able to address some of the scholars’ greatest needs outside the classroom. This includes, at times, providing basic needs such as bus tokens and school supplies, but also social work support, emergency funding to prevent eviction or utility termination, and alleviating other burdens or problems that can hold scholars back, allowing the students to focus on their education and personal well-being.

To be matched, gifts may come from individuals, foundations, or corporations and be paid over a period of up to five years. Matches will be applied as cash payments until the fund is exhausted. For more information, contact John Palinski at jpalinski@umaryland.edu.

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Kate Tafelski

Kate Tafelski is a senior program specialist in the Office of Philanthropy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.