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Last November, Beverly A. Brown outlined the recent accomplishments and goals of the Center for Global Health & Development (CGHD) at a meeting of the BU Board of Trustees. She has held the unpaid position of director of development at the CGHD since 2010.
The public health advocate arrived with a PowerPoint presentation, but left with a professorship in her name, thanks to a $4 million gift from trustee Richard Shipley (SMG’68, GSM’72). The idea had been percolating among the trustees, but came as a complete surprise to Brown, who says that Shipley “just blurted it out.” And while her husband, University President Robert A. Brown, didn’t know about Shipley’s intent either, she says, everyone else was in the loop.
“Beverly has been deeply involved with the University, and in my opinion, she is underacknowledged, probably underappreciated, and certainly underpaid, because she takes no salary,” says Shipley, a philanthropist and founder and managing director of the private equity firm Shiprock Capital. “We thought, wouldn’t it be nice to create a chair in her name.”
Brown says the gift has left her “blown away” and excited about the opportunity to hire someone whose research will be directed toward eliminating public health disparities in urban areas, where 50 percent of the world’s population lives. Improving urban health has become a major goal of researchers at the CGHD, which launched a global urban health initiative in fall 2011 to meet the overwhelming challenges and needs of the swiftly expanding ranks of the world’s urban poor.
Although unpretentious herself, saying, “I know I’m not worthy, but I’m thrilled I could be a catalyst for a large gift,” and known for her vigorous support of others, Brown is a powerhouse. In her role as chief fundraiser for the CGHD and a member of its advisory council, she is immersed in numerous collaborations with both for-profit and nonprofit organizations in the United States and abroad. But she also devotes about half her time to trumpeting the Campaign for Boston University, the University’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, which has raised more than $510 million; she is also involved in BU’s Technology Development Office.
With a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, Brown honed her organizational skills in her years working for corporations that include DuPont, Baxter International, PerkinElmer, and Woburn-based Linden Bioscience. She keeps detailed quarterly reports of her far-reaching efforts on behalf of the CGHD, which she presents to the BU trustees. Duly impressed, they started discussions about establishing a chair in her honor last fall.
Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, is in the process of putting together a search committee to fill the endowed chair, which will be called the Beverly A. Brown Professorship for the Improvement of Urban Health.
The CGHD is a multidisciplinary center, and the professorship could migrate between colleges and departments, but the umbrella of global urban health was Brown’s choice. “It’s very exciting from a public health perspective,” she says, citing such challenges as delivery of clean water to urban centers, managing chronic disease, and developing mass transit. “The real frontier on impacting health care is in the urban setting. For example, in India people who migrate to cities never go back to the farm, and that growth is happening very quickly. But most of the development work going on is focused on rural settings. Currently we’re not doing much in urban spaces, but that’s the future, the emerging area of academic research and opportunities.”
“We are excited about the possibilities the Beverly A. Brown Professorship for the Improvement of Urban Health holds and the innovation it will help to spark both in prevention and new solutions to existing problems in global health,” Morrison says. “We are incredibly grateful to our trustee Richard Shipley for his generosity, his support of recruiting and recognizing outstanding faculty, and his vision for BU’s leadership in this emerging discipline.”
“Bev and I are both touched and honored by this gift,” says Robert A. Brown. “Bev is deeply committed to our work here and tireless in her efforts to advance Boston University. We’re very grateful to Dick Shipley for the extraordinary commitment he has made with this gift.”
The Beverly A. Brown Professorship is the second major endowed multidisciplinary chair devoted to improving global health research and treatment in the past year. In July 2012, the Robert and Jeanne Knox Foundation gave BU $2.5 million to create a professorship named for Board of Trustees chair Robert Knox (CAS’74, GSM’75). Jonathon Simon, CGHD director and a School of Public Health professor and chair of international health, is the inaugural Robert A. Knox Professor. Simon has spent a quarter-century battling childhood illnesses and death in the developing world.
Beverly Brown believes that gifts such as these set a glowing example of the future BU envisions. “It’s important for people to see that people are stepping up to the campaign challenge,” she says. “I’m ecstatic.”