Philanthropist couple and Howard University alums Eddie and C. Sylvia Brown are making the largest alumni donation the HBCU has ever received.
According to a press release, the Browns pledged $5 million, which will be allocated toward Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE), a need-based fund established by Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick in 2014.
“We are extremely grateful to Eddie and Sylvia for making this historic gift to Howard University,” Frederick said in the release. “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.”
The Browns say they’re giving back because Howard provided them opportunity as a community organizer assisted them in getting into the school when they had little money growing up.
“I moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania when I was 15,” Eddie Brown said, according to the university. “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.’”
Eddie later was awarded a full-ride scholarship due to his family’s financial situation that would allow him to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering. He later went on to be founder of Baltimore-based Brown Capital Management, which today manages $17.3 billion in assets and is one of the oldest Black-owned asset management companies in the nation.
“We were very fortunate to be able to go to Howard,” Sylvia Brown said. “I had student loans, and I know how hard that is. Being from a family of four, my parents did the best they could, but that was never enough to pay for all the fees. And that’s been our mantra, to give to others and help them at least be able to get an undergraduate degree so they have a good foundation.”
“Our only hope is that students who benefit from our contribution do their best,” she added.
GRACE Grant provides financial relief for students and aims to increase on-time graduation rates. According to Howard University, students in the program experience a 17 percent increase in retention and an average four-year graduation rate of 78 percent, in comparison to those who did not receive the grant.