Sylvia and Eddie Brown

Philanthropists: Sylvia and Eddie Brown

Interview by Brian W. Simpson • Photo by Keith Weller

A 2005 chat between School Health Advisory Board member Sylvia Brown, her husband Eddie (founder of Brown Capital Management, Inc.) and then-Dean Alfred Sommer may help to change the course of health in Baltimore. Not long after the discussion about the inner city's health needs, the Browns decided to establish the C. Sylvia and Eddie C. Brown Community Health Scholarship. Beginning in the fall of 2007, the scholarship will support three doctoral students committed to eliminating health disparities in Baltimore. Known for their arts, education and health-oriented philanthropy, the Browns sat down on a warm evening this September to discuss their hopes for improving health in Baltimore and beyond.


What's your goal for the Brown Scholars?

EB: Our interest is in improving health outcomes of low-income families in Baltimore.

SB: I'd like for them to give it their all because after they finish the training and they are working in the community—I just think all kinds of good things have to come out of that.

What do you think is key to improving health in East Baltimore and other inner cities?

EB: I guess part of it is education, raising the awareness. You'd be surprised about the lack of basic knowledge among lower income families. I had a cousin [in Florida] who had not been to the doctor in over 20 years. She ended up having a stroke and dying. So many things could have been done along the way that possibly could have prevented that. I see it over and over again—just a whole gamut of things that could help to reduce fatal outcomes if [people] had the knowledge and counseling. That would be the role of these Brown Scholars—[to use] their academic knowledge and research to work within the community.

Can real progress in health in inner city Baltimore be made without a dramatic economic renaissance that would bring jobs and opportunities?

EB: I think all those things are needed and will take a long time to address, but the things that we are striving to do with this modest beginning [are] just simple things that can be tackled without huge outlays of money, just through building basic knowledge of fundamental principles that can lead to improved health and longevity... Going to the doctor, getting checkups and basic tests, eating more healthfully—basic stuff that doesn't cost a fortune to do.

What motivates your generosity?

SB: We know from where we came. We didn't come from great means. You just have to give back. My parents did, and they were the models for what we do.

EB: I like that Shirley Chisholm quote.

SB: Right. She said, service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. That's why we're here.

EB: A former pastor of our church gave a sermon [saying] those who are blessed should be a blessing to others. That always stuck with us as we were figuring out—now that we have a few marbles—what we should do. We always remember that.