Stephen Brown, AB ’66, JD ’69, and Faith Brown, AB ’69, are loyal donors to the University of Michigan, regularly giving to the Law School and other parts of the University. Their latest gift to the Law School, a bequest, includes funds to create the Faith and Stephen Brown Professorship in Law and the Faith and Stephen Brown Law Scholarship Fund.
“We decided to make Michigan our ‘child’ in terms of estate planning,” says Stephen. “We both benefitted greatly from our Michigan education, particularly in our careers.” For Faith, it led to her becoming the director of corporate communications for Tribune Company, parent of the Chicago Tribune. For Stephen, it was his foot in the door with the federal government, which unexpectedly led to a 25-year career as vice president of McDonald’s Corp. “It matters where you went to law school,” says Stephen. “When employers see you went to Michigan, it gives you a leg up. Being an alum of Michigan Law certainly helped open doors for me.”
The couple met when Stephen was a 2L. While he has direct ties to the Law School, it was Faith’s interest in environmental causes that inspired them to create the Faith and Stephen Brown Professorship in Law, which will recruit, retain, and support an outstanding scholar in environmental law. “Through my interest in preserving open space, I have realized that there are many legal and public policy issues—all of them require lawyers,” says Faith, who has spent nearly 30 years volunteering with native plant restoration projects and supporting many environmental organizations.
The Browns created their professorship to help attract the best faculty to Michigan Law. Similarly, they established their scholarship fund to attract the brightest students for those faculty to teach. The Faith and Stephen Brown Scholarship will award tuition to students who demonstrate a high degree of academic excellence. “These remarkable students will contribute to the intellectual discourse and collegial community at the Law School,” says Faith. “And we hope that they will, in turn, sponsor others someday, so it can continue through the generations.”
The Browns have included Michigan Law in their estate plans because they want to see it remain a top-tier law school. “The University receives far fewer funds from the State of Michigan than in years past,” says Stephen. “While Michigan is still considered a public university, the Law School must rely primarily on tuition and private support to maintain its premier status.” Alumni donations account for the majority of private support, which means the continued success of the Law School depends on the generosity of its former students. “How is Michigan going to continue being ranked at the very top with today’s economic realities? It is important for alumni to step up,” says Stephen. “It takes resources to hire top-notch faculty and stay up to date with all the latest technology and other developments.”
With their bequest, the Browns hope to inspire other alumni to make Michigan Law a part of their legacy. “It’s something many of us procrastinate about and avoid, but we all should think about what we hope to achieve with our estates. If you want to accomplish some long-term good, and perhaps be remembered for it, you need a plan,” says Stephen. “Donations to Michigan assure the University’s continued excellence and support outstanding students while also establishing an enduring legacy for the donor.”
The Browns are enjoying retirement in Tiburon, California, and regularly return to campus for their requisite dose of maize-and-blue spirit. —JP