“Because We Can”: Endowed Scholarship Luncheon Celebrates Philanthropy at UMBC

Published: May 26, 2016

Sylvia Brown gives speech
C. Sylvia Brown addresses the crowd,

As UMBC heads into its 50th year, we’ve been looking back on our tales of grit and moments of greatness. What better time to do that than the Endowed Scholarship Luncheon, a yearly event where donors meet the students who’ve benefited from their contributions? Throughout this spring’s luncheon, speakers stressed the importance of investing in young people, and how education can bring forth greatness from humble beginnings.

Sylvia Brown came from such beginnings in rural Virginia, and said that she wouldn’t have been able to get where she is today – teacher, administrator, philanthropist – without the help of caring parents and teachers in her youth. She’s since dedicated much of her life to ensuring access and opportunities for young people across the Baltimore area. She and her husband Eddie Brown were some of the first donors to invest in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, and they have provided abundant support to UMBC over the years.

Mrs. Brown spoke of the importance of giving, and said that it fills her with gratitude to see a beneficiary of her gifts turn around to help someone else. As she looked around the room at students sitting with the donors who funded their scholarships, she said, “I think it’s been working.”

Jackie Hrabowski, former faculty member at UMBC, current board member at T. Rowe Price, and wife of UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, also cited key influences from her childhood on her choice to give back. Her parents were known in their community for their generosity, and she remembered asking her father, as a teenager, why their family had to be the ones to help out all the time.

Her father answered, quite simply, “Because we can.”

The people who have established scholarship funds for UMBC students have done so not out of obligation, but because they could, because they wanted to invest in the success of future generations. Scholarship recipients, in turn, have a habit of paying it forward.

Awardees use their gifts not only to put themselves through school, but to give back to the institution and the community. One such beneficiary is Parker James ’16, health administration and policy, who, as a France-Merrick Fellow and Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar, co-created Students for a Healthy Baltimore, an organization that places undergraduate volunteers at health clinics throughout the city. He says these opportunities have affirmed his commitment to removing barriers to health care access for the underprivileged.

As Vice President of Institutional Advancement Greg Simmons ’04, M.P.P. public policy, put it, stories like these matter, and the establishment of endowed scholarships demonstrates the university’s commitment to elevation. Dr. Hrabowski agreed, citing UMBC’s contribution to the growth of the middle class and to the next generation of leaders.

As Dr. Hrabowski said, if we can do all this in 50 years, imagine where we’re headed next.

— Julia Celtnieks ’13

Give our students a hand, and pay it forward by making a gift today. For more photos from the event, head to Flickr.

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