Guest Opinion: Philanthropy for the university gives us joy in retirement

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For us, philanthropy means using our accumulated financial resources to help causes that we care about and to help people achieve goals that they might otherwise not be able to afford. We especially want to help young men and women from our hometowns achieve the educations they dream about while keeping their level of indebtedness as low as possible. We’ve lived a modest life, but we saved well for retirement, and because we have some resources left over, it seems only logical to share.

In 2003, we established the Gwen and Lyle Brown Scholarship Fund for seniors graduating from Fort Madison High and Clinton High, our respective alma maters in Iowa. To date, 36 UI students have received scholarships from
our fund, and it has been a deeply rewarding experience for us to meet many of them and to hear, firsthand, how much our support has meant to them.

We have gotten to know one Fort Madison recipient — the first student to receive the award for four years in a row — quite well. He is now in graduate school, and he wrote to thank us, saying, “Thinking back, meeting you and Lyle has changed my life. I can only imagine how many others you have changed as well. Here’s to another year of making the world a better place, and I can only aspire to be like you someday.”

Another one of “our” students, a young woman from Clinton whom we’ve not yet had the chance to meet, sent us a note of gratitude, explaining that her mom, a single parent, had struggled to feed and clothe her family — and that the scholarship was “a miracle force” in helping her pursue a better future for herself at Iowa.

We had initially set up our gift as a bequest — planning for the support to go to the University of Iowa upon our deaths. We are so glad that we changed our minds and decided to help UI students now. Their thank-you notes, and the opportunity to meet many of them in person, have made our experience of being philanthropists so much more meaningful. They have made as much of a difference in our lives as we have made in theirs.

— Gwen (1958 B.A., 1960 M.A.) and  Lyle Brown (1959 B.A.)

Fort Madison, Iowa

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