Happiness and philanthropy

Happiness and philanthropy

The path to happiness is paved with philanthropy, businessman tells NAACP chapter

Entrepreneurship should be fostered for success, he said.

By Daniel Patrick Sheehan | Of The Morning Call

July 22, 2007

When Eddie C. Brown walks an audience along the path to success, he is a surefooted guide.

Brown, who spent his teen years in Allentown and now lives in Baltimore, is a multimillionaire businessman, founder and president of one of the nation’s oldest black-owned investment management firms, Brown Capital Management. He also is a busy community activist and a philanthropist, a key player in initiatives to benefit black students.

In a speech that was equal parts personal anecdote and corporate cheerleading, Brown recounted his life’s journey Saturday at the 65th Freedom Fund and Awards Banquet for the Allentown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He encouraged young blacks to recognize the opportunities and challenges of the global economy and pursue entrepreneurship as the path to power. ”Owning businesses, that is the empowering tool,” he told the crowd at the Days Inn and Conference Center in South Whitehall Township.

Brown was born in Florida to an unwed 13-year-old mother and raised by his grandparents. He spent part of his youth working for an uncle who turned out to be a flourishing moonshiner; later he moved to Allentown, where he was reunited with his mother.

He excelled in school, graduated at 16 and attended Howard University, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. He worked for IBM but found his true calling in money management and spent a decade with T. Rowe Price before striking out on his own.

Today, he said, his firm manages ”$2.5 billion of other people’s money and a little bit of our own.”

Brown cautioned that success and happiness aren’t the same thing and preached the importance of philanthropy. In 2002, for example, he and his family donated $5 million to create the Turning the Corner Achievement Program to help black middle school students in Baltimore.

”You accumulate a few marbles, and what do you do with them?” he said. ”Hoard them? Spend them on things? Or try to do something to better society? We’ve chosen the latter.”