AFRO awards Eddie C. Brown for business excellence

Brown gives back as he was given, and he will receive The Carl J. Murphy Excellence in Business Award at the AFRO’s inaugural Black Business Matters Expo on Feb. 18. (Photo by Moshe Zusman)

By Frank McCoy
Special to the AFRO

Eddie C. Brown, founder of Brown Capital Management, which has $19 billion under management, has always observed, learned, considered and acted decisively. 

His life has been shaped by three investments. People invested in him. He invested in himself and for clients. He and his wife, Sylvia, have invested in Baltimore’s Black community, knowing it will grasp opportunities if presented, and the result can create a multiplier effect for generations.

The AFRO American Newspaper’s inaugural Black Business Matters Expo, Feb. 18, honors Brown’s investment renown and spotlights his love of directed philanthropy that is dedicated to making Baltimore’s Black lives better.

And Brown said he’s honored. “I’m absolutely thrilled to accept this inaugural award and there are just so many talented African-American business persons in the Baltimore region and to be the first to receive this great award…I’m humbled and just extremely pleased so thank you and the AFRO very much.”

Brown’s return on investments, for him and others, displays his skill, fortitude, insight and empathy. His firm is a model of Black-led and -owned corporate excellence. He shows others how to build generational wealth and spreads joy, advancing educational, health and job opportunities.

Investments in young Eddie Brown set him on a path. Born in 1940 in segregated Apopka, Florida, to a 13 year-old mother, he saw White men in suits, and wondered: Why not me? After having been raised by relatives, Eddie was reunited with his mother in Pennsylvania for high school, from which he graduated with honors.   

In his senior year, an act occurred, that was prescient. A never-identified White woman financed the full cost of Brown’s tenure at Howard University, where he received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering. Her generosity also influenced his desire to give to others.

His interest in finance and investment was nurtured over five years at IBM designing mainframe computer circuits. He used IBM initiatives to earn his New York University master’s degree in electrical engineering and in 1970, at 30, added an MBA degree from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

A child of poverty never forgets its turmoil. That fact drove Brown to build wealth for his family after he married Sylvia Thurston in 1962 and led him to join the family office of one of Indiana’s most prominent families. In 1973, Baltimore’s own asset management giant, T. Rowe Price, hired Brown. He left the firm a decade later to start Brown Capital Management.

Brown, a jazz fan, developed his investment strategy in ways the genre’s greats would understand. He learned traditional methods and then created his own style of investing in growth stocks. In 2020, Brown told Barron’s magazine that Brown Capital seeks what he calls “exceptional growth companies.”

TV audiences learned about Brown during his 25 years on “Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser.” Brown was often the top annual stock picker. 

As of the end of 2020, Morningstar, a top investment research firm, awarded BCM its highest 5-Star Overall Ratings for the Small Company Fund (BCSIX} and International Small Company Fund (BCSVX).

In 2021, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine ranked Brown Capital Management’s International Small Company fund (BCSVX) its top Small- and midsize-company foreign stock fund providing return on investment over the past five years.

Brown says that BCM’s four mutual funds beat their benchmarks over the previous and three-year periods up to Dec. 31, 2020.

Eddie and Sylvia Brown support Baltimore’s most underserved who are often deprived of education, health and artistic fulfillment. The couple has been supporting efforts to reduce food insecurity since the COVID-19 pandemic and economic turndown’s early days.

The following is a sampling of the Brown Family Fund’s generosity:

  • In February 2021, the Browns made their latest commitment to support Black community causes. They agreed to help a new group, the Black Philanthropy Circle, raise $500,000 from Black business and community leaders by April 15, 2021. The couple will provide a capstone gift of $100,000. Alicia Wilson, a Circle co-founder said, “If you talk about Black leaders in the forefront of philanthropy, Eddie and Sylvia will be at the top of the list.”
  • Agreeing to donate $100,000 annually over five years to the University of Maryland Baltimore  (UMB) CURE Scholars Program with a match raised in the Black community. CURE prepares West Baltimore sixth- to 12th-graders for health care or STEM careers. Brown says the, “program exposes students to the medical field in hope that it will plant a seed among them.” 
  • The Browns established the Turning the Corner Achievement Program (TCAP) to assist the Living Classroom Foundation Crossroads School (CS), an East Baltimore public charter school for sixth-to-eight graders 
  • In 2019, the Browns gave the Baltimore Museum of Art $3.5 million to endow the chief curator post.

  • The Browns pledged up to $1 million in the form of a challenge grant to raise funds for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture.
  • In 2007, the Browns founded the Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Fellowship in Community Health, which provides students a full ride through the five-year PhD program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 
  • The Browns also support the Black community through other programs in education, mental health and the arts.

Next, Brown says, “We want to personally and as a firm help Baltimore’s political and business leaders make the city a safe, thriving and welcoming place. It will be a gem.”

Howard University has asked Brown to make a significant donation to aid students coming from insecure backgrounds, who receive Pell grants and have student loans. 

Brown says, “We proposed to support 20 students’ tuition, room and board. I am interested in education and helping those that come from poverty like I did.”

Brown’s journey is a personal example of how the serendipity of being invested in, investing in oneself and in others can create a life well-lived.

Frank McCoy is executive producer of where he profiles people of color in science and tech.