UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State alumni Larry and Lynne Brown have made a leadership gift to endow a new award that recognizes an outstanding individual, organization or a group of individuals for exceptional innovation in the advancement of democracy in the United States or around the world. The award will be coordinated by the Penn State Institute for Democracy. Each year, the award recipient or a representative of the honored organization will present a fall lecture series and interact with students at Penn State, with the lecture eventually being published for future study and teaching by scholars and students.
The Laurence and Lynne Brown Democracy Medal spotlights and honors the best work being done to advance democracy here and internationally. Under the award program, the Penn State Institute for Democracy will recognize practical innovations, such as new institutions, laws, technologies or movements that advance the cause of democracy. In addition, future awards will highlight advances in democratic theory that enrich philosophical or empirical conceptions of democracy.
"I am grateful for the generosity of Lynne and Larry in making this substantial gift at a critical moment for the Institute for Democracy, and indeed, for democracy," said Susan Welch, the Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. "The gift will allow the Institute to launch the Democracy Medal Program and bring the honored individuals and groups to campus this fall to share their knowledge with students, faculty and the public."
Larry Brown said, "The Institute for Democracy and its faculty have done so much to advance the best practices of effective democracies and help transform debate, discussions and governing in our country. It has been exciting for us to be involved with the institute, and we hope the Democracy Medal program is just the start of more innovation to come from the faculty and students."
Nominations for the inaugural Brown Democracy Medal have been solicited and submitted, with the honoree to be announced this spring. In September 2014, the recipient or a representative of the organization will receive a medal and a $5,000 award, and give a public talk to faculty and students throughout the University. In addition, the honoree will provide a short essay describing the innovation for a general audience. The Institute for Democracy will make the essay available to the public electronically and by audio.
John Gastil, director of the Institute for Democracy, notes, "Faculty and students engaged with the institute are seeking to address difficult issues from two perspectives: first, encouraging civil discussions and rhetoric aimed at solving problems, and then, helping to understand the appropriate balance among government responsiveness, majority rule and minority rights. We are very thankful for Lynne and Larry’s enthusiasm and commitment to the institute’s focus on the larger issues and connections between those questions.''
The Brown Democracy Medal will raise the visibility of those innovations that have affected American citizens and policies.
Larry is a 1971 graduate in history at Penn State. He went on to earn a juris doctorate from Villanova University in 1975 and began his career as an assistant district attorney for the City of Philadelphia. In 1979, he was appointed chief of the office’s Economic Crimes Unit and also served as director of the National District Attorney’s Association’s Economic Crimes Project. Today, Larry practices law as a founding partner with the Philadelphia firm Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler, concentrating on cases associated with asbestos exposure. Starting as a mentor to Liberal Arts students, Larry now serves on the Board of Visitors for the Richards Civil War Era Center and the Development Council, the top external advisory board to the dean supporting the College’s pursuit of national leadership in the liberal arts.
Lynne is a 1972 graduate in education. After earning a master’s degree in counseling from Villanova University, she embarked on a distinguished 37-year career with the Philadelphia School District. She served as a classroom and program support teacher, counselor and instructional reform facilitator in the school district. Now retired, Lynne volunteers in the local community, especially with Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization helping women in need transition back into the workforce. Their son, Adam, followed in their footsteps, graduating from Penn State in 2002, and like his mother, he is employed by the Philadelphia School District as a classroom teacher.
The couple have been major benefactors of the Richards Civil War Era Center, housed in the College of the Liberal Arts. They established a fund to support outstanding graduate students and their dissertation research in the center, and another fund to support internships at national parks for undergraduate students.
The Browns’ newest gift will help the College of the Liberal Arts reach its goals in For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. This effort is directed toward a shared vision of Penn State as the most comprehensive, student-centered research university in America. The University is engaging Penn State’s alumni and friends as partners in achieving six key objectives: ensuring student access and opportunity, enhancing honors education, enriching the student experience, building faculty strength and capacity, fostering discovery and creativity, and sustaining the University’s tradition of quality. The campaign’s top priority is keeping a Penn State degree affordable for students and families. The For the Future campaign is the most ambitious effort of its kind in Penn State’s history, with the goal of securing $2 billion by June 30, 2014.