Mary and Reed Brown are helping students follow their dreams
"You may be only one person in this world, but to one person at one time, you are the world." – Anonymous
Right now, Mary Brown, '53,'66, is the world to Kent State University junior conservation major and honors student, Katie Tuscano.
Because of the Mary and Reed Brown Founders Scholarship in Biology, which Mary and her late husband Reed endowed, the tremendous financial burden of paying for college has been lifted from Katie's shoulders.
"When I was awarded the scholarship, I was completely surprised," Katie said. "It cut my expenses in half – probably more than half. Without it, I would have had so many loans it would have been terrifying."
During Katie's first two years at Kent State, she did have to take out loans. Because of this, she is keenly aware of the impact Mary and Reed's generosity is making on her life now and for the future.
Recently, Mary and Katie met over lunch and were able to get to know each other. Katie is the third student to receive the Brown's scholarship, and while Mary has received letters from recipients in the past Katie is the first recipient Mary has met in person.
During the meeting, they learned they were alike in many ways, including their love of nature, especially biology and botany. As a conservation major, Katie will have many career choices. Katie realizes there is so much she can learn, and may continue on to earn her master's degree. Eventually, she would like to join the Peace Corps and their conservation efforts, or would also love to be on a marine biology or botany research/restoration team.
"It's hard to put the gratitude into words in a letter," Katie told Mary. "The most important thing I want [Mary] to know is that when I received this scholarship, I thought, 'What kind of person would give that much to someone they don't know just so they could follow their dreams?' It's just amazing to me."
Mary was visibly moved by Katie's sentiments, and said, "I wish Reed were here to hear this."
She then remarked how fortunate Katie is because she has a world of choices in front of her. In Mary's day, the choices for most women consisted of teacher, homemaker or secretary.
"My first love was nature," Mary said, "and I wanted to be a forest ranger. One of my professors told me the only way I could be a forest ranger was to marry one – but that was way back then."
Mary earned a BS and MED in Education, but her passion continued to be nature. After a successful 30 year career teaching Spanish in the Stark County area, Mary retired and as a bridge to retirement became involved for many years with The Wilderness Center, a local nature center near her home.
"There I banded and helped track birds, and took children and adults on nature hikes," Mary said. "I also did some outreach and went to schools to educate them about recycling and things like that. It was just fabulous."
She has also been able to stay connected to the nature she loves by working in her extensive gardens – including planting her own trees and shrubs. Using a golf cart to navigate two acres of gardens, she spends her days enjoying her work there, and enjoying the views the rest of her property has to offer.
Mary feels very fortunate for the life she has led, and as such she and Reed worked hard to establish the scholarship. Through their contributions and a 100% match of funds by Reed's company, their scholarship was able to reach a level that now generates a generous award for each recipient. In addition, as an endowed scholarship, it will continue to be awarded each year in perpetuity.
"I feel like this is a legacy," Mary said. "It's so wonderful because it will be there even after I'm gone; it's something nice to leave behind."
Aside from the financial impact, the Brown's act of philanthropy is having another impact as well.
"It's so inspiring," Katie said. "I'm now impatient to do something like this myself someday; I want to be able to help other people follow their dreams."