For the Children They Never Had

Donor couple extends grandmother’s legacy of giving to current and future Aggies

Keith and Kimberly Brown recently attended the Shields Society Luncheon, a special event that recognizes the generosity of those who have made planned gifts to UC Davis.

By Laura Pizzo

UC Davis donor Kimberly Brown knows how difficult it can be to get through college without financial support. Her personal and financial circumstances led to her attending three community colleges off-and-on before transferring to California State University, Hayward and graduating in her mid-thirties. It wasn’t until her husband Keith Brown ’78 became more involved with his alma mater that she became a part of the Aggie family as well.

Since then, the Browns have kick-started the Malinda J. Brown Memorial Scholarship with an initial gift this year. The majority of their commitment will be fulfilled through their estate plans, with the endowment expected to fund at least one full scholarship annually.

“I’m thrilled to give students opportunities that I didn’t have,” said Kimberly, who juggled clerical and office administration jobs in order to complete her bachelor’s degree in industrial psychology. “And even though Keith and I don’t have children, my dream would be that if we did have children for them to be college grads. So the endowment allows me to have a child I never had and to help them meet their own educational goals.”

Named after Keith’s grandmother, who seeded the funds required to complete his college education, the scholarship will benefit California community college transfer students who hold good academic standing and demonstrate financial need. Preference will be given to individuals considered re-entry students (who had a gap in their education) or nontraditional students. These requirements suited the couple well since Keith was also a transfer student when he came to UC Davis to study mechanical engineering.

“By the time I finished at American River College, I had about $5,000 in my college fund, which was enough to complete two years at UC Davis, with room and board and everything. Can you imagine that? It’s about 12 times that now,” said Keith, whose grandmother supported him and his siblings despite her own struggle to make ends meet as an employee in the Nebraska state library system following the death of her husband.

He added, “So thanks to my grandmother I was able to have the resources to finish school, and now we want to do that for someone else, with the goal of the endowment eventually producing a free ride for the recipient. Her thoughtfulness was exemplary, and this scholarship carries that spirit.”

A reinvigorated connection

Keith believes he would not have graduated college without his grandmother’s support and is proud to carry on her legacy of giving. As such, he and his wife named the Malinda J. Brown Memorial Scholarship after her.

After graduating from UC Davis, Keith led a rewarding career as an engineer of control systems for companies such as IBM and Argo Systems (a subsidiary of Boeing). Ahead of the curve, Keith was working on embedded control systems when the technology was in its infancy. Now, these systems are part of thousands of products people use every day, such as microwaves, automobiles and washing machines.

While focusing on his career, Keith lost touch with UC Davis but became reengaged by students in the Telephone Outreach Program. Through annual phone calls, he learned about the goings-on of UC Davis, began giving to the Annual Fund and College of Engineering and was motivated to return to campus for Picnic Day, one of the largest student-run events in the nation. As he became more familiar with the financial struggles and academic and research potential of current students, he and Kimberly were inspired to endow a scholarship.

“Kimberly and I both looked at our paths and what it took for us to actually graduate from college – and also looked at classmates of ours or current students at UC Davis who have equal if not greater struggles – and decided to create a scholarship fund,” he said.

Lifelong learning

In part because Kimberly’s path to higher education was so hard fought, following the death of her mother during her senior year of high school and numerous financial setbacks, she prides herself on being a lifelong learner and has become an inspired member of the Aggie family.

“Supporting UC Davis was really important for me because it is cutting-edge,” she said. “With all the most pressing problems in our society, UC Davis is right there, helping to solve them. I also really like the interdisciplinary focus of the university, and – because of the age that I am – I’m hoping that I could someday be the recipient of some of the solutions in health that UC Davis is leading.”

Now that the Browns are both retired, they have joyously put education at the forefront of their lives, pursuing learning opportunities through travel. Their recent adventures include snorkeling in the Caribbean and learning Spanish in an immersion program in Guatemala.