The Brown Foundation scholarship supplements any other academic awards to provide fully-funded tuition to National Merit Scholars. Texas A&M now ranks No. 7 nationally for National Merit Scholar enrollment. With approximately 70 percent of Brown Scholars pursuing engineering disciplines, it partly explains why Texas A&M’s Engineering Honors Program ranks No. 1 among public U.S. universities. The remaining 30 percent of Brown Scholars major in disciplines including science, veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences, agriculture and life sciences, business and liberal arts.
In 2017, 80 percent of candidates receiving offers of Brown Foundation scholarships chose to attend Texas A&M. “That’s remarkable when you consider that many of these students didn’t have Texas A&M on their radar when we contacted them,” said Craig.
Growing up in Indiana, for example, Andy Sanchez ’13 was unfamiliar with Texas A&M. However, after interviewing for a Brown Foundation scholarship in 2009, he concluded Texas A&M was the right match for him.
“Through his warmth in the interview process and the generosity of the Brown Foundation, Mr. Brown introduced me to a new world of honor, service and opportunity,” said Sanchez, a 2013 graduate with a degree in chemical engineering who also received the Craig Brown Outstanding Senior Engineering Award. “I can say with confidence that no other school or scholarship would have afforded me so many life-changing experiences and lasting friendships. Mr. Brown’s unending generosity and tireless service—to Texas A&M, to his scholars and to the central principle of building a better world—has inspired me and countless other students. Every day, in thinking of the kind of man I want to be, I think of Mr. Brown.”
Craig attributes the growing acceptance rate to many factors: close cooperation between the Brown Foundation and the various Texas A&M colleges and deans, and with the Honors College staff including Katie Clark, Delisa Falks, Jeff Glenn and Dr. Sumana Datta, assistant provost for the Honors Program. On the Brown Foundation side, Pam Matthews serves as the Aggie Mom to all Brown Foundation Scholars, and many volunteers assist in the recruitment process, including Sue Smith (Craig’s wife), Zachry Brown (his son), Shahrum Iqbal, Dr. Janet Pate, Molly Vitela and other former Brown Scholars.
Candidates receiving Brown Foundation scholarship offers are required to tour the Texas A&M campus before accepting to ensure it’s a good fit.
“I learned so much at Texas A&M as a member of the Corps of Cadets, where I discovered you’re only as good as the weakest link on your team and you are always a team,” said Craig. “Also, the tradition of ‘Howdy’ was and is valuable because it teaches you to show respect and be friendly to those who cross your path. First impressions are the most durable and difficult to change, and saying ‘Howdy’ makes a favorable and lasting impression. And then there are the core values, a model for living one’s life that Texas A&M stresses to its students.”
Craig and his wife, Sue, have seven children and Craig still finds time to mentor the Brown Scholars. They host an annual fall dinner at Texas A&M and a BBQ for graduating seniors at their ranch in Round Top, Texas.
“The Craig and Galen Brown Foundation has itself become a tremendous Aggie legacy in fulfilling our very mission at Texas A&M to recruit, mentor and graduate the very best students prepared to assume roles of leadership, responsibility and service to society,” said Michael K. Young, Texas A&M University President. “Craig and Sue, their family and team of advisers take active roles with each and every student selected and that makes for a truly transformational learning experience for the lives of these students well beyond graduation.”
“The Craig and Galen Brown Foundation scholarships are the most impressive personal commitment to higher education in the United States today,” said Texas A&M University System Regent Chairman Charles Schwartz. “The only thing more impressive is the students themselves. I have attended every Brown Foundation Scholar dinner since I became a Regent, and I come away with the same humbling feeling every year.”
25 Years of Pride
Ultimately, in selecting its scholars, the Brown Foundation hopes to identify individuals who, at 35 or 40 years of age, will have very positive impacts on their communities and the people in their communities. Indeed, many have: Former scholars have gone on to become physicians, researchers, inventors, executive managers, business owners, entrepreneurs and community leaders.
One such example is Zac Coventry ’02, who Craig fondly called “Mr. Everything.” While at Texas A&M, Zac was the Corps Chaplain and Student Body President and was also involved in Fish Aides, Traditions Council, Fish Camp, the Ross Volunteers, Rudder’s Rangers and Aggie Hostel. The Brown Scholarship clinched his decision to attend Texas A&M; he accepted over an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. With the Brown Scholarship and other financial support, he experienced a top-tier state university and top-tier ROTC program simultaneously without incurring debt. After graduation, he visited many countries serving as a Peace Corps volunteer.
“The Brown Foundation Scholars program teaches the power of community, encouragement and scholarship,” he said. “Moreover, the Brown Foundation effectively encourages its scholars to maintain their high standards throughout their tenure at Texas A&M. Most importantly, the foundation actively encourages its graduating scholars to become leaders in their homes, their communities and in their professional careers.”
A New Mentorship Program
Clare Elizondo ’18 took the Brown Foundation’s philosophy of service to heart. The San Antonio native created the Brown Mentorship Program to help incoming Brown Scholars as they transition into Texas A&M. The goal is to build a sense of community among scholars that can continue throughout college and even in their future careers.
“During my freshman year, I had the opportunity to get to know some other Brown Scholars through the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Leadership Seminar and through a few of my classes,” said Elizondo. “At the same time, I was experiencing the difficulties of adjusting to a university with 60,000-plus students, especially because I come from a small, tight-knit community.
“I decided that a mentorship program would be a great way to provide support to our incoming freshmen, while also building relationships among the incredible students within our Brown Scholar community,” said Elizondo.
Now, incoming Brown Scholars are paired with either a junior or sophomore mentor who get to know them before school starts and meet with them once a week for the first six weeks of school. The students benefit from relationships with older students who have similar goals and strong work ethics.
Elizondo is pursuing a degree in biomedical science, but outside the classroom, she is involved in The Big Event and Memorial Student Center Bethancourt, a professional development organization. She also works with undergraduate and graduate students at the University Writing Center to assist students with their writing and English-speaking skills.
After college, she plans to become an attorney and support low-income and minority groups. “I think our community is what develops us into who we are,” said Elizondo, “so it only makes sense to give back with the gifts and talents our communities have cultivated in us. Mr. Brown is a perfect example of this. His time at Texas A&M shaped him into the successful businessman and exceptional person he is today, and he has used those qualities to positively impact the next generation of Aggies in immeasurable ways.”