Bathed in the dusky haze of the afternoon sun, the smell of freshly mowed grass hovering as an undeniable harbinger of spring, the University of La Verne baseball and softball teams on April 8 don...
Mike Brown and his wife, Nancy, have literally helped build a new university with their generosity.
Mike Brown was happy to donate hundreds of tons of structural steel to the University of La Verne for the renovation of the Sports Science & Athletics Pavilion, but he admits that the assembly presented its share of challenges.
“Building the mezzanine inside there was like building a ship in a bottle,” Brown said of the project — one of many at La Verne to which he has generously donated.
By the time the framework was completed, Brown’s donated steel formed several square pegs inside the university’s gigantic, round, tent-like structure. Walk through the Pavilion today, and the circular constraints of the building are hardly noticeable.
“I came back to help out due to (former Executive Vice President) Phil Hawkey’s encouragement,” Brown said of his part in the university’s $42 million Campus Center Project. “I was retired at the time. But that whole project got me excited.”
For 15 years, Brown has been a strong supporter of the University of La Verne, and has donated several millions of dollars in a variety of ways. One of the most visible, a 20-acre plot of land down the street from the university, made it possible for the development of the Campus West athletic complex now under construction.
If that wasn’t enough, Brown’s grandstand company, now operated by his son, Michael, is also building the seating for the new baseball and softball diamonds at a considerable discount to the university.
The new complex is scheduled to open for use by early spring, 2014.
“It was just an aligning of the stars that things worked out to allow the two properties to come together the way they did,” Brown said. “It gives my wife and me a great deal of satisfaction to know that that property is being put to good use and will benefit some good people, including the students at the university, headed up by President Devorah Lieberman.”
Brown said it was a matter of chance and proximity that he took an interest in the university. His business was nearly across the street, he had a relationship with Hawkey, and then his daughter, Sharon Elizabeth Brown Harris, enrolled as a student. She was followed by Brown’s grandson, David Anderson.
“I’ve been to a lot of graduation ceremonies there,” Brown said with a laugh. “All of those things are my excuse.”
Though he’s turned the business over to his son, Brown said he looks forward to being on hand for the installation of the seating for the two Campus West fields. He has obviously made an impression on the hearts and minds and infrastructure of the University of La Verne with his generosity. He says the feeling is mutual.
“It has been easy to support the University of La Verne,” Brown said. “I have been associated with lots of really good people there, including Phil, and Steve Morgan, and now Dr. Lieberman. I anticipate that we will continue to support the institution for a long time to come.”