In The News › Business Council, preservation leader wins TP Loving Cup

Mar 29, 2008

Source: Times-Picayune

Business Council, preservation leader wins TP Loving Cup

Business Council, preservation leader wins TP Loving Cup
by John Pope, The Times-Picayune
Saturday March 29, 2008, 9:49 PM

It was a sparkling winter night in New York City. High above the traffic, separated from the chill and drizzle by a gasp-inspiring 90-foot window, 425 friends of New Orleans couldn’t take their eyes off the view — taxis, Central Park and the twinkling lights of Manhattan’s East Side — as they listened to Ellis Marsalis and his band.

They had gathered in January for a fundraiser for New Orleans’ Preservation Resource Center. The speakers included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and Harry Shearer, the comedian and voice for characters on “The Simpsons,” who has become a passionate advocate for New Orleans. Fellow guests included the writers Julia Reed and Calvin Trillin and a clutch of Time Warner executives.

But in the high-wattage crowd, Bernadette Murray-Fertel, co-chairwoman of the evening, said one person stood out: Bob Brown, the president of the preservation center’s board, who approached his job as master of ceremonies with great tranquillity and his trademark dazzling smile.

“I think he outshone all of them,” she said. “We were all wound up because the mayor was running late, and Bob was the calm in the eye of the storm. He just held it together with a quiet, confident elegance.”

These are qualities that friends and colleagues have noticed during Brown’s years of intense activity, sometimes in seven organizations at the same time.

“I don’t know how he does it, but he does it extremely well,” said Sharon Gruber, who worked with Brown when he was a vice chancellor at the University of New Orleans.

“He has a heart of gold,” she said. “The entire reason he exists and does what he does is that he wants to make New Orleans the greatest place on Earth.”

In recognition of that work, Brown, 65, has been selected to receive The Times-Picayune Loving Cup for 2007. The Loving Cup has been awarded since 1901 to men and women who have worked unselfishly for the community without expectation of public recognition or material reward.

“I’m blown away,” Brown said about the award. “It is, without a doubt, the most powerful community recognition that you can get in this community, and it means that a whole life’s work … has been noticed.”

A busy life

In the parlor of Brown’s Uptown home, lace curtains filtered the afternoon sunlight, and Bella, a French bulldog puppy, yipped from the kitchen. For at least a moment, Brown was at ease.

“I’m between meetings,” he said. “That’s the story of my life these days. It’s been that way for quite some time.”


Brown is also chairman of the Legacy Donor Foundation, which is designed to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation, and he sits on the boards of the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Bureau of Governmental Research. A member of the Friends of the New Orleans Recreation Department, Brown is a former chairman of the boards of the Greater New Orleans YMCA, the Institute of Mental Hygiene, Family Service of Greater New Orleans and the House of Ruth, which he helped found to help homeless families. Brown is a former member of the boards that run Audubon Park and City Park.

He also holds a full-time job. After nearly two decades as a vice chancellor at UNO, Brown was hired last fall to become the managing director of the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, a group of powerful people who are actively engaged in such issues as education, public safety and the levees. Most recently, the council helped finesse the deal that led to Eddie Jordan’s resignation as Orleans Parish district attorney.

Shortly after Brown’s appointment, he described the council as “a surprisingly hands-on group.”

“I don’t know how a person could have done so much in his life so far,” said Patty Gay, the Preservation Resource Center’s executive director. “He can go from working on painting a house to running a meeting to zipping down to Holy Cross to pose with the Julia Jump chairmen and look like it’s all in a day’s work.”

Shaped by military

Brown said he acquired his skills at managing time and people during 20 years and five days in the Air Force, which he joined in 1961 after flunking out of Southern University in his freshman year.

“I felt, in some ways, I was disappointing my family, which had great expectations for me,” he said. “So I joined the Air Force as a kind of stab at redemption.”

The military “taught me how to use my time well,” Brown said. “It taught me how to be honest and demanding but caring in supervising and making judgments about people and things, and it put the habit of aspiration into my system.”

He learned there were two ways to get ahead: to hang around and wait for advancement, or to be ambitious enough to make it happen.

“I don’t mean so ambitious that you’re willing to cut people’s throats,” Brown said, “but to be ambitious to get more responsibility and to move yourself along. I was that way.”

Along the way, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Park College (now Park University) in Parkville, Mo., and, as a complement to his Air Force experience, a master’s degree in human resource management from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

At ease with anyone

As a result of all this training, “Bob is just one of those kinds of people that everybody can work with,” UNO Chancellor Tim Ryan said. “I’ve never ever had anybody say anything bad about Bob.

“He has the unique ability to get along with people. I think we underestimate the value of that. I think that’s one of the reasons why he has been so successful in his civic endeavors.”

Brown is “someone one can count on in any situation,” said civic activist Anne Milling, who worked with him on the Food Bank in the 1980s.

“He’s been so consistent and reliable and always putting the best for New Orleans first,” she said. “I think there’s a genuine commitment to the city.”

The models for his civic activity, Brown said, were his mother and grandmother, who were active in church work in his hometown of Franklinton.

His involvement started with his children when he coached their athletic teams. By the middle 1980s and early 1990s, as his son and daughter moved out of the house to start college, Brown said his activities “morphed into more community-oriented stuff. .¤.¤. I had more time to invest in these kinds of things, and the more of it I did, the more I enjoyed it, and the more I seemed to take on.”

After Brown left the Air Force in 1981, he landed a job as director of federal programs at Our Lady of Holy Cross College. Until 1988, he commuted from the LaPlace home he and his wife, Brenda, shared.

In July 1990, Brown was hired by UNO, where he was a vice chancellor and, for a time, athletic director.

‘Tireless worker’

During Brown’s 17 years at the Lakefront campus, his civic commitments mushroomed — a good thing, Ryan said, because when Brown was vice chancellor of governmental, community and diversity affairs, he needed to have a community presence.

“He had a childlike enthusiasm for many, many different things,” Ryan said. “When he did something, he’d really get enthusiastic about it, and that would get other people’s attention because they’d think, ‘This guy thinks that’s really important.’¤”

For all his activity, Brown’s job performance never suffered.

“Bob was a tireless worker,” Ryan said. “I got calls and e-mails at 10 at night or 7 on a Saturday morning. He was so enthusiastic about his causes and passions that that was how he spent his spare time. I never saw Bob have a lack of energy.”

Brown, who says he keeps his cool by preparing for every meeting, refers to his projects as “slices of good.”

“Each one has a special place in the community,” he said. “I get the feeling that each of these situations provides an opportunity to do a tiny bit of good, which is rewarding. .¤.¤. That’s a part of what you owe to this place if you’re going to earn your place here.”

Winning company

Previous Loving Cup winners are:

Frank T. Howard, 1901; Isidore Newman, 1902; Sophie B. Wright, 1903; Dr. A.W. DeRoaldes, 1904; Charles Janvier, 1905; W.R. Bloomfield, 1906; Ida Richardson, 1907.

No awards were presented in 1908 or 1909.

Dr. Sara T. Mayo, 1910; Hugh McCloskey, 1911; R.M. Walmsley, 1912; Leon C. Simon, 1913; Deborah Milliken, 1914; W.B. Thompson, 1915; W.R. Irby, 1916; Mrs. John Dibert, 1917; Eleanor McMain, 1918; Mrs. James Oscar Nixon, 1919; Charles Weinberger, 1920; Jean Gordon, 1921; Rudolf S. Hecht, 1922; Simon Schwartz, 1923; Frank B. Williams, 1924; Rabbi Emil W. Leipziger, 1925; W.J. Warrington, 1926.

J.P. Butler, 1927; Brig. Gen. Allison Owen, 1928; Mrs. A.J. Stallings, 1929. Edgar B. Stern, 1930; B.C. Casanas, 1931; Thomas F. Cunningham, 1932; Felix P. Dreyfous, 1933; Charles A. Favrot, 1934; Warren Kearny, 1935. Nicholas Bauer, 1936; Col. L. Kemper Williams, 1937; Samuel Zemurray, 1938; Joseph A. Airey, 1939; Dr. Rudolph Matas, 1940; Charles E. Dunbar Jr., 1941; William G. Zetzmann, 1942; Sister Stanislaus Malone, 1943; A.B. Paterson, 1944; Dr. Alton Ochsner, 1945; Mrs. Joseph E. Friend, 1946; Mrs. Charles F. Buck Jr., 1947; Charles E. Fenner, 1948; Mrs. James Weaks Reily, 1949; Harry Latter, 1950.

Harry McCall, 1951; Joseph H. Epstein, 1952; Mrs. Ernest A. Robin, 1953; Carmelite Janvier, 1954; A.B. Freeman, 1955; Clifford F. Favrot, 1956; Capt. Neville Levy, 1957; Crawford H. Ellis, 1958; James Gilly Jr., 1959; Martha Gilmore Robinson, 1960; Leon Heymann, 1961; Mrs. Robert Laird, 1962; Percival Stern, 1963; Edith Stern, 1964; Darwin S. Fenner, 1965; Edgar A.G. Bright, 1966; Rabbi Julian B. Feibelman, 1967; Harold Salmon Sr., 1968; Lucile Blum, 1969; Lester J. Lautenschlaeger, 1970; the Rev. J.D. Grey, 1971; Clayton L. Nairne, 1972; Norma Monnin Hynes, 1973; William B. Burkenroad Jr., 1974; Francis C. Doyle, 1975; Albert W. Dent, 1976; Richard West Freeman, 1977; the Rev. Peter V. Rogers, 1978; Harry McCall Jr., 1979.

James J. Coleman Sr., 1980; Armand LeGardeur, 1981; Archbishop Philip Hannan, 1982; Ed Rowley, 1983; Rosa Freeman Keller, 1984; Bryan Bell, 1985; Michael J. Molony Jr., 1986; Mary Pumilia, 1987; A. Louis Read, 1988; Dave Dixon, 1989; Carolyn Gay “Blondie” Labouisse, 1990; Norman Francis, 1991; Diana Lewis, 1992; John F. Bricker, 1993; Betty Wisdom, 1994; Anne Milling, 1995; Lester Kabacoff, 1996; Leah Chase, 1997; Sunny Norman, 1998; Herschel L. Abbott Jr., 1999; Alden McDonald, 2000; Waldemar Nelson, 2001; C. Allen Favrot, 2002; Fran Villere, 2003; Moise Steeg Jr., 2004; Louis Freeman, 2005; and Ruthie Frierson, 2006.

John Pope can be reached at or (504) 826-3317.

Mar 29, 2008

Source: Times-Picayune

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