Stories About John Brown

Randy Petty

Chief Development Officer - Providence Regional Medical Center Everett WA

I began my development career in 1985 in Eugene Oregon and attended a John Brown seminar in 1988 at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, where John Brown lead the seminar. This is where I was first introduced to Planned Giving and I quickly realized I was being taught by a master. While I have grown in my career in hospital and academic medicine development I still have to this day my JBL seminar binder and notes; and have referred to comments from John I learned that week that I have never forgotten. He so inspired me that I told myself that I wanted to be like him. I am in my 27th year in development and have either personally raised or oversaw the raising of some $150M that have included many planned gifts. I am saddened to learn of his passing - his life inspired me and countless others I am certain. He told me that week that he loved to do fly-fishing and hoped that someday he might have the opportunity to visit me in Oregon and experience fly-fishing in the Pacific Northwest. I will always remember him as one my early teachers who so inspired me to make this my career. Thank you John for all you have given so many.

Kevin Rowley

Vice President - Valley Green

In the mid 1990's (I believe 1995), I met John when we did a presentation for continuing education credits for attorneys and CPA's in Eastern PA. John did the "meat & potatoes", and I did the "sponsor's message" (First Union). I spoke more about the art of charitable giving, and the 3 most famous wills in Philadelphia's history. John taught the advisors how to detect and explore charitable intent. I was just discussing with my son-in-law (who is a Director of Development for an urban private school) how I wish he could have studied under John. That led me to goggle John. I am so sorry for your loss. John Brown made an impact on my life, and all of my family. My son-in-law believes I was born for the business, but I believe my path is better served as an influencer to the many successful business people I meet. If you are ever coming to within a reasonable distance of Philadelphia, please let me kn0w where you are appearing. Thank you for continuing to carry John's torch - it means more than you can ever imagine.

Judi Taylor Cantor

President -

I'm so glad, Susan, that you are offering us the opportunity to say something about John's influence on our careers. I feel very privileged to have known John and to have presented a couple of times at his seminars. John also consulted with several of the organizations I worked for while I was a Director of Planned Giving (the BSO, the Museum of Science, and at The American Museum of Natural History in NY). I'll never forget the most important thing he taught me—that a person's name is the MOST important thing to remember. Spell it correctly, say it properly, and use it often. He was adamant about this and it has made me hyper-aware through the years of how people respond to seeing their name in writing and hearing their name properly pronounced. Of all the things John taught us—you'd think it would be something about taxes—this stands out!

Randal V. Childs

Assistant Vice Chancellor - North Carolina Central University

Carla Willis informed me of John's passing. We were both attending a conference together in Baltimore. John did a yearlong workshop for the UNC system focusing on Major and Planned Gifs…2006-2007. John provided us with the skill set and the foundation to be a successful major gifts and planned giving professional. Because of his training, and ability to mentor, encourage, and to "see the glass half full", I am able to pass that along to so many others in the profession.

I was trully sadded to learn of John's passing. I am forever grateful for having met him, and to have learned from him.

Carla Smith Willis

Assistant Vice President - The Ohio State University Medical Center

I was shocked and extremely saddened to learn of John's death last month. It has taken me a month to have the composure to write this note. I had the honor and privilege of working as a Senior Consultant for John Brown Limited for about 4 years. I learned more in that 4-year period than in my entire 20+ year career in development. I cherish the time I spent with John on our travels to see and advise clients, and so appreciate all that I learned from these experiences. John Brown had a tremendous impact on my career and my life and I will be forever grateful for the investment he made in me and my career. I will never forget all that I learned from working with and listening to him. When John asked me to become a consultant with his firm, he saw something in me that at the time, I didn't even see in myself, and he helped me polish and hone my skill sets. I will miss those early morning opportunities to have phone time with him to get career advice or gift structuring advice; he was oh so busy but if you were willing to talk at 6:00 am, well then so was he! John was a giant in the world of philanthropy and will be truly missed; he was one of a kind! Susan, please accept my condolences, and John Brown Limited team if there is anything I can do to help as you transition through this tremendous loss, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Sandra Bean

Designer - Sandra Bean/Design

I am shocked to hear this news and my sincere sympathy goes to his family. John was a neighbor and client for many years - he was one of the hardest working and caring people I have ever known. John used to spend hours working from his beautiful office in the back of his barn - then at 1 in the morning be out in his back field on his tractor by headlight!!!…probably solving the world's problems. Love to Jen & Julie.

Ben Renberg

Assistant Dean, External Relations - Rice University

Susan, I am extremely late in sending you this message. Just wanted to express my personal thoughts for John. My first memory of John was in a national training session and I was struck by his ability to answer a micro question with macro perspective. While there was no detail he did not answer he never failed to paint the bigger picture. It that ability along with his ability to speak so plainly on very complicated topics that got me hooked on listening to him present. Sometime later he came to BU and in two days literally transformed our teams ability to engage donors not just about gift structuring or planned giving but set our sights on the bigger conversations surrounding transformational giving. He convinced us we could do it, and you know what, we did it. From the first session when he tossed his jacket aside and rolled up his sleeves, he went to work. His mission was not to give a presentation or training; it was to transform. He did that and more. Two days I won't forget. When I was consulting or now when I am working through a day of fundraising at Rice, I often find myself rolling up my sleeves, literally as John did. A simple action that communicates different things to different people. To me it is a reminder that my work is transformative and important. It is people like you and John who have given so many the confidence that says, "we can do it." Thanks for letting me share my memory of John. Should you find yourself in Texas, it would be great to see you. Also, if you don't mind, next time I am in NYC, I may give you a call. With respect, Ben.

Maureen Mahoney Hill

Consultant - Self-employed

Susan, I was so shocked and saddened to read your email, you have my deepest sympathies. I attended John's seminars in the summer of 2000 and consider it one of the major turning points in my career. The smartest thing I ever did was making sure I sat next to John at every meal during my week there. I tried to absorb everything I could from him and he was more than willing to share and help. I still list my participation in those sessions on my resume and always recommended them in classes I teach at the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University. After I took the sessions I continued to stay in touch with John, updating him on my career and frequently seeking his advice. We talked several times about developing some kind of working relationship but unfortunately that never panned out. He was smart, funny, approachable and very, very good at what he did, the fundraising field has lost a true expert. He was and continues to be an inspiration to me. Maureen Mahoney Hill, CFRE

John Curran

President - Planned Giving Group of New England

Hi Susan and the rest of the JBL team. I thought you might appreciate seeing the tribute that PGGNE paid to John upon his passing this summer. If you go to our website - - we have a link to our tribute to John right on the homepage. John was so important to the growth and development of PGGNE. We are truly honored to have been a part of his life. He will certainly be missed - he was one of a kind. I'm so glad to see that JBL will continue. Best of luck from all your friends at PGGNE.

John Curran

Maribeth Canning

Vice President - Winchester Hospital Foundation

I am so sad to receive this news. Just today I said to my staff that I wished I had his counsel on a particular issue. What a loss to the philanthropy community. As a mentor and coach he was unparalleled. He was undoubtedly the foremost expert on planned giving and fundraising that I had the privilege of knowing. It was an honor to work with him. Whenever I need advice I often imagine what I think he would say and then try to live up to that guidance. Please accept my most sincere condolences.

George F. Theriault

President & CEO - NH Association for the Blind

We are so sorry to hear this news. John was and remains an inspiration for me personally and throughout my career. I attended many of his workshops in my early years at the New Hampshire Association for the Blind and proudly display my certificate for completing his advanced planned giving course in 1989! I was also part of a small group of six development officers selected to participate in a five-day experimental workshop where John wanted to explore the concept of presenting an intensive soup-to-nuts training for a half-dozen NH nonprofits that the NH Charitable Foundation felt were most likely to develop successful planned giving programs. I can only think that my experiences in learning from John reflect only a small bit of a very large mountain of people and organizations that he has shepherded to success over his long career. He will be missed - and long remembered. My condolences.

Jeff Bastable

Director of Major & Planned Gifts - American Cancer Society

This is such a sad and tragic story…and a complete shock to me…I had met and been to a few of John's Programs over the last ten years and found him to be the consummate professional and all knowing in our field…I learned so much from him…his examples, his experiences, others in the room…it was all most stimulating and rewarding—probably the best seminars I have attended in 35 years. Please accept my sympathy at your great personal as well as professional loss…I am pleased to know that the work goes on…I need not tell you that cancer is a terrible disease and while great strides have been and are made all the time, there are still some very challenging types that baffle the experts…All the best in your new role…and thank you for sharing this sad news…A very good man indeed has left our midst. My best wishes.

Phil Deely


I was saddened to learn of John's death. Our paths first crossed about 25 years ago when a development group I helped start sponsored a 'John Brown' talk at a local resort. Over the years I attended various seminars and even co-taught with a JBL representative at an NAIS conference. We went into the next generation when my daughter attended the basics seminar three years ago. When I am not consulting myself, I'm doing the work…this year as an interim head in MI. Best wishes to all.

Mark Kostegan

Senior VP Development - The Mount Sinai Medical Center

When I met John nearly 30 years ago he was wearing two watches. He explained that one was current EST and the other was Australian time. He was consulting with the Australian government about their charitable tax laws at the time and wanted to make certain that his calls there were timely, and not in the middle of the night. As we got to know each other over the years we always joked about the two watches. Over those years I was inspired to get to know gift planning and good major gift fundraising. Our conversations were always intellectually stimulating and he helped me to advance programs at the community hospitals, specialty hospitals and academic medical centers that have employed me. Sadly but for a visit with John three years ago when I came to NYC, I had been out of touch. More sadly he passed away before I could thank him for what he meant to me and to my career. Thank you John and rest in peace.

Vince Fraumeni


Like many fundraisers I met John when I first attended a summer seminar in Cambridge. I was very fortunate when my employer, the House Ear Institute, hired John to be our consultant in 1985. John became my mentor and invited me to speak about marketing PG on several occasions at the summer seminar. Actually what I learned about marketing I learned from John, and it all worked. He encouraged me when I made my move to Children's Hospital Los Angeles and continued to be my mentor. John had a way of teaching with a language that a novice could understand and helping to develop our expertise. I was saddened to learn of his passing this summer. The world of philanthropy is a better place because of John. I am certain that JBL will live on, grow, prosper, and teach many as a result of the team that John built and that you will now be working with. All the best.

BJ Hull

Michigan State University

JBL provided the first professional training seminar I attended once entering the world of higher education development. John's vision and viewpoint about major gifts and planned gifts set me on the course I enjoy tremendously today. To this day, I still believe that was the one seminar where I truly gained more from the presenters than I did from the colleagues in the room. To Susan and everyone else at JBL, John will be missed and my thoughts and prayers are with all of you as you remember and move forward.

© John Brown Limited, Inc.
4916 Crestwood Drive
Waco, TX 76710
Phone: 917.359.5760

Contact JBL
General Policies