It’s a busy week for Howard Brown ’88. His memoir, Shining Brightly, was just released and he’s heading back to the Babson College campus for the first time in three years to celebrate Back to Babson this weekend.
The former Babson trustee and president of the Babson Alumni Association—now Babson Alumni Advisory Board (BAAB)—has been an inspiration not only for his contributions to the Babson community but also for the example he has set as a two-time Stage IV cancer survivor. He was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 23 in 1989, shortly after graduating from Babson. Then, 26 years later, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Now, Brown, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and healthcare advocate, is considered No Evidence of Disease (NED) and currently lives with his family in Birmingham, Michigan.
Brown was interested in sharing his story and his unique optimism. However, although he’s an accomplished public speaker and frequent podcast guest, he was reluctant to tackle the daunting task of writing a manuscript, especially as he was recovering from chemotherapy, surgeries, and the emotional and physical side effects. So, beginning in October 2019, he enlisted others to help tell his story. During the pandemic, he conducted more than 200 video interviews with “important and influential friends, family, mentors, camp counselors, doctors, my basketball boys, interfaith leaders, and, of course, many Babson College students, alums, faculty, staff, and trustees.”
Shining Brightly then is their story as much as it is his own. In a Q&A with Babson Thought & Action, Brown recently reflected on his journey and his Babson experience ahead of his return to campus this week.
What do you hope readers take away from your memoir?
“The major takeaway from the book is that we can all shine our light brightly to make the world a better place. We do this by lifting up ourselves via self care, then lifting up others in their time of need, and then we share our light together to be a force multiplier for healing, kindness, positivity, with action and sharing hope. A second theme is the importance of mentorship. I have been blessed to have great mentors in my life and be able to mentor others. Mentorship is leadership! Lastly, I did a deep dive on Roger Babson and his life and influence that I know the readers will appreciate.”
Your experience as a two-time cancer survivor is moving and inspiring. What advice do you share with others facing similar circumstances?
“We all get knocked down in business, relationships, health, and in life. I have been knocked down hard by two Stage IV cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship 26 years apart. The lesson I learned is: It is not how much more I can get out of life, but how much more I can give! I worked hard on my mental toughness, physical shape, and tried to limit negativity as I was focused to “get busy living again.” We cannot go through life or any malaise alone. We must reach out to others to help lift you up in your time of need. Once you get back on your feet, it’s time to lift up others. I call that sharing your light.”
“I have given back to Babson, but I have received so much more in return. … I highly recommend getting involved and volunteering at Babson.”
Howard Brown ’88
What impact did Babson College have on you, and why is it important for you to give back to the community?
“Babson College changed the entire trajectory of my life. I transferred to Babson from Connecticut College in 1985. It was not the right fit for me. I took summer classes and Dean Marilyn Snyder was the general management professor at that time. She saw the potential inside of me to blossom at Babson that I did not see in myself. I tried to maximize my time at Babson. I played basketball, I did internships and made lifelong friendships that are as close as ever today. Then, I decided to give back to Babson. I started going to high school college fairs in Los Angeles, then we started the alumni club in the San Francisco Bay area and I was asked to join the board of directors of the Babson Alumni Association and became a two-time board president and appointed trustee for the College. The book title is actually from my introduction of then-President Kerry Murphy Healey as the first woman president of Babson College. She was about to give the annual State of the College Address to the alumni association, and I had everyone put on Babson-monogrammed sunglasses and said, ‘The Babson Alumni Association is “shining brightly” here today.’ Lastly, I have given back to Babson, but I have received so much more in return. When I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic colon cancer in 2017, Babson came to support me and my family in innumerable ways. I highly recommend getting involved and volunteering at Babson. There is so much to learn and share, and so many opportunities to make new friends and business relationships.”
There’s a chapter in your book about your time as president of the Babson Alumni Association. How influential was that experience on you and the alumni community?
“My time with the Babson Alumni Association has been an impactful, enjoyable, a great learning experience, and an amazing way to meet and serve the 44,000 worldwide alums in 127 countries to embrace their Babson College days as an undergrad or MBA and now continue to be involved to help take Babson to new heights. I sign my Babson emails with ‘With Babson Pride and Spirit.’ I take immense pride in Babson and our place on the global entrepreneurship stage, as we are No. 1 for entrepreneurship for 29 straight years for MBA and 26 straight times for undergraduate. Babson students, alums, faculty, and staff are special as we are One Babson!”
What are you most looking forward to at Back to Babson?
“After a COVID hiatus for a few years, I am thrilled to come back to campus for Back to Babson Homecoming. I am looking forward to seeing people in person. I will be attending the BAAB meeting early Saturday morning, followed by the Alumni Volunteer Leadership Awards brunch, then the all-famous tent with athletic games, food, fun, and friends. I cannot wait to see friends and alums from the Classes of 1987, 1988, and 1989. Let’s Go Babo! Defend the Dam!”
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