Harper College

Ten Questions with Laura Brown

ten questions with laura brown

For more than a decade, Laura Brown has played a pivotal role in Harper’s mission to transform lives, the workforce and society.

As the chief advancement officer, she led the Promise and Inspire scholarship campaigns, guided the creation of 110 new scholarships, and established the HOPE Giving Circle program. As of September 2023, the donations to the Educational Foundation and its investment earnings have grown to more than $55 million.

Laura’s insight and experience with planning were also key in steering the Building M renovation project and the partnership agreement between Harper College and Palatine Park District, the college’s 50th anniversary celebration and the COVID-19 Response Team.

As Laura sets her sights on retirement at the end of the month, we sat down with her to talk about scholarships, her legacy at Harper and so much more.

1. Describe your perfect day.

Reading a book in the sun on a summer day or going for a long walk with family. I feel like my days are always so hectic, so any chance I have to unwind, that’s a perfect day to me.

2. If you could go back and tell 13-year-old Laura Brown one thing, what would it be?

I’d tell her that it’s OK to make mistakes. I’m so Type A, everything has to be perfect, so I think 13-year-old me would benefit from hearing, “You’re going to make mistakes and it’s OK. You’ll survive.”

3. If you could instantly become an expert at something, what would it be?

I’m fascinated by remodeling. I’ve remodeled two houses now and going on my third, so I’d have to say woodworking and construction.

4. What’s something people may not know about you?

I’m an artist. I love working with pen and ink and watercolor. I’ve been doing it my whole life. I’m a doodler at heart. I had an admin; he used to take all of my notes in our meetings because he knew there were drawings in them!

5. You could be best friends with any fictional character. Who do you choose and why?

Ricochet Rabbit. He was my favorite cartoon growing up – both him and Road Runner, because they were always fast and they always won.

6. What’s a color you gravitate towards and why?

Red, because it’s bright and there’s so many variations of the shade. Red is not a true color, it’s a mixture of colors, and I love that about it.

7. What are you hopeful for?

Peace and political respect. This country is hurting right now. People feel entitled to say whatever they want and they’re not only getting away with it, they’re celebrated for it. And I can’t help but wonder, what are we teaching our kids? I spent 25 years working with special needs students, and we were constantly lobbying for the underdogs. And turning everything into a positive. It’s not what they can’t do, it’s what they can do. And this country has just belittled that mindset.

8. What’s something you’re deeply grateful for right now?

Family and friends. I think the older you get, the more you cherish your time with the people you love. Sometimes you work so much you take things for granted, so I’ve found that it’s important to make time for them because at the end of the day, it’s really all that matters.

9. Of which professional achievements are you most proud? 

I’d have to say our fundraising efforts. All these scholarships that we’ve developed through Inspire are going to be here forever. That’s the legacy: when I know that I’m not only helping students today, but tomorrow as well. In the 10 years I was here, we started 110 scholarships, 67 of which were started in the last two years. And they’re not little scholarships, they’re million-dollar scholarships that are endowed and will fund 50 to 100 students’ education. We’re awarding $6 million a year, which is huge for a community college. If you want to come to school and need financial support, come to Harper. We’ll make it happen for you.

10. What do you love most about Harper College?

There’s nothing like seeing our students succeed. In our division, we’re fortunate in that we get to hear all the stories and know that one $500 scholarship is making a huge difference in someone’s life. Just today, we heard a story in the board meeting from a student who received a $5,000 scholarship and she said, “My dad was more excited than I was when I got this scholarship. It paid for all of my school.” And you look at that and you say, “That’s what matters. We’re changing lives.” 

Last Updated: 3/14/24