Emory Report
May 29, 2007
Volume 59, Number 31

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May 29, 2007
McMullan winner donates $20,000 award to fellow student

by beverly clark

Senior Robbie Brown, recipient of Emory’s 2007 McMullan Award, immediately knew what he would do with the $20,000 that comes with one of Emory’s most prestigious student awards. He gave it away — all of it.

The recipient of his generosity is fellow student Elizabeth Sholtys, an Emory senior who has founded a home for street children in Pune, India. Sholtys will use the donation to open a health center and purchase a permanent building for the Ashraya Initiative for Children, which currently houses nine children and operates a health and education outreach program.

“I was humbled to receive the McMullan, but I felt kind of uncomfortable accepting the money,” Brown said. “I’m amazed by what Elizabeth has done. She is the most inspiring student I’ve met at Emory, and I know she’ll use the money well.”

Sholtys was getting off an airplane in her hometown of Ithaca, N.Y., at the end of April when she received an extremely urgent text message and voice mails from Brown. “I kept asking him ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ I was just shocked that someone would do this, especially someone getting ready to graduate from college. It was an incredibly generous gesture.”

“Ashraya” is the Hindi word for home, protection, refuge and trust — exactly what the initiative seeks to provide. Sholtys founded the initiative as a freshman, and in her junior year successfully opened the home which provides the former street children with shelter, food, medical care, access to education and a loving family structure for the first time in their lives.

Sholtys flew back to Emory from India to attend commencement and, with Brown, had the opportunity to meet with Emory’s Commencement speaker, Paul Farmer. Both named Farmer as a major inspiration in their own lives, and during his address, Farmer mentioned Brown and Sholtys, citing their generosity as “a remarkable example for all of us.”

University Secretary Rosemary Magee taught Brown last year, and praised his “creativity and generosity of spirit.”

“Robbie really sees possibility. His decision to donate his award was delightfully surprising, but not shocking, and is very consistent with who he is as a person,” Magee said. “Through his support of Elizabeth’s work in India, he has given us all an opportunity to participate in something meaningful, generous and joyful.”

The Lucius Lamar McMullan Award, endowed by Emory alumnus William L. Matheson in honor of his uncle, is given to a graduating senior who exhibits “outstanding citizenship, exceptional leadership and potential for service to his or her community, the nation and the world.” The donor’s intention is to allow a student to do something he or she wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. As a recipient of the McMullan, Brown was cited by several nominators for community service, leadership and academic rigor that have defined his career at Emory.

Brown is a history and journalism major from Atlanta, and a Goodrich C. White Scholar at Emory. He served as editor-in-chief of The Emory Wheel his senior year. He also founded The Hub, which was named one of the nation’s best student-run magazines by Newsweek in its first year. Brown also has served as a resident assistant, interned with the Center for Ethics Servant Leadership program, and reported for the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, Newsweek and the Cape Times in Capetown, South Africa. He will intern with the Boston Globe this summer.

Earlier this year, Brown was named a Bobby Jones Scholar for a fully funded year of study at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. St. Andrews, founded in 1411, is Emory’s sister institution. Brown was one of four Emory seniors to receive the highly competitive scholarship. While at St. Andrews, Brown plans to earn a master’s degree in modern history and continue working in campus and professional journalism. He also plans to travel throughout Europe and possibly to the Middle East and Asia.