Strengthening Brown's competitive edge: Tom McMullen '62 establishes Excellence in Athletics Fund
Forty years ago, Tom McMullen '62 founded his successful business, McMullen Properties, with "a green pickup truck and $3,000."
Three years ago, when he sold the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company, he knew that he wanted to share some of his good fortune. His first thought: giving back to Brown. Following conversations with President Christina Paxson and Brown Athletics Director Jack Hayes, McMullen established the $5 million Excellence in Athletics Fund.
This gift gives the University the freedom to decide how best to use the funds as needs arise, something that is important to McMullen. "I told the president and Jack to do anything they want to help us build exceptionally good teams," McMullen says. "Our alumni athletes follow their teams from graduation and into their 70s and 80s. If these teams do well, they might donate more to athletics."
"Tom has been a generous and dedicated supporter of Brown for many, many years," Paxson says. "When we were talking about his interests, I could see his love for Brown Athletics coming through and how much being a student-athlete has meant to him. This gift opens up opportunities that will help our sports program reach for and achieve new levels of excellence."
Hayes, for his part, says that this fund "gives us the discretion and flexibility to address our competitiveness in a strategic and systematic way" and has already been used to retain coaches through salary enhancements and increased recruiting budgets.
"Tom's gift will provide additional opportunities for teams to travel to different parts of the country and compete against nationally recognized programs. It will also help us reach areas where we have both strong recruiting potential and a strong alumni base," Hayes says.
McMullen's ties to Brown Athletics took shape when he was a member of the varsity men's swim team from 1958-62: "We had a good team and we did pretty well." He also met his wife, a Wellesley College graduate, during his time on College Hill -- something that, along with the excellent education he received, has "indebted him to Brown."
Post-graduation, McMullen stayed connected to the athletics program and gave regularly to the annual fund. Then five years ago he made his first multi-year commitment. Its aim? To support hiring individual men's and women's swimming coaches—a step up from sharing just one. Hayes says this had a significant impact and improved the quality of the programs.
Benefits from McMullen's most recent gift will accrue across teams, coaches and student-athletes. One example: endowing a strength and conditioning coach position. "Having an additional staff member will be outstanding as it will help every single student-athlete and coach here at Brown," says Brandon O'Neall, head strength and conditioning coach. "We will be able to be more individualistic in our approach to training and teaching on a daily basis. The more people we have and the more ideas we can provide, the bigger the impact will be in terms of recovery, nutrition, and training."
Thanks to support from the Excellence in Athletics Fund, Hayes is optimistic about the future of Brown Athletics. "In five years, it would be great to see how this gift has touched many sports and led to improvements. It could mean moving up in the Ivy League standings or having more post-season tournament opportunities."
That is important to McMullen, as well. But he's also hoping his philanthropy will inspire others, and motivate them to "give whatever they want to give, whether it's to athletics, to academics or anything else at Brown."