Advancement; Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Brown family lays the foundation for the future of Clemson University with $2.5M Academic Cornerstone gift


Jeffrey J. “JB” Brown ’95 and Sara M. Brown ’98 are laying the foundation for the future of Clemson University through a gift of $2.5 million in support of scholarships, the Clemson Experience for students, inclusive excellence and The Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. This gift establishes the Brown family as the latest Academic Cornerstone Partners for Clemson University. 

The Browns’ Academic Cornerstone gift is their family’s most recent contribution of their time, talent and treasure, for which JB says, “It’s our honor to be able to give back to our University that is developing the next generation of great leaders under the stewardship of President Clements and the Board of Trustees.”

Their Cornerstone gift supports the areas that the family is most passionate about, including:  

  • $1 million for presidential scholarship in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business.
  • $1 million for Clemson’s new Alumni and Visitors Center.
  • $250,000 for ClemsonLIFE.
  • $150,000 for the Power of One campaign challenge.
  • $100,000 for Inclusive Excellence.

Both Clemson graduates, JB graduated in 1995 with a degree in economics, and Sara graduated in 1998 with a degree in early childhood education. They have given financially every year since graduating, and as their resources have grown, so has their desire to give more.

“Through JB and Sara’s continued commitment to Clemson, they are positively impacting the lives of our students and are laying the foundation to support the next generation of leaders,” says James P. Clements, Clemson University President. “JB and Sara’s dedication to the Clemson Family is inspiring and I am grateful for their generosity and leadership across the University.”

Before becoming Clemson’s latest Academic Cornerstone Partners, the Brown family gave of their treasure to Clemson by establishing the Brown Family Scholarship Endowment, supporting the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business as well as the Provost’s Excellence Fund and several other scholarship endowments. 

During Clemson’s annual Give Day in 2019, the family gave $250,000 toward the new building and scholarships in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business, as well as scholarships in the College of Education.

As a student, JB was president of the Student Alumni Council, a member of Blue Key and also active in Greek life. He says, “Clemson has truly shaped my life, and I saw the importance of connecting with our alumni when I was a student.”

JB’s role as a leader in industry has established him as a valued member of boards and committees across Clemson, for which he gives his time and talent in service.

“JB and Sara are dedicated and loyal members of the Clemson Family, and this Academic Cornerstone gift encapsulates their commitment to our University,” says Brian O’Rourke, Vice President of Advancement. “By supporting student scholarships and The Power of One Challenge in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business, our new Alumni and Visitors Center, ClemsonLIFE and inclusive excellence, JB and Sara are helping Clemson provide the best experience for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. We are grateful to JB and Sara for their time, talent and treasure to elevate Clemson University.”

JB serves on the Clemson University Foundation (CUF) Board, which he describes as “A part of my great fortune that I get to give back in serving.” Through his service on the CUF Board of Directors, JB supports Clemson University by promoting growth and stewardship of resources entrusted to the University, thus fulfilling covenants with donors.

“Integrity, transparency, accountability and donor focus — these are the core values of the Clemson University Foundation. On behalf of CUF, I express my gratitude for JB and his thoughtful gifts of his time and talent that reflect these values and are instrumental in helping us fulfill the mission of CUF,” says Karen McCauley, President and CEO Clemson University Foundation. “JB and Sara are dedicated to Clemson, they believe in the power of education, and they have unwavering trust in the Foundation — and all of this is encompassed in their Academic Cornerstone gift to support key areas across the Clemson campus.”

JB also serves on the President’s Advisory Board (PAB) alongside current and retired business leaders, presidents and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. As valued supporters of Clemson University, JB and his fellow PAB members advise Clemson University President Jim Clements on campuswide and national matters that directly and indirectly affect students, faculty and staff at Clemson, in higher education and beyond. He has also served on the Trevillian Cabinet of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business.

Additionally, JB has given of his time as a speaker at Clemson University’s Men of Color National Summit. He joined Clemson and leaders in government, business, academia, sports and entertainment to emphasize the importance of education while helping to establish a sustainable, diverse pipeline of qualified candidates entering the workforce.

JB grew up in Columbus, Ohio, the youngest in a family of four children. Despite having numerous connections to universities in his home state, he looked outside of Ohio — specifically, at Clemson University. Here, JB established a network of friends and contacts and built a lifelong connection with the people and the University.

JB and Sara Brown met as students at Clemson. The couple married in 2000 and have three children: Cameron, Grace and Jack. Sara Brown is a dedicated wife and mother — the foundation for her family at their home in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is also passionate about how education can transform lives. JB and Sara also have immediate Clemson Family, with Sara’s sister, Britta, and her husband, Mark, also being 1995 graduates and loyal alumni.

JB has spent most of his career in the banking industry, which began when he and Sara moved to Charlotte and he worked for NationsBank. This was a steppingstone to an esteemed position at Bank of America. JB’s tenure at Bank of America began as an analyst in 1998, and within 10 years, he was appointed corporate treasurer.

During the Financial Crisis of 2008, several large financial firms experienced financial distress, and many financial markets experienced significant turbulence. During the crisis, JB led a predominant institution in a collapsing market — moving him to be a stronger leader who efficiently manages others during unexpected and devastating times.

In 2009, Brown was hired as corporate treasurer at Ally Financial Inc. and eventually became the CEO of the company, the most prominent digital bank in the United States. When he reflects on his early career, he places great value on the struggles he endured during the financial crisis and considers these lessons crucial in his professional development.

JB was inspired by the former CEO at NationsBank, Hugh McColl, and Hugh’s belief that when all teammates were aligned with the mission, anything was possible. Further, JB’s leadership style today is based on servant leadership — something he witnessed in another inspiring leader, Rick Hendrick. JB has emulated his professional profile following Rick and Hugh’s leadership and inspiration in focusing on the power of effective corporate culture.

For the past eight years, JB has led Ally during extensive growth — for which the banking industry took note. Because of his impact on the industry, American Banker recognized him as Banker of the Year for 2022. Ally’s success can undoubtedly be traced to JB Brown’s commitment to this model of good culture and his care for employees whom he considers “family.”

That feeling of family was something JB and Sara first learned at Clemson University. Being a Tiger means being a part of the Clemson Family. It’s a lifelong connection to a place and its people. It’s caring for one another and sharing a passion for impacting future generations. This is the same type of family he built at Ally. Now, he plans to extend the same type of leadership and family philosophy at Hendrick Automotive Group, where he was recently announced as president.

JB is leaving his mark on industries, companies and Clemson University through his leadership and commitment to those who work for and alongside him.

By sharing their time, talent and treasure with Clemson University, JB and Sara are helping to prepare the next generation to do good — and be great leaders.

This Academic Cornerstone gift from the Browns represents the dedication their family has for the betterment of the lives of current and future Clemson students. They are building a legacy at Clemson and have laid the foundation for others to follow.  

Clemson’s new Alumni and Visitors Center

The new Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center will bring together every generation of Tigers while also addressing the critical needs of the University. The Center will house some of our University’s most crucial partners and programs, including the Clemson University Alumni Association, Class of 1944 Visitors Center, the Board of Trustees office, Advancement, Clemson University Foundation, Admissions and the Michelin Career Center.

Located adjacent to the Clyde V. Madren Conference Center and John E. Walker Sr. Golf Course, the new Clemson Alumni and Visitors Center will overlook the 18th green and the shores of Lake Hartwell, standing as Clemson University’s front door — inviting prospective students to explore our campus and welcoming past generations back home.


ClemsonLIFE (Learning is for Everyone) allows students with special needs the opportunity to attend Clemson and receive the full college experience while learning the skills to lead independent lives. ClemsonLIFE supports the concept that enhancing academic, social, employment and life skills will better prepare students with disabilities to lead full and productive lives.

The program started in 2009 and has grown from a handful of students to an annual enrollment of 40 students on average.

The Power of One campaign challenge

To recognize the power of Clemson’s faculty — how one chair or one professor can shape the lives of Clemson students — an anonymous donor has established a fundraising challenge, The Power of One. By matching dollar-for-dollar up to $2.5 million, The Power of One challenge will raise a total of $5 million for the Tollison Chair, the McCormick Distinguished Professorship, the Yandle Distinguished Professorship and the Maloney Distinguished Professorship.

Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive excellence is a focus on student intellectual and social development; a purposeful development of and utilization of organizational resources to enhance student learning; attention to the cultural differences learners bring to the educational experience and that enhance the enterprise; and a welcoming community that engages all of its diversity in the service of student and organizational learning.

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