Family Matters

When D. Warren Brown passed away in 1997 following a brief battle with leukemia, his family knew they wanted to do something to commemorate his life and the stellar care he received from Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

Brown had been the second-generation leader of the Marion, Ohio-based family business, Wyandot Inc., initially a grain popcorn processor that Brown helped build into the large-scale snack company it is today. Always passionate about philanthropy and giving back to the Marion community, Brown and his wife Jan had started the D. Warren Brown Family Foundation to help manage their charitable giving in 1995, about 18 months before Warren was diagnosed with leukemia.

When Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, director of the OSUCCC and CEO of The James, requested the foundation’s help to recruit a top physician specializing in leukemia research, the trustees knew they had found the right opportunity to honor Brown’s memory.

The foundation, run by Jan, Brown’s son Doug, daughter Kathy Shepherd, and close friends and business associates Joe Donithen and Jim Wyland, created the D. Warren Brown Professorship of Leukemia Research in 2001, which helped recruit John C. Byrd, MD, to the OSUCCC – James that year. Byrd, whom Dr. Caligiuri has called a “rock star” in his field, has made significant research advances, including FDA approved drugs to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), has become a dear friend of the Brown family.

“My father never met John Byrd,” says Doug. “But he would be a big fan of his passion and work ethic. It’s been remarkable watching Byrd and his research team succeed; my dad would be humbled to know that his name and family were in some way tied to him.”

The Brown family has been so pleased with their connection to Byrd that, in 2010, they increased their gift to elevate the professorship in the family patriarch’s name to a chair—one of the highest honors bestowed upon an academic physician. Now, Byrd holds the D. Warren Brown Chair of Leukemia Research. “We are so grateful that Dr. Byrd is at The James and we have been blessed to see his progress,” says Jan, who describes the family’s excitement over Byrd’s drug advances like “walking on the moon.”

The D. Warren Brown Foundation plans to keep Brown’s tradition of philanthropy alive with his young family members as well—inviting children and grandchildren to serve as trustees and make charitable decisions on behalf of the family once they turn 24. Brown and Jan’s daughter Lindsay, and Kathy’s son Bradley, will join the foundation as trustees later this year.

This family connection, explains Kathy, would have been important to her father. “Now that the kids are getting older— graduating college and getting jobs—we want to pass the giving spirit down to them. I think my dad would have been happy about that.”

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