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Friday, December 9, 2005

Brown, Abbott Honored at 80th Year Winter Commencement

SALISBURY, MD---Salisbury University pays tribute to business leader and philanthropist Sam Brown with an honorary doctorate of public service during the University’s 80th year winter commencement. Some 599 students graduate at 2 p.m. Saturday, December 17, at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

Born in Pilot Mountain, N.C., in 1938, Brown became acquainted with the Delmarva Peninsula early in life through his father’s pioneering involvement with the poultry industry. Earning his bachelor’s degree and attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his first company, Brown & Associates, became the largest clothing manufacturer’s representative firm in the United States.

His second business venture, neckwear manufacturer Brown & Church, Ltd., was purchased by a large clothing conglomerate. After retiring from the clothing business, he became active in other ventures, including imports and real estate.

During the past decade, Brown has contributed to SU both in dollars and in time. In 1996 he established the largest single charitable remainder trust ever given to the University, which he recently added to significantly, bringing the total to $4.5 million. These gifts make him the largest single donor in SU history.

He also served on the SU Foundation Board of Directors and has been a benefactor to many other regional institutions including Wesley College. An Episcopalian, he has worked tirelessly to help various congregations fulfill their community goals and to help refurbish church interiors.

He was responsible for the gift of the Woodberry Inn in southwest Virginia to the Diocese of Virginia.  A music lover, he has donated pianos and organs to congregations in need. He also donated a large Skinner/Austin pipe organ to the Virginia Beach Symphony.

During the SU ceremony the Alumni Association, representing the University’s 32,000 alumni, presents Debbie Abbott, senior vice president of Mercantile Peninsula Bank, with the Alumni Service Award. Senior Christopher Runion, a philosophy major from Flemington, NJ, delivers the commencement address.

Abbott earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication arts from SU in 1976. Since then, her involvement at SU has been extensive. She has served on the SU Foundation Board of Directors since 1996, chairing the Board from 1999-2002. Under her leadership, the Foundation worked to better University relations with the surrounding community and also purchased the Allenwood Shopping Center, adjacent to campus on Rt. 13.

She is a member of the SU President’s Club and continues to serve her Alma Mater in many roles, most visibly as host of SU on the Air, a monthly program on PAC 14 highlighting the people and events of the University.

Abbott also is active in many other community organizations as a member of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, Go Getters Foundation, Joseph House shelter, Trinity United Methodist Church Finance Committee, Chesapeake Girl Scouts President’s Advisory Committee, United Way, Life Crisis Center, Peninsula Regional Medical Center Foundation and Salisbury Sunrise Rotary Club.

The Alumni Association also presents Alumni Faculty Appreciation awards to members of each of the University’s four schools. The winners are announced during the ceremony.

Runion’s talk focuses on unexpected developments in his life during his SU years, a  time of “emotional, intellectual and, perhaps, spiritual growth,” he said.  His freshman year he took his first class in philosophy and knew afterwards he wanted to major in it.  But it took him nearly three years to declare his major because, he said, he could never explain to his parents what he’d do with such a degree.

Meanwhile something unexpected happened.  He had avoided science in high school because “I was afraid of failure,” but as part of his general education requirements he signed up for Chemistry 101, “the course that would eventually change my life.”

The first few weeks were difficult.  “I often found myself lost in the material.”  Although he came close to dropping out, even filling out the drop slip, he stuck with it, got extra help from professors, and found out something even more precious than the A that he received in class:  Science was his calling.

He now plans to apply to medical schools with an eye toward family medicine.  “Life works out in mysterious ways … I can’t help but think that philosophy will help make me a better doctor.”

Among undergraduates, 292 students receive the Bachelor of Science, 194 the Bachelor of Arts, 10 the Bachelor of Fine Arts and 11 the Bachelor of Social Work. Graduate degrees include Master of Arts—24; Master of Education—26; Master of Business Administration—27; Master of Science—12; Master of Social Work—three; and Master of Arts in Teaching—two.

Admission to commencement is by ticket only. A reception follows in the Midway Room of the Civic Center. The reception does not require tickets. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at "

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