Release Date: February 13, 2001
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An international investment advisor who used his University at Buffalo degree in social work to build a $32 billion business, Leslie A. Brun is pledging $1 million to the UB School of Social Work -- half as a direct gift and half as a matched donation.
A 1974 graduate, Brun drove a taxicab in New York City for about a year after graduation until realizing that his social-work education had taught him that "no matter what you do, it revolves around understanding people and interpersonal dynamics," an understanding that has proved useful in his investment-banking career.
Brun -- who was born in Haiti and moved to New York City with his parents when he was 7 -- said he is proud of his alma mater and wants other minorities to have the kinds of educational opportunities he enjoyed at UB.
"State schools are generally unrecognized for their accomplishments," Brun said, "and since I am a product of a state school and proud of my accomplishments, I wanted to give back to the institution that contributed greatly to my success."
Brun is giving $500,000 to establish the Serge D. Valme Fellowship, named in memory of a favorite uncle. The money will be used to recruit and support minority students pursuing their graduate degrees in social work, with the intention that it will "increase the number of minority Ph.D. graduates who would be able to obtain faculty positions in schools of social work." The fellowship amount would be at least $12,000 per student.
University at Buffalo President William R. Greiner praised Brun, noting: "He is an acknowledged leader in the world of international investment banking with a keen appreciation of his education in UB's School of Social Work. We are very proud of his accomplishments as an investment advisor; his career is an inspirational example for today's UB students."
Greiner added: "Les Brun has demonstrated his loyalty to his alma mater through these gifts, which will enhance educational opportunities for graduate students in social work as well as the research capability of the School of Social Work. We are most grateful for his generosity."
In addition to the scholarship gift, Brun has pledged another $500,000 in matching money, to advance and support the research agenda of the School of Social Work. Brun is giving an initial $100,000 and has challenged alumni and friends that he will match gifts of $1,000 or more up to a total of $500,000.
Explaining why he issued the challenge, Brun noted: "I want others to step up to the plate and recognize the value of the state educational system and to give something back."
Lawrence Shulman, dean of the UB School of Social Work, said he is confident that alumni will meet the challenge and lauded Brun's initiative and support for such valuable activities.
"Les is an alum who has capitalized on the value of a social-work education, as demonstrated by his impressive professional accomplishments, bold optimism and personal commitment to philanthropy," said Shulman.
He added: "I look forward to the opportunity to strengthen our school and to benefit families, children and communities through the work we can now accomplish because of his donation."
Shulman said the money will help underwrite the infrastructure needed for pursuing federal, state and private funding for a variety of research projects, including a study on the impact of alcohol use on mothers and children, testing prevention models for work with children of alcoholic parents, and developing a model -- in collaboration with the Buffalo school district and the Buffalo and Erie County United Way -- for working with students suspended from school for violence.
Brun began his banking career in 1975 as supervisor of operations for Bankers Trust in New York. In 1977, he went to Chemical Bank's management training program and served as chief credit officer at the bank's office in Seoul, South Korea. In 1982, he left Chemical Bank to join Lloyds International Corp., where he conceived, structured and placed syndicated project financing.
Brun then moved to First Fidelity Bancorporation where he was responsible for the origination and management of merger and acquisition advisory engagements and for all private placement activities for both bank and non-bank clients.
In 1991, he left First Fidelity to start Hamilton Lane Advisors, Inc. in Philadelphia, where he remains today as chairman and CEO of the privately held, investment-advisory and money-management firm that oversees more than $32 billion in commitments to over 340 partnerships around the world.
A recognized leader in his field, Brun often has been quoted in the professional journals and publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Private Equity Analyst and Venture Capital Journal. He also contributes to journal articles and has served as chairman of the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Advisory Council of the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Active in several community agencies that serve the homeless, children and youth, Brun has served on the boards of directors of the Southeast Pennsylvania Boy Scout Association, The Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition and the Pennsylvania Ballet. In 2000, he received a UB Distinguished Alumni Award.
Brun, who lives in Wynnewood, Penn., with his wife and son, saves some time for his hobby -- racing his Porsche 944 turbo in Sports Car Club of America contests -- because "racing and alternative investments both require concentration and a balance of risk and benefits."
Brun's gift is part of UB's $250 million campaign, the largest ever conducted by a public university in New York and New England. Although it's the fifth major fund-raising campaign conducted by UB, it's the first national/international campaign, the first university-wide campaign and the first to be alumni-driven with campaign volunteer leaders from all over the country. Funds raised will be used to enrich academic programs, support students ranging from undergraduates to post-doctoral students and to enhance university life.