Sarah Dodds-Brown ’95: Philanthropy is Personal

March 8, 2015
Picture of Sarah Dodds-Brown

Managing Counsel, General Counsel’s Organization, American Express

Community service:
Member, City of New Rochelle Planning Board

Duke volunteer leadership:
Young Trustee
Trinity College Board of Visitors
20th Reunion Committee Co-chair
Duke Financial Aid Initiative Steering Committee
Presidential Council Committee on Men’s Lacrosse
Duke Women’s Impact Network Leadership Council

Who modeled philanthropy for you?
As a young person, I participated in and supported organizations focused on ending the apartheid regime in South Africa, and I organized the fundraising effort of a student organization in my high school to sponsor a child in Burkina Faso.

In my senior year at Duke, I was elected to serve a three-year term as a Young Trustee. During the university’s capital campaigns, it was an important demonstration of support and commitment for there to be 100% participation of all of the university trustees in terms of giving. Young trustees were expected to be a part of this.

This was an early lesson for me in understanding that leaders are expected to demonstrate their commitment both in terms of their time and substantive contributions, but also through their financial support, at whatever level is possible for them. I did this readily, and the experience encouraged me to give meaningfully to other organizations that I believed in along the way.

What donor experience has given you the most joy?
My father passed away in 2009 at the age of 71 from a genetic disorder called Cardiac Amyloidosis that disproportionately afflicts black men over the age of 60. I encouraged friends, family, and well-wishers to contribute to the Amyloidosis Foundation in lieu of flowers. We raised a significant amount of money in his memory for an organization that works hard to identify drug trials and effective treatments for those afflicted by this disorder. I continue to contribute to the foundation each year.

Why do you support Duke, and how do you decide what area to support?
I have benefitted from so many opportunities and experiences that were made possible through my time at Duke and that have become such an important aspect of who I am today. My support for Duke is usually for the general endowment and financial aid, including the Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship fund.