Brown, Roger O.
Roger O. Brown's life matched America's mid-century economic boom and flourished in parallel with the great expansion of Chicago's financial industry. He was one of the actors behind the growth of the Chicago investment banking scene, a senior executive at A.G. Becker, and one of the initial directors of the CBOE.Roger was also a founding member and the first president of Harris Associates, one of the largest asset managers in the United States.
Roger, who died age 95 of congestive heart failure on May 13, 2021, was born into Chicago's burgeoning Jewish community.His parents settled in Hyde Park, where he and his brother Howard attended the University of Chicago's Lab School.From there he went to the Philips Exeter Academy, then Yale College, and then, a commissioned officer at age 19, to a destroyer escort in the South China Sea.
Mustered out of the Navy in 1946, Roger matriculated at Harvard's Business School, from which he graduated in 1949, to take a job as a sales trainee at A G Becker.Becker at the time was a modest-sized financial firm that specialized in the buying and selling of commercial paper.Roger was active in the business' growth, to the point that at the time of his departure in 1973, he had been named Senior Vice President and Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee.By then the organization had grown into a full-service investment bank with a wide variety of products. Not the least was the funds evaluation service Roger had started with John Mabie, which provided Becker with a quarter of its revenues in that period.
Roger founded Harris Associates a year after his departure from Becker.The firm nowmanages over $120 billion in assets and ranks as one of the hundred largest American asset managers today. As managing partner, Roger was instrumental in its development.Employees recall him as a compassionate and understanding boss whose interest was in their development as professionals, and their happiness as individuals.
Roger married Barbara Elaine Russell in 1953. The couple settled in a ten-acre woodlot in Highland Park, where they were blessed not only with five children and dogs, but with tennis, whose expertise Roger pursued with avidity three seasons of the year.The fourth, winter, was dedicated to skiing.He and Barbara traveled widely, not only to ski in this country and in Europe, but to satisfy their curiosity about the world.They visited every continent, their travels taking them not just to the capitals of Europe, but to such less-visited places as Indonesia, and Iran.
Roger was deeply interested in history and current events.He and Barbara nurtured a home life of intellectual inquiry, encouraging amongst their children a life of reading and thought.He believed strongly in education, in hard work, and in enjoying life. The couple loved classical music and were benefactors of many of Chicago's cultural organizations and universities.Philanthropically focused, Roger was also strongly concerned with providing for under-served, and too often ignored populations.He funded organizations that supported, amongst others, paroled convicts, native Americans, AIDS sufferers, the homeless, drug addicts, and the mentally ill.For many years he was the President of Thresholds, one of the largest providers of and resources for persons with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders in Illinois.
Roger is survived by his five children: Jeffrey (Joan) Brown, Owen (Alison) Brown, Andrew(Gail) Brown, Henry(Cindy) Brown,Vanessa McGuire, 17 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
Memorial service Sunday July 25 12:30PM at Makom Solel Lakeside, 1301 Clavey Road, Highland Park, IL 60035. To attend the funeral live stream, please visit our website.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to either Thresholds, 4101 N. Ravenswood Avenue, Chicago, IL 60613, www.thresholds.org
or Illinois Action for Children, 1340 S. Damen 3rd Floor, Chicago, IL, 60608, www.actforchildren.org
. Arrangements by Chicago Jewish Funerals - Skokie Chapel, 847.229.8822, www.cjfinfo.com
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