ATLANTA: Named as an outstanding senior at Emory University, Robbie Brown received a $20,000 (€14,761) prize. Keeping for himself was not his style.
Brown is giving the money to Elizabeth Sholtys, a fellow Emory student who opened a home for street children in India during her junior year.
"Emory has given me so much already," Brown said Monday before the graduation ceremony. "It’s time to give back."
Brown and Sholtys, who also graduated Monday, met earlier this year and he learned about the home.
"I was incredibly impressed," he said.
He knew right away what he would upon learning that he was receiving the 2007 McMullan Award, given to a graduating senior who exhibits "outstanding citizenship, exceptional leadership and potential for service to his or her community, the nation and the world."
There was little surprise on the Emory campus that Brown would give the money to Sholtys.
"It was a beautiful culmination of his instincts and his ability to do exactly the right thing," Emory vice president Rosemary Magee said.
Brown, a graduate of Atlanta’s Westminster Schools, has always been a standout at Emory.
Earlier this year, he was named as a Bobby Jones scholar, which includes a year of study at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Sholtys, of Ithaca, New York, spent two years in India while a high school student, working with children.
At Emory, the anthropology major was inspired by reading a book about Paul Farmer, a Harvard-educated physician who has worked among the world’s poorest populations.
She returned to India and spent countless hours photographing street children in railway stations in Mumbai and doing the groundwork to open an orphanage. In 2005, she opened the Ashraya Initiative for Children in the slums of Pune.
At 23, Sholtys now has legal custody of nine children who live full time in the home. Ten more girls are in an outreach program.
Sholtys spends about nine months a year there, having completed most of her Emory course work online. She said she plans to use the $20,000 (€14,761) to help fund a health education research center.
She flew from India for the graduation ceremony and will return later this week.
"Without Robbie’s gift, this would not have been possible," she said. "I was really, really touched. It’s an amazing thing."
Brown and Sholtys had been part of a group that promoted Farmer as commencement speaker.
As 3,600 fellow graduates watched, it was their turn to receive praise from him.
Farmer told the audience in Emory’s main quadrangle of Brown’s gift.
It’s a marvelous example, he said, "for Emory and for all of us."
On the Web:
Ashraya Initiative for Children http://www.ashrayainitiative.org