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LBJ ’82: A Class Act

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LBJ School Class of '82

The LBJ School’s tight-knit Class of ’82 comes together to provide new opportunities for students following in their footsteps.

He clearly remembers driving with trepidation the long road from the mountains of New Mexico to the rolling hills of Austin to start his first semester at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. In 1980, Doug Brookman had been out of school for a few years and had reservations about graduate school and whether this program was the right fit. For Brookman, as for many students, returning to school was a gamble.

Thirty-one years later, Brookman, MPA ’82, is president of Public Solutions, Inc., in Washington, D.C., and says his decision was nothing less than life changing.

“I feel like we’re huge beneficiaries of all that LBJ offered us — the learning experience, the congeniality and friends, the financial support, the boost that our careers got right at the outset,” he says of himself and his classmates.

Brookman’s story is one of many that have surfaced in the past year among the Class of 1982. At their 30-year reunion in 2012, members of the class discovered that current students were not being awarded the same financial support they had received. In fact, the school is now able to offer financial aid to just slightly more than one-third of each incoming class. They decided to do something to help.

LBJ School Class of '82 Today

Above: The class of '82 teamed up to endow a fellowship and internship to be awarded each year to a student at its alma mater. Top: Members of the LBJ School Class of '82.

The Class of ’82 mobilized and challenged one another to raise $150,000 to award a one-year tuition fellowship and internship stipend each year to a deserving LBJ School student. Understanding that not every graduate of the class was in a position to donate a large amount, they encouraged their classmates to choose a meaningful contribution over a five-year period. This allowed alumni to pledge at a level they were comfortable with and pool their donations together into an achievable end goal.

The class exceeded its goal by 20 percent so far. As of Nov. 1, 65 percent of members had contributed to create a $180,600 endowment. For a class that benefited from the tutelage of public policy greats such as U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan and Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, giving back on such a scale is a fitting new chapter in their story.

It’s a story of longstanding friendships punctuated with reunions every five years, annual hiking trips, and a special connectivity that serves as a reminder of why they came to the LBJ School in the first place — to change the world for the public good. Now they can do it one new student at a time.

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“Let me tell you a story about why this fellowship matters,” says Blaine Bull, MPA ’82, managing partner of Austin-based Vianovo. “During a client meeting I was introduced to a very impressive young woman who more than held her own at a fairly contentious meeting in a room full of egos. While visiting with her I discovered she had recently graduated from the LBJ School. She told me she had been lucky enough to receive a full fellowship. She went on to share that the fellowship offer was the deciding factor in her decision to attend the school, and what a life-changing experience she had there.”

Taking inspiration from when the school was able to supply most students with generous levels of fellowship support, the Class of ’82 is keeping its eye on the future, working to ensure that future generations don’t miss out on the benefits of graduating with little or no debt. The members aren’t satisfied with just their endowment and now challenge all LBJ School classes to come together to create their own.

“Public policy is a fun, dynamic, interesting career and a noble pursuit,” says Karen Neuwald, MPA ’82. “The challenge for future classes is how we can overcome the current cynical attitude toward public service. Being able to offer assistance at a high level will recruit better students and show them that they have a choice in their degree. If we can offer better financial support to students, we can continue to enhance the stature of this degree.”

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