Skip to main content
John W. and Rosemary Kopel Brown smiling, and John has his hand on Rosemary left arm

John W. and Rosemary Kopel Brown

John W. and Rosemary Kopel Brown received the inaugural Arts Champion Award from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) for their landmark gift that helped establish the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University.

The Browns—both 1957 graduates and longtime supporters of the university— committed $25 million in 2015 toward what would become the Gogue Center, along with additional monies committed to a student achievement center in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and an endowed chair in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.

The Arts Champion Award recognizes the impact non-performers—including service organization leaders, board members and philanthropists—can have on the performing arts.

The Browns’ philanthropic support helped bolster gifts from other private donors and corporate partners and elevated the Gogue Center, which opened for its first season in August 2019.

“John and Rosemary’s unwavering commitment, leadership and philanthropic support have not only sustained our organization but have also paved the way for our continued growth,” said Christopher Heacox, executive director of the Gogue Center. “Their impact extends far beyond our walls, allowing us to bring exemplary performers and vibrant voices to Auburn for the education, engagement and inspiration of our community.”

The APAP Honors celebrates and recognizes trailblazers and visionaries of the performing arts field. For more than six decades, the coveted awards have been presented annually as part of the APAP Awards Ceremony traditionally held at the organization’s annual conference in New York.

The couple was honored on Jan. 15 during the APAP annual conference. Their granddaughter Natalie Maroun Sherlag ’17 and her husband Anthony Sherlag, along with Heacox, accepted the award on the Browns’ behalf.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, John Brown’s career spanned manufacturing and defense before a pivotal role at Squibb. In 1976, he became president of Stryker Corp., orchestrating its successful public offering in 1979 and overseeing surging annual sales from 1976 until he retired as chairman in 2009.

Rosemary Brown, an Auburn alumna in chemistry and a passionate educator, taught mathematics for more than 30 years and earned numerous Excellence in Education Awards for her commitment.

When announcing their landmark gift, the Browns noted that Auburn was a transformative educational experience in their lives, and because of that, they wanted to make an impact not only for Auburn students, but also the entire Auburn community.

“John and Rosemary Brown are incredible leaders who exemplify the values of the Auburn Creed—particularly the belief in hard work, education, and the human touch, as evidenced by their lifelong dedication to enriching the lives of others,” said Rob Wellbaum, Auburn’s senior vice president for Advancement. “Their inspiring legacy is etched on The Plains and is an outstanding example of individuals giving of their time and resources to enrich the community around them.”

The Browns granddaughter Natalie Maroun Sherlag ’17 (center) and her husband Anthony Sherlag (left) accepted the award on the Browns’ behalf, alongside Christopher Heacox, executive director of the Gogue Performing Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Adam Kissick/APAP.