Nesi's Notes on

Brown U. lands $25M gift for economics


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Brown University graduate who went on to a successful career as an investor has donated $25 million to expand economics research at the school.

Orlando Bravo, co-founder of private-equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC, will split his gift between $15 million to launch a new Orlando Bravo Center for Economic Research and $10 million to “fund the recruitment and retention of world-class economics faculty,” according to Brown.

“Studying economics led me to pursue work in financial services, which led me to banking, business school and law school. And that led me here, where I am now,” said Bravo, who hails from Puerto Rico and graduated from Brown in 1992. “None of that would have been possible without Brown and without economics.” He said the school had “opened up incredible opportunities for me.”

Brown’s economics department has been on the rise in recent years, with its ranking nationwide rising to the top 10 as of January based on academic papers. Professor John Friedman has won national attention in recent years for his work on an Opportunity Atlas that offers policymakers neighborhood-level data on economic mobility.

“We can actually follow the kids over the course of their life, and see amazing differences in neighborhoods that I think you would not expect to have found,” Friedman said during an interview on Executive Suite earlier this year.

Christina Paxson, Brown’s president since 2012, is herself an economist. “This incredibly generous gift will power years of scholarship that propels positive change — and it will enable our students to have a hand in conducting original economics research alongside internationally respected faculty,” Paxson said.

Anna Aizer, chair of Brown’s economics department, said the new Bravo Center will allow her and her colleagues to capitalize on the huge increase in data becoming available to scholars. “This gift will enhance our ability to develop new data sets and develop new techniques to answer many of today’s most important policy questions,” she said.

Ted Nesi ( covers politics and the economy for He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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