Former President Roger H. Brown

About Roger H. Brown

Roger H. Brown brought a rich array of professional and life experiences to his job as President of Berklee. Skills accrued playing recording sessions as a drummer in New York, administering United Nations humanitarian operations in Southeast Asia and Africa, and founding a company with his wife that now employs more than 30,000 people and serves more than 80,000 families have contributed to his effective leadership at the world's largest college of contemporary music.

Immediately after earning his bachelor's degree in physics from Davidson College (Phi Beta Kappa), Brown spent a year in Kenya teaching math and moonlighted by playing drums with an award-winning Kenyan gospel choir. Upon returning home, he enrolled in an M.B.A. program at Yale University, but interrupted his studies to help alleviate a humanitarian crisis on the Thai-Cambodian border. Brown administered the Land Bridge food distribution operation under the auspices of CARE and UNICEF. The effort that Brown, his future wife Linda Mason, and others staged fed 25,000 people per day and within six months had averted starvation for countless Cambodians. Subsequently, Brown and Mason coauthored a book about the operation titled Rice, Rivalry and Politics: Managing Cambodian Relief.

While in Southeast Asia, Brown made recordings with musicians in refugee camps to preserve their traditional Cambodian music that Khmer Rouge rulers had suppressed.

After returning to the U.S. and finishing his studies at Yale, Brown and Mason served as codirectors of a Save the Children Federation initiative for famine relief in Sudan. The innovative program served more than 400,000 people and is estimated to have saved more than 20,000 lives.

After several years abroad, Brown returned home in 1986 with a desire to serve American families. To that end, Brown and Mason launched Bright Horizons, now the largest worldwide provider of worksite childcare and early education. Bright Horizons operates more than 750 high-quality child development centers for employers worldwide. In 1996, Brown and Mason received the Ernst & Young/USA Today Entrepreneur of the Year award. They are recipients of the White House's Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership. In 2012, Brown and Mason were honored as Visionary Social Entrepreneurs at the Social Venture Network’s Hall of Fame Celebration. In 2013, Bright Horizons was named among Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for the 14th time.

After 16 years of successfully leading Bright Horizons, Brown decided to turn his sights to higher education and accepted the position as Berklee's third chief executive in 2004.

During his tenure, Berklee created the world’s largest online music education system (including massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that have reached more than 2.4 million students and the launch of online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs serving a global base of musicians from more than 150 countries), expanded its global reach to attract students from over 100 countries, and created Berklee's Presidential Scholars program that provides full scholarships to top musicians from around the world. He oversaw the expansion of the City Music Program beyond Boston in an effort to provide educational opportunities for talented, but economically disadvantaged urban youth. The program now has partners in cities across America and abroad, reaching more than 55,000 students. As well, Brown led Berklee to adopt a more selective admissions policy that requires an interview and audition for all applicants. Along with that effort, Brown oversaw the creation of a new advising program to support all entering students and the Thrive Scholarship program to support the academic progress of upper-semester students. Under Brown’s leadership, the amount of scholarship and financial aid available to Berklee students has increased by over 750 percent, growing from $9 million to over $80 million.

Brown helped the college enhance the student experience by establishing semester abroad programs and by expanding the Boston campus through real estate acquisitions and the construction of a 16-story facility at 160 Massachusetts Avenue that boasts 173 residence hall rooms, 23 practice rooms, six two-story common areas, a fitness center, a 400-seat dining hall, and a state-of-the-art 10-studio music production complex. Brown worked with the city of Valencia, Spain, and the Generalitat Valenciana to create a Berklee campus in Valencia that now offers both study abroad and graduate programs. Under his leadership, Berklee launched a suite of educational institutes that offer focused areas of study, including the Berklee Global Jazz InstituteBerklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, Effortless Mastery Institute, American Roots Music, Popular Music Institute, Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, and Mediterranean Music Institute. After completing Berklee’s first capital campaign, Giant Steps, in 2011, which raised $54 million, Brown launched the institution’s second campaign, Soundbreaking, in 2014, which raised $160 million. In 2016, he oversaw Berklee's merger with the Boston Conservatory to create the world’s most comprehensive and dynamic training ground for music, dance, theater, and related professions.

Brown serves on the board of Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. He has been recognized for his accomplishments at Berklee with the Cruz de Honor from the provincial government of Valencia, Spain, and with the March of Dimes Franklin Delano Roosevelt Humanitarian Award. In 2019, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Williams College and was honored at the Boston Arts Academy (BAA) Foundation annual celebration to support the BAA.

In 2021, after 17 years leading Berklee, Brown stepped down from the role to pursue other challenges, including finding new ways to support young musicians and their artistic journeys.

About his aspirations, Brown says, “Berklee has produced artists who have won a collective 310 Grammy Awards, composed some of the great film scores of our time, written jazz and rock standards, used music as a healing force as pioneers of music therapy, and transformed the way people play their instruments and teach contemporary music. I am proud to have served this amazing institution that is such a powerful force in helping train the next generation of music entrepreneurs, teachers, and artists.”

Roger H. Brown explains the power of improvisation, which reaches well beyond our musical lives:

For more on Roger H. Brown, see his inaugural profile.