Ardent supporters: David and Ginny Brown

Ardent supporters: David and Ginny Brown
Making a difference in dairy, food science and technology

By Matt Marx

In autumn 1958, two high school sweethearts from Warren, Ohio, went off to attend separate colleges.

David Brown majored in dairy technology at The Ohio State University, while Ginny Russ studied education at Kent State University.

They wrote to one another but saw each other rarely, recalled the couple, who recently shared some personal motivations behind their ardent support of Ohio State and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The Browns with recent graduate Anna Schmenk, then a scholarship recipient, in 2017.

While they admit that they don’t have millions to give, their donations have made a difference. Through their generosity, the college has been able to award new scholarships to students in the Department of Food Science and Technology, purchase new dairy technology equipment for use by CFAES students and researchers, and help attract highly talented faculty and staff.

They still remember when they weren’t in a position to help and, in college, when they weren’t together. Kent and Columbus are 140 miles apart, but it might as well have been 540 because they couldn’t afford to see each other regularly, they said.

“I was a poor student. I would go up to Warren, and we would meet on a Sunday, but not all the time,” David said.

“Her father was a wonderful guy. He knew I had no money,” David said, “so he would give me two big handfuls of quarters and would tell me they were for the laundry machines in Baker Hall. He never said it, but I knew what he meant. He was giving me the money so I could use the pay phone to call his daughter.”

Those quarters were not handed out in vain. In 1962, on three consecutive weekends, David graduated from Ohio State, Ginny graduated from Kent State, and then the two were married.

“Three weekends that we cherish in our hearts,” he said.

Over the course of the next 56 years, they raised four children and eventually started a successful dairy protein distributorship. Today, they have seven grandchildren, two of whom attend Ohio State currently.

“Thanks to the great generosity of Ginny and Dave, our dairy science and technology program now offers our food science and technology students the latest in pilot plant equipment.”Rafael Jimenez-Flores

In 1964, the young couple moved to Clear Lake, Wisconsin, so David could take a position there with Gerber Baby Foods. That experience as a quality control representative provided the foundation for the rest of his career.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Ginny said. “We talk to this day about what an impact it had on our lives. It took courage. We knew no one.”

They later moved to Fremont, Michigan, where David was manager of product development at Gerber’s Corporate Research Center. Later, he worked briefly for Ross Labs in Columbus and then Dairyland Food Labs in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he helped in the development, application, and promotion of enzyme-modified cheese.

The Dairyland job required travel abroad, sometimes for as long as five weeks at a time. While Ginny was home raising four children, David visited Australia, Western Europe, Mexico, and Central and South America.

Wives had not been permitted to go on these trips, so the first thing David did upon starting his own company was to make sure wives could travel with their husbands while on business. Subsequently, Ginny traveled to England, Germany, and Switzerland.

The company founded by David, Dairy Specialties, Inc., of Ostrander, Ohio, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in business this April. The distributorship offers organic dried dairy proteins for use in infant formula and milk-based products such as protein shakes. David is president. Ginny is secretary of the company.

Rafael Jimenez-Flores (left) and David Brown, (right) speaking to the Dairy Council in 2017.

Owning their own business resulted in the couple’s move back to central Ohio, which reignited their passion for Ohio State. That passion began, David said, back in autumn 1958, the first time he had seen the Ohio State Marching Band come down the ramp at the beginning of a football game. But it continued, he said, through learning from faculty members such as Ira A. Gould Jr., Thorvald Kristoffersen, Walter Slatter, W. James Harper, and Bruce Tharp, and conducting undergraduate dairy research with Henry “Hank” Holzhauer and John G. Kapsalis.

The Browns have been generous to Ohio State over the years, but the gifts became more significant beginning in 2016 with the establishment of The David H. and Virginia Russ Brown Endowed Scholarship Fund (#640877). The fund, established in perpetuity, provides renewable scholarships to undergraduate or graduate students, with preference given to CFAES students majoring in the Department of Food Science and Technology. Three students have received the scholarship so far.

“We decided on the scholarship after talking with (Food Science and Technology Chair) Sheryl Barringer,” David said. “We wanted to help students because the university gave me a lot of scholarships when I was there.”

David and Ginny Brown.

The Browns have also made donations to CFAES dairy science facilities and the J.T. “Stubby” Parker Chair in Dairy Foods Fund (#605631). The fund, established in 1990 through a gift from Thomas L. Parker, supports the work of the dairy chair, which is currently held by Professor Rafael Jimenez-Flores.

“Thanks to the great generosity of Ginny and Dave, our dairy science and technology program now offers our food science and technology students the latest in pilot plant equipment: a continuous butter churn, just a scale model of what the industry uses; a brand new cream separator; an evaporator; and a spray dryer, all of which are very important in their education and research of dairy products,” Jimenez-Flores said. “Additionally, their donation has helped Ohio State attract brilliant scientists as postdoctoral fellows to work on groundbreaking research in dairy components and health benefits.”

In addition to financial support, David has sought opportunities to become involved with the college, such as serving on its Dairy Advisory Council and helping to interview prospective faculty members.

“It starts with a love for Ohio State. Why do we give to the college? The people who are on staff there are so phenomenal at what they do—some of the absolutely best people in the world.”

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