Jerry Brown’s Class of ’55
honors him by creating fully endowed scholarship
The Class of 1955 did more than celebrate at the Golden Diploma 50-year reunion and Mass last March 19 and 20. Members also honored one of their own, creating a fully-endowed scholarship named for Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr. — former California secretary of state and governor and current mayor of Oakland.
“In so many ways, Jerry epitomizes what Jesuit education is all about,” said Baxter Rice ’55, who helped to organize the event. “He lives out what Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe, SJ, called us all to do. He is a true man for others.”
While Brown was a student at SI, his father served as Attorney General for California and, in 1959, voters elected Pat Brown governor. Jerry attended SCU and joined the Society of Jesus for three years. Following his time at Los Gatos, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in classics from UC Berkeley in 1961 and his law degree from Yale in 1964.
Brown received his start in politics in 1969 when voters elected him to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees. In 1970, he was elected California’s Secretary of State, and four years later he followed in his father’s footsteps to become California governor, earning reelection in 1978.
He visited SI on Oct. 6, 1978, to register students eligible to vote for the upcoming election. He met with Fr. Richard McCurdy, SJ (his former English teacher), and was interviewed by three students for the school newspaper. At recess, he addressed the student body and spoke about the advantages of living in a democratic society.
During Brown’s tenure as governor, California produced a quarter of the country’s new jobs. Brown established the nation’s first agricultural labor relations law and instituted the California Conservation Corp. He helped to preserve the fragile coastline by creating the California Coastal Protection Act and worked to institute the country’s first building and appliance energy efficiency standards, making the state the leader in solar and alternative energy. Brown also takes pride in the number of women and minorities he appointed to government positions.
After leaving office, he studied in Japan and traveled to India, where he worked with Mother Teresa. He practiced law in Los Angeles before becoming chairman of the California Democratic Party in 1989. Two years later, he resigned from that position, citing his “disgust with the growing influence of money in politics.”
He ran for president in 1992 (assisted by several SI and Los Gatos classmates), making a strong showing thanks, in part, to his stands on campaign and election reform. He was the only Democratic candidate to pose a serious threat to Bill Clinton. In 1998, Oakland residents elected him as their city’s mayor, and he won reelection in 2002 with the goal of revitalizing the city’s downtown “in a spirit of elegant diversity.”
“Governor Brown’s commitment to public service is a reflection of Jesuit education,” added Rice, who hopes that the young men and women who benefit from the scholarship will live lives of public service in the spirit of Brown.
For his part, Brown is hoping to continue serving the public, this time as state Attorney General, as he plans to run for that post in the next election.