Growing up together in Catholic schools on Columbus’ West Side, Pat Wynn Brown and Steve Brown were taught two valuable lessons they have built their lives around—be kind and serve others.
The couple, married 46 years and longtime residents of Clintonville, have utilized the arts as one way to illustrate both their kindness and desire to help others. After 17 years in special education, Pat switched gears and became an award-winning humor writer and columnist. When she was diagnosed with melanoma in 1997, her first thought wasn’t about dying, but rather, what would happen to her hair?
Armed with the knowledge that women often tell hairdressers the nitty gritty details of their lives, Pat created a live performance show that mimicked being in a hair salon. Hair Theater played across the country and over a 15-year period raised more than $300,000 to provide wigs for women in need.
Steve, who retired from Ashland Chemical and also played a role in Hair Theater as “Captain Steve,” said the couple’s focus on philanthropy is intentional.
“Philanthropy requires compassion, empathy, and intent," Steve said. "It’s not just charity. It’s a state of mind, and you really need to want to do it.”
Both Pat and Steve are actively involved in Harmony Project, and it’s through that organization that Pat saw an opportunity to share her gifts with incarcerated women at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW). She started working with cosmetology students and then expanded her reach, forming Ladies of Success and the Arts and Letter Society, programs that highlight etiquette, problem solving, communication, the humanities, and more.
“It is so important that we know, no matter what our resource is—whether it’s a gift we have personally, time with someone else, or whether it’s money—that those are vital to keeping society going.”
— Pat Wynn Brown
Pat runs a tight ship, requiring respect, focus, and discipline; much like the nuns did in her childhood. And the participants at ORW love it. “They change, right before my eyes,” she said.
The Browns’ desire to help others has extended to their son, Wynn, and grandson, Lucas, as well. Wynn has raised funds for the Whetsone Library in his son’s name, because the place holds meaning for both of them.
“This is so important to us,” Pat said. “That our son and grandson carry on what we were taught and what we received. We are all philanthropists who give of ourselves in some way. Giving is a health and beauty aid!”
The couple established a planned gift at the Foundation in 2014 because they love their community, and want to ensure their support of the arts continues after they are gone.
“Our roots are here,” Steve said. “We love the diversity, the sense of community, the kindness we see in our neighborhood. Columbus is inclusive.”
Pat believes supporting the arts is a perfect legacy for them.
“The arts can help someone’s life turn around for the better, with a song, a play, a poem, a painting,” Pat explained. “I’ve seen it with the prisoners I’ve worked with, with the deaf children I’ve taught. It transforms people. I want that to continue after we’re gone.”