RBSP Program History

More than ten years ago, Anthony M. Pilaro, chairman of the CAP Charitable Foundation created the Ron Brown Scholar Program, the only scholarship program of its kind in existence today. As the first class of Ron Brown Scholars was about to be selected, Mr. Pilaro said, "This would be no ordinary program. It would be a community, a family of gifted intellectuals whose size and breadth would be without precedent. The Scholars, in turn, would provide an invaluable base of support for each other, allowing them to bring about social changes that would otherwise be unobtainable." The Program's staff were to become their mentors, brothers, fathers, confidants, counselors, and friends. The journey that began more than 10 years ago has been an exhilarating and rewarding experience for all of us.

The Ron Brown Scholar Program (a public 501(c)3 charity) annually awards ten to twenty $40,000 college scholarships to extraordinary African-American high school seniors. No restrictions are placed on the students' choices of school or discipline. Since 1997, the program has awarded 253 scholarships, with Scholars studying at colleges and universities across the United States. Scholars' interests range from medicine to public policy, from the creative arts to business.

Competition for the yearly slots is intense. The number of applications has grown to more than 10,000 a year. Applications are reviewed at the Program's headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia, by staff and a cadre of expert volunteers. After surviving numerous rounds of screenings, finalists are invited to Washington, D.C., for a series of interviews with the Ron Brown Scholar Selection Committee.

What distinguishes the Ron Brown Scholar Program from other scholarship programs are not only the selection criteria - a dedication to community service, a demonstration of leadership, proven academic achievement, and financial need - but also the degree of interconnectedness it fosters between the Scholars.

The Scholars are afforded many opportunities, including alumni mentorships and internships with institutions ranging from the National Institutes of Health to Merrill Lynch.

Most importantly, the Program offers a sense of pride and belonging to a group of exceptional individuals dedicated to improving the quality of life of the African-American community. One unique way of keeping the group connected is our triennial leadership conference, hosted by the CAP Charitable Foundation for all Ron Brown Scholars, at which guests of national and international renown challenge the Scholars to fulfill their individual and group potential. Two conferences held in Aspen placed an emphasis on leadership and career direction. In 2005, the conference took place in the Berkshires and focused on the arts, entertainment, and the media. The 2008 conference held in Charlottesville, Virginia, focused on local service and global change.

In 2001, as the first group of Ron Brown Scholars graduated from college, the Ron Brown Scholar Alumni Association (RBSAA) was formed. The Ron Brown Scholar Program and the RBSAA are integrally related. It is our expectation that this family of Scholars become a force that positively changes America. Supportive, interactive, and unique, the Ron Brown Scholar Program is beginning to make an impact disproportionate to the number of Scholars. It is a body of staggering intellect that is growing by up to 20 each year.

We change lives,
We change minds,
We change the world,
One person at a time,
Through the Ron Brown Scholar Program