United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is proud to announce Christy Brown, J.D. as the recipient of the 2023 Linda McFerrin African American Nonprofit Leadership Award. Brown has been the president of Alverno College since July 2023. Prior to Alverno, Brown served as the chief executive officer at Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast.
The Linda McFerrin African American Nonprofit Leadership Award was established by United Way’s 2019-20 Board Chair Cory Nettles, founder and managing director of Generation Growth Capital, Inc. and his wife Michelle Nettles, chief people and culture officer at ManpowerGroup and 2023 Campaign Co-Chair. The award is in recognition of Linda McFerrin, retired vice president of resource development, and her 42 years of leadership and service to United Way.
The recipient of this annual award is chosen by United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society and a $5,000 grant is made to the organization they represent. The winner is announced each year on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
"Christy Brown has demonstrated nonprofit leadership for decades in our community," said Michelle Nettles. "She has a nuanced understanding of Milwaukee’s strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities, especially related to the inequities confronting women and people of color. She brings this nuanced understanding to her role as a successful leader. She is a strong embodiment of the values of Linda McFerrin."
Looking back on her time at Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, Christy remembered how her leadership skills had evolved. “I learned how to be a good follower,” she said. “I changed from being the expert to being the convener. I learned to listen and guide. Listening is what a leader has to do.”
She was proud of her accomplishments at Girl Scouts, including that her daughter – who was a Girl Scout during Christy’s tenure there – also learned valuable leadership skills because of the organization.
“I was very proud that we were able to call attention to the program to all girls,” said Brown. “We wanted to let everyone know there is no set standard for who a Girl Scout is. I was proud that we made sure that we were putting out inclusive messages to people in our community.”
Currently, as the president of Alverno College, Christy’s job entails collaborating with the college’s leadership team, faculty and staff, working to fullfill the mission and embrace innovation forward; developing and supporting equity and diversity efforts; and expanding Alverno’s national and international reputation.
She’s someone to take a cue from, but her advice is to stay true to yourself and figure out what is authentic to you. In her words, her job is to, “Help mold the people who are going to change the future.”
Christy’s acceptance of this award was also a testament to who a leader really is.
“To be recognized as an outstanding leader in this way is very humbling,” she said. “I like to think of this as a collective recognition, honoring everyone who is leading a local nonprofit, especially leaders of color. It can be hard work at times, but it can also be very rewarding. I’m very excited and honored to receive this special award.”
Christy Brown will be honored at the United Way Annual Meeting on Thursday, February 29 at Foley & Lardner LLP.
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