Brandon Brooks had just returned to his residence hall room after his first day of classes as a Northwestern freshman in 2000 when his cousin called and told him that his mother, who lived in Memphis, had died unexpectedly.


“I was obviously very distraught,” Brooks says. “A lot of things started rushing through my head.”

Brandon_Brooks.jpgWhile resident assistants made sure Brooks (left) was OK, Student Affairs administrators used emergency funds to buy a plane ticket so Brooks could return to Memphis for his mother’s funeral.

“At the time, I didn’t even think about where the ticket was coming from,” says Brooks ’04, who had never flown before. “There is no way I could have afforded it. It was such a nice thing that Northwestern did for me, in such a difficult time.”

Greg Crouch ’85 wants to make sure that no students ever have to worry about being unable to manage unexpected financial crises while they’re at Northwestern.

That’s why Crouch established the Margo Brown Northwestern Student Emergency Fund, which will provide low-income students with emergency financial assistance. Support from the fund will help cover the unpredictable costs of attending college, such as buying unanticipated textbooks, replacing a worn-out winter coat or flying home to visit an ill family member.

Like Brooks, Crouch faced an emotional and financial crisis during his first year at Northwestern. By spring quarter of that year, Crouch could no longer afford his basic living expenses despite receiving financial aid and having a work-study job. He feared he would have to drop out.

However, at a professor’s recommendation, Crouch met with Margo Clark Brown ’59, ’80 MA/MS, Northwestern’s longtime assistant dean of students and assistant to the vice president for student affairs.

Margo_and_Greg_Dec_AlumniNews.jpgBrown (left, with Crouch) secured funds that allowed Crouch to remain at Northwestern, and she served as his mentor as he worked toward his journalism degree. Crouch dedicated the new student emergency fund to Brown, who retired in 2001, as a symbol of his gratitude. The fund’s success depends on donations from other alumni, he says.

“Without Margo, I would have had to leave Northwestern,” says Crouch, who worked in journalism for nearly 30 years before joining a Los Angeles-based investment firm as a vice president responsible for investigative research.

Brooks says the existence of a fund dedicated to helping students facing unexpected financial challenges will provide peace of mind to students throughout the University.

“I know that I would not have been able to graduate without the support I got outside the classroom from my first day at Northwestern,” says Brooks, who majored in political science and sociology and now works in human resources at The Chicago Community Trust, a nonprofit.

“I have a lot of gratitude to a lot of people at Northwestern,” Brooks says. “They really helped me come into my own and realize my potential.”

To make a gift in support of the Margo Brown Northwestern Student Emergency Fund, visit or call 847-467-5426.

To learn more about the relationship between Greg Crouch and Margo Brown, and Crouch’s decision to establish the fund, please read “Helping students in need” in the winter 2014 edition of Northwestern magazine.

For more stories from this month’s Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University’s online community.