Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

A force of nature: How one alumna is expanding environmental career paths for students

Through a generous gift to IBES, Hope Richards Brothers ’44 will continue to impact the lives of future generations.

Hope Richards Brothers' 1944 yearbook photo
Hope Richards Brothers' 1944 yearbook photo 

Hope Richards Brothers ’44, P’70 — who served as the University’s Director of Senior Placement for more than 20 years — recently endowed a generous gift to the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES) in honor of her own mother.

Hope was inspired by IBES’ founding in 2014, as Brown’s long-standing commitment to addressing environmental challenges deeply resonated with her family traditions and her own lifelong interest in environmental preservation. Supporting IBES was Hope’s way of honoring the multitude of benefits Brown had bestowed on her family and acknowledging the crucial role that her mother had played in Hope’s early environmental education.

In the 1950s, Hope worked as a secretary at Brown’s Senior Placement Office, then as the office’s director until the early 1970s. She later held similar positions at Williams College and Vanderbilt University’s law school. 

Connecting deeply with generations of students

During her career, Hope changed the lives of thousands of Brown seniors by helping them find meaningful work after graduation. She worked with corporate executives who came to Brown to recruit students for career positions, and she especially loved working with the students and seeing them take flight.

And now, with a $1 million gift to IBES — the Ellen P. Richards Fund, in her mother’s name — Hope’s philanthropy will continue to change the lives of thousands of future Brunonians. With Hope’s deep interest in both engineering and the environment, the generous gift will support IBES staff to develop a diverse set of student internships and other experiential learning opportunities, leveraging Brown’s newly launched Center for Career Exploration. As such, the Ellen P. Richards Fund will advance IBES’ Strategic Plan’s goal to expand professional development opportunities for Brown students interested in interdisciplinary learning and its applications in the professional arena. 

“Hope’s gift is uniquely enabling one of IBES’ most ambitious goals: to support students in their quests for careers with direct impact on the climate and sustainability challenges of our time,” says Kim Cobb, Lawrence and Barbara Margolis Director of IBES, and Professor of Environment and Society & Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. “Her gift will touch the lives of so many, for years to come. We are humbled and inspired by her generosity and her trust.” 

A deeply rooted love for Brown and the environment 

Brown has had a major presence in Hope’s family. Not only did she graduate from the University (then, Pembroke College) in 1944, her father attended Brown in the early 1900s, and her two brothers, her son Richard, and her nephew are all Brown alumni. Hope’s mother, who loved the University and her family’s connections to Brown, visited the campus each spring to listen to music and sit under the elm trees at the center of campus. 

Hope’s love for botany, gardening, and the natural world was grounded in her parents’ backgrounds and passions. According to her family, Hope’s mother was proud of her English heritage and her green thumb. Her father, a Quaker, was a direct descendant of John Bartram, the first Royal chartered botanist in colonial-era America.

Throughout her whole life, Hope’s interest in and connections to the University never wavered. “Hope was completely committed to advancing environmental research and policy,” says Dov Sax, Professor of Environment and Society & Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology. Through the years, she stayed in touch with numerous faculty and staff, including Amanda Lynch, IBES’ inaugural director and Professor of Environment and Society and Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences. “I valued the opportunity to spend time with her and include her in our journey of building IBES,” says Lynch.

A Look Back

The relationship of Hope Richards Brothers’ family with Brown spans the generations. See what campus life was like during Hope’s time at Pembroke College.