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Howard Brokaw, 1916-2013

Fern Davies

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Howard P. Brokaw died on 20 December 2013 at age 97. A passionate birder, Brokaw was a long-time member of the American Ornithologists' Union and was awarded the AOU Marion Jenkinson

award in 2006.




As noted at the time, Brokaw contributed to ornithology and bird conservation virtually throughout his (then) 90 years of life. A passionate birder and inveterate traveler, he retired in the 1970s from a distinguished career in business to devote more time to the not-for-profit sector. He has served as Chairman of the boards of trustees of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (1981-1985) and the American Bird Conservancy (1994-2002), as Founding Trustee of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, as Treasurer of the International Council for Bird Preservation, and as President of the Delmarva Ornithological Society. In addition, he served on the governing boards of the National Audubon Society (two seven-year terms), World Wildlife Fund, Delaware Museum of Natural History, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (27 years), RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, Asa Wright Nature Center, Brandywine Conservancy, and the Mid-Atlantic Law Center. In 1978, Brokaw was Project Director and Editor for the Council of Environmental Quality's book Wildlife in America .

In 1982, Brokaw was elected an Investing Trustee of the American Ornithologists' Union. At that time, the endowment assets of the AOU stood at $350,000 and were invested mainly in fixed-income instruments typical of many conservative institutions. Brokaw argued persuasively that the AOU should strive to grow its investments more aggressively and that it should distribute assets to AOU operations according to conservative spending policies typical of the best nonprofit foundations. Upon Brokaw's strong recommendation, and ­beginning just prior to the famous bull market of the 1980s, the AOU converted its endowment into a diversified portfolio consisting entirely of stocks-a strategy that continues to this day. Brokaw's reasoning is phrased in his typical, direct style: "Look, diversified stock portfolios simply outperform all other forms of investment instruments when measured in total return (dividends plus capital gains) over the long pull." Thanks to Brokaw, the AOU also instituted a fiscally responsible spending policy, limiting annual disbursements from the endowment to a fixed and conservative percentage of the running average of endowment value over the preceding five years. As a result of Brokaw's influence on the financial affairs of the AOU (and aided by several far-sighted gifts and bequests to the AOU during his 25-year tenure as an investing trustee), the AOU endowment today exceeds $6,500.000. For his lasting contribution to the AOU's long-term financial well-being and fiscal responsibility, and with congratulations on his 90th birthday, the AOU was pleased to award Howard P. Brokaw the Marion Jenkinson AOU Service Award for 2006.



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