History (our story)

The mission of the Stephen & Laurel Brown Foundation—and its broad work of partnership and service to the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus—was first conceived through Steve’s relationship with his dad, Bart, who served faithfully for many years as an American Baptist pastor. From Steve’s earliest memories, his dad’s actions modeled how Christian faith can shape and inform all realms of life, and serve the needs of others. With a parsonage situated along a major highway in Manistique, Michigan, Bart routinely assisted weary travelers who needed food, shelter, and an encouraging word. Watching his dad, Steve learned that each person is loved by God, and is uniquely created in God’s image. It is out of this formative experience, and a spirit of gratitude for God’s work in his own life, that Steve first dreamed about an organization that might give back relationally, spiritually, and materially to the UW campus community.

The Stephen & Laurel Brown Foundation is a natural extension of this spirit of generosity, a way for Steve and Laurel to “pay it forward” and bless others—and give back to the University community they deeply love. Both Steve and Laurel are proud alumni and have many family members who have graduated from UW–Madison. For example, Laurel’s mom, Dottie, graduated from the University and worked as a scientist at the McArdle Laboratory for cancer research, eventually receiving one of the chemotherapies she helped develop 30 years prior.


The vision for Upper House—the Foundation’s unique multi-experiential space in the heart of campus—dates back at least 15 years to conversations Steve & Laurel had with University, community, and pastoral leaders. Throughout his many years in Madison, Steve has highly valued faith-based dialogue, and has lent his support to a number of important initiatives, including serving on the steering committee for the Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions, as well as funding a trilogy of courses for UW–Madison on early Christian literature, the Pauline Epistles, and the Gospels. By creating Upper House, the Stephen & Laurel Brown Foundation offers a place for Christian faith exploration and education. In service to students, faculty/staff, marketplace professionals and the Madison community, Upper House seeks to challenge the mind, inspire the heart, and drive positive action for the sake of the Gospel.