Editor’s Note: Remembering Fred Braun

fred-braunIn November of last year, Fred Braun ’55 sent me an email about his friend “Al” Pesky ’56, who along with his wife, Wendy, founded a center for children with learning disabilities.

“It would make a good feature story showing how one Lafayette alumnus influenced the educational and health community, not just in Idaho, but nationally,” he wrote. A few days later, a thick white envelope containing information about the Lee Pesky Learning Center arrived at my office. I put it aside to read when I got a chance, but Braun, who I later learned made a small fortune buying, overhauling, and selling troubled companies, operated on a different time schedule.

“Did you receive??” he emailed the morning after the package arrived.

Wow, I thought. This guy is on a mission.

“Yes,” I replied. “Thank you for the story suggestion. I’ll reach out to Al directly.”

He didn’t respond, but when I contacted Pesky, Braun had already been in touch. “He told me to expect a call from you,” Pesky said.

When the story began coalescing, I emailed Braun to say I’d let him know when it was going to run so he could keep an eye out for it. “Stay tuned!” I wrote.

I never heard from him again, and in May, Braun died from pancreatic cancer. He was 82. In reading his obituary in the The Wall Street Journal, I learned he had studied economics when he came to Lafayette and joined the wrestling team where he won 29 consecutive matches. He later earned an M.B.A from Harvard Business School, which is where he met his wife, Marguerite, a psychology major at Wellesley College.

When he got tired of repairing companies, he set his sights on rehabilitating prisoners. He opened three manufacturing plants near the state prison in his home state of Kansas and staffed them with inmates. He later sold the companies and set up a foundation that invested in other employers of inmates around the country. He called this career “his mission in life,” it said in his obituary.

In our brief email exchanges and missed phone calls, Braun, who must have been seriously ill at the time, never once mentioned his own accomplishments or promoted his life work as a possible story. His only focus was making sure his friend Al received the recognition he believed he deserved in the Lafayette magazine.

The story on page 30 is for you, Fred. You were right that it’s a great one. I just wish you could have read it.

Kathleen Parrish P’16 and P’20