Three IU alumni receive IU’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award

BLOOMINGTON — Three Indiana University alumni received IU’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award on Thursday, Oct. 14, during homecoming weekend on the Bloomington campus. The award is the highest bestowed on an IU alumna or alumnus by the university.

IU President Pamela Whitten presented the awards to 2021 honorees Daniel E. Aron, Lawrence Brownlee, and Marie Collins Johns.

Recipients of the award are chosen for service and achievement in their fields, and for significant contributions to the community, state, nation, or university. With the addition of these recipients, IU has honored 352 alumni since the award’s inception in 1953.

Following are brief biographies for each award recipient:

Daniel E. Aron, BS’83

Born in Indianapolis, Daniel E. Aron is a graduate of the IU Kelley School of Business who went on to a long and accomplished career in finance. After earning his bachelor’s degree at IU, he moved to New York to join Salomon Brothers, where he was an equity sales trader in New York, Chicago, and Tokyo from 1983 until 1989. In 1989, he joined the investment-management firm of John Levin & Co (and successor companies) and served as partner and head trader. He retired after 30 years with the firm.

Aron married his wife, Maureen, in 1990 and the couple moved to Westport, Conn., where they raised three daughters, Alexa, Ashley, and Anna. He has continued to give back to his local community in a variety of capacities.

Outside of his family, Aron’s biggest passion is his alma mater, IU. In 2016, he was inducted into the Kelley School of Business Academy of Alumni Fellows, and in 2020, he was awarded the IU Bicentennial Medal. For three decades, he has mentored students at the Kelley School and served on numerous advisory boards for the school. He and his wife underwrote the Investment Center in Hodge Hall as well as the Kelley Diversity Merit Bicentennial Scholarship.

“I am just somebody who moved to New York, had a long and productive career, and developed a phenomenal network,” says Aron. “And if I can take what I’ve learned, and the network that I have, and help leverage that to help students at Indiana University, I’m going to do that. I will never forget where I came from. I will always be a Hoosier.”

Lawrence Brownlee, MM’01

A graduate of the IU Jacobs School of Music, Lawrence Brownlee is now a leading figure in opera, both as a singer on the world’s top stages, and as a voice for activism and diversity in the industry. Captivating audiences and critics around the globe, he has been hailed as “one of the most in-demand opera singers in the world today.” Brownlee is a regular guest performer at the world’s leading opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera (New York), La Scala (Milan), Royal Opera House–Covent Garden (London), Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna), and Opéra National de Paris.

Currently the artistic advisor for Opera Philadelphia, Brownlee is a passionate advocate for diversity initiatives. He is a lifetime member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a historically black fraternity, which he joined in 1999 while a student at IU. Founded on the IU Bloomington campus in 1911, the fraternity is committed to social action and empowerment. Along with fellow Jacobs School alumni and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers Quincy Roberts, BM’02, and Richard White, MM’99, DM’12, Brownlee established, in 2018, the Brownlee, Roberts, and White Brothers in Achievement Scholarship at the IU Jacobs School of Music. Aligning with IU’s commitment to diversity, special consideration for the scholarship is given to underrepresented populations.

“At Jacobs, students are exposed to world-class performances, have world-class resources, and get world-class instruction from world-class musicians,” Brownlee says. “It is important for me and my friends to give back as others have done for us. We all benefited from scholarships to further our educational pursuits, and we felt a responsibility to provide the same opportunity for others.”

Marie Collins Johns, BS’79, MPA’82

Marie Collins Johns, a two-time graduate of the IU O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, has been a leader in business, civic, and government service for more than 30 years. Currently CEO of PPC-Leftwich, a management consulting firm in Washington D.C., she was nominated in 2009 by President Obama to serve as deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, where she was responsible for the management of the nearly $1 billion agency and development of SBA programs and policies.

As a leader in the Washington, D.C., business community, Johns is recognized nationally as an expert in small-business and supplier-diversity issues. She serves on the boards of many business and educational institutions, is a member of the Greater Washington Business Hall of Fame, and she has been one of Washingtonian magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women.”

The recipient of more than 100 awards and three honorary degrees for her services to education, business, and her community, Johns’s path to success began at IU. “The education I received at the O’Neill School has served me well throughout my career,” she says. “Even though I ultimately planted myself in the business sector for the bulk of my career, I’ve had the great privilege of serving also in the public sector, and the O’Neill School prepared me for both types of roles.”

Johns has been married for over 50 years to Wendell L. Johns, BS’74, a graduate of the IU Kelley School of Business. Marie and Wendell reside in Washington D.C., along with their son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Lynn, and their grandchildren, Richard II and Lauren.

The IU Alumni Association is a global alumni organization that brings nearly 750,000 IU graduates together to support one another and Indiana University throughout their lives.