Business and the Arts

Ann Marie and Greg Brink's personal partnership inspires their investment in nonprofit management

From the Fall 2015 edition of Vanderbilt Business

There’s a popular misconception that artists don’t understand finance and businesspeople don’t appreciate the arts.

Don’t tell Ann Marie and Greg Brink that.

CreativeBrinkGreg Brink, EMBA’03, is a senior risk manager at Fannie Mae and has spent his career working with commercial mortgages. His wife, Ann Marie, is a professional musician who is the associate principal violist for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

They met at a patrons’ event for the orchestra in Dallas. “We joke that he went from supporting the arts to being a true supporter of the arts,” Ann Marie says.

Actually, they both support business and the arts, and will continue to do so now and in the years to come. The Brinks recently made a bequest to Owen that will fund a scholarship from their estate, and, they hope, help nonprofit executives receive priceless Vanderbilt educations.

“Most nonprofit leaders we have encountered are drawn to their organizations by a passion for the mission,” Greg says. “We want to see those leaders equipped with a high-quality business education. Owen’s approach to leadership and collaboration seems an ideal fit.”

The best fit

Greg found Owen the ideal fit for himself in the early 2000s. After earning a finance degree from East Tennessee State University, he worked in finance and real estate. Twelve years into his career, he wanted to pursue opportunities that could help him advance and open alternative professional paths. “After researching several day programs, I determined that Vanderbilt’s Executive MBA was the best fit and better return on investment for me,” Greg says.

“Owen focuses on collaboration, and that’s an important part of leadership. One of the greatest things I gained at Vanderbilt was a tremendous network of friends in a variety of industries with a variety of skills,” he says. “The ability to tap this network for feedback when facing challenges and opportunities in my career has been a valuable resource.”

Ann Marie sees that network first-hand.

“The ability to tap this network for feedback when facing challenges and opportunities in my career has been a valuable resource.”—Greg Brink, EMBA’03

“I’m impressed with the long-lasting friendships Greg developed at Owen. These are people he often communicates with and travels with. His time at Owen had a great impact on him, both professionally and personally,” she says.

Passion for music

Ann Marie’s educational path differed from Greg’s, but has had an impact on both of them.

“It was only through scholarships that Ann Marie was able to receive the quality education she did,” Greg says.

Greg and Ann Marie BrinksThe talented young viola player was a freshman in high school when she earned a scholarship to a summer musical academy. “Then she earned scholarships to study at a performing arts high school, and then to the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Juilliard School in New York,” Greg said. Study at those private institutions, two of the country’s most prestigious, would have been out of reach without scholarships. “These opportunities truly changed the course of her life,” he says.

It’s not surprising that the Brinks believe in philanthropy. Greg says their parents set an example of giving that they’ve come to understand and embrace over the years.

“My parents were active in church, school and community, and they helped to find funding for programs they were passionate about,” Greg shares. “Ann Marie and I believe that philanthropy allows us an opportunity to invest in our community and to positively shape it for the future.”

Speak the same language

Helping nonprofit executives earn MBAs makes good sense, Greg says. Most nonprofits work hand-in-hand with business people on their boards, as volunteers or as corporate sponsors. Additionally, some nonprofit organizations are larger than some small businesses and many of the same issues and opportunities businesspeople face are part of running a nonprofit. Greg recalls serving on a Nashville Habitat for Humanity board and working with Christine McCarthy, EMBA’92, then president and CEO of the nonprofit. “Chris did great things for Habitat—and Nashville—with her Owen education,” he says, admiring how she successfully tied the worlds of business and nonprofit goals together.

“Some nonprofit folks may have the ability and desire to attend Owen, but not have the means,” Greg says. “We hope the scholarship will make it possible for them to participate in the same academically rigorous programming, gain the same business, leadership and collaboration skills, and learn business vocabulary so they can speak the same language as their corporate partners.”

Investing in talented young musicians is also on the couple’s agenda. They’ve created bequests that will fund scholarships at Ann Marie’s alma maters as well.

“Ann Marie and I see the scholarships as an investment that will provide a return to the community,” he says. “The best way we can thank and honor our parents and those who funded Ann Marie’s education is to pay it forward by continuing that tradition.” ■


Photo: Erin Meltzer