Trustee Michael L. Browne
When infantry platoon leader Michael L. Browne came home from his tour of duty with the Marine Corps in Vietnam in 1969, he arrived with a Bronze Star for heroism against an armed enemy, a Combat Action Ribbon, a Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, a Vietnam Service Medal and a Vietnam Campaign Medal.
He also came home with something that would serve him well in the decades ahead: a sense that nothing else he would ever experience could possibly be as tough as what he had just survived.
“That experience shaped me,” said Browne, a commonwealth trustee appointed by the state Senate in 1997. “Since then, I’ve always been able to put things in perspective. Sure, I’ve faced some challenging moments in my life, when things didn’t go right. But nothing’s like combat. If things don’t go right in combat, you die.”
Upon returning to the States, Browne, a Texan who had bucked convention by going to Princeton for his bachelor’s degree, stayed on the East Coast to attend the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, where he got his juris doctorate in 1974.
“After living through Vietnam,” Browne said with a laugh, “law school was like a vacation.”
Browne’s law degree opened up a new period of distinguished public service. He went to Washington for two years as deputy undersecretary and special assistant to U.S. Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman Jr. during the Ford administration (he was awarded the Secretary of Transportation’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in 1977).
Then he returned to Pennsylvania to serve as the state insurance commissioner under Gov. Richard Thornburg from 1980 to 1983. During that period Browne also served as chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Health-Care Cost Containment, a member of the Governor’s Economic Development Committee of the Cabinet and a member of the Executive Board of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In 1983, Browne joined the Philadelphia law firm Reed Smith LLP as a partner. He became managing partner of Reed Smith’s Delaware Valley regional offices in 1993, then head of the firm’s international insurance practice group in 2001.
Browne had his first encounter with the Temple community during his tenure as Reed Smith’s managing partner.
“We hired a substantial number of our very best people from Temple’s School of Law,” Browne said. “I was always very impressed by Temple graduates.”
But it was something special about the Temple grads that got the attention of the battle-tested Browne. It was their toughness and dedication.
“A lot of the Temple people we hired went to school at night and worked during the day,” Browne said. “In my experience, Temple graduates are hardworking, mature people who know what they want to be.”
“Temple’s School of Law is one of the best in the country,” said Browne, who is now chief executive officer and president of Harleysville Mutual and CEO of the Harleysville Group Inc. in Harleysville, Pa. “But what really makes Temple unique are its students. They’re willing to work for their education; they appreciate the opportunities that they have. That’s what drives my interest in serving as commonwealth trustee of the University: my admiration for these deserving young people.”
- By Hillel J. Hoffmann