Frank Donaldson Brown (February 1, 1885 – October 2, 1965) was a financial executive and corporate director with both DuPont and General Motors Corporation. He is the originator of DuPont analysis, a widely used technique in finance.
He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1902 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He did graduate studies in engineering at Cornell University and joined DuPont in 1909 as an explosives salesman.
In 1912 he came to the attention of DuPont treasurer John J. Raskob, who brought him into the financial activity and encouraged him to use uniform accounting procedures and statistical formulas to evaluate the company's diverse business interests.
In 1918 he assisted in arranging DuPont's purchase of a substantial stake in General Motors from previous chairman William C. Durant, and later that year became treasurer of DuPont replacing Raskob. In 1921 he became treasurer of GM to help protect DuPont's investment in the struggling auto maker, and in 1924 he was appointed to the executive board of GM.
His introduction of standard financial ratios (return on investment and return on equity) and flexible budgeting allowed the company to effectively manage its decentralized empire. During this time he worked closely with legendary GM head Alfred P. Sloan. He served as vice chairman of the board from 1937 to 1946.
Brown retired as an active executive with GM in 1946, but remained on the board until 1959 when he and 3 other directors had to resign due to interlocking directorships with DuPont.
Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown
Brown served as the chair of Virginia Tech's first alumni fund and was the largest single contributor to Virginia Tech's Continuing Education Center Building Fund. In 1968, the Donaldson Brown Center for Continuing Education was constructed on the Virginia Tech main campus. In 1995, the building became the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center, but following the completion of the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center in 2006, the building was once again renamed the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown. Donaldson Brown Hall currently houses Virginia Tech's graduate school and is a residence hall for approximately 115 graduate and professional students.
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