Making Connections

The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership improves city life along historical rail corridor

By Terri McIntosh

Getting fired can be the best thing that ever happens to you. Just ask Rob Brawner 06MBA, keynote speaker at Emory’s inaugural Atlanta-area Wise Heart Society reception at the Carter Center.

Rob Brawner 06MBA

After graduating from Princeton in 1996, Brawner began a successful corporate career, becoming his company’s youngest director at age 25 and supervising a staff of 150. Still, something was missing, he told the audience of 300 Emory alumni and friends this spring.

“Despite all that, my passion and my profession were not aligned. I wasn’t in the right place, and ultimately that led to my departure from the company. Or, to put it bluntly, I was fired,” he said. “This ended up being one of the best things that happened in my life. It gave me the opportunity to use the things I love about business to improve our city in ways I could not have previously imagined.”

Brawner went on to earn an MBA from Goizueta Business School, and today he serves as interim executive director and program director for the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership. He harnesses the energy of Atlanta’s citizens and philanthropic, business, nonprofit, and community organizations to advance one of the nation’s most comprehensive economic development projects. Growing each year since its inception in 1999, the Atlanta BeltLine is using an existing 22-mile historic rail corridor to connect intown neighborhoods through a network of multi-use trails, transit, new parks, public art, and affordable housing.

An Emory alumni leader, Brawner is a volunteer mentor for Goizueta students and a Wise Heart Society donor who supports the Business Fund for Excellence, one of Goizueta’s priorities. This unrestricted fund helps the business school recruit the most promising students, attract and retain world-class faculty, strengthen research centers, and implement new curricula and programs. 

“When I was a scholarship student at Goizueta Business School, I experienced the generosity of Emory’s alumni and friends in a personal, practical way. It made an impression,” Brawner said. “Today I am a member of the Wise Heart Society, doing what I can to support the school that continues to be such a valuable part of my life.”

The Wise Heart Society is Emory’s leadership annual giving society, which recognizes donors who give $1,000 and above ($500 and above for alumni graduating within the last 10 years). The event at the Carter Center also featured remarks by President James Wagner and current student Diogo Anyigbo 10C 15M 15PH. The evening’s emcee was Jim Bailey 67OX 69C, national chair of the Emory Annual Giving Board.

Wagner talked about the influence of the Wise Heart Society. “Your Wise Heart gifts are transforming people and programs in every school and division of the university, and they are helping to ensure the highest quality and value of an Emory education,” he said. “As members of the Wise Heart Society, you help us respond confidently to the pressures of our time, not merely to endure them, but to thrive and lead others through them. Thank you for your thoughtful investments, your enthusiasm, and your trust.”

Anyigbo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and behavioral biology from Emory College in 2010, is pursuing a joint MD/MPH degree from Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health. A member of Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Society, she is president of the medical school’s Pipeline Program, a health sciences mentoring program for Atlanta public high school students. A scholarship recipient, she has been able to study at Emory because of generous donor support.

“A valuable lesson I have learned in my time here is the importance of breaking out of the Emory bubble and connecting with the surrounding community,” she told the audience. “This has enriched my perspective and informed my learning, but most important as a future physician and public health professional, has helped me learn about and connect with the people I hope to care for.”

Brawner credited Goizueta Business School with his ability to find the right path. “Whether it was an entrepreneurship class where my business plan was for a nonprofit or a directed study where I consulted for a local homeless services organization, the school was consistently flexible and very supportive of the direction I wanted to go,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without Emory.”

logoRead more about the Wise Heart Society and the Emory Health Sciences Pipeline Program.

Email the editor

Michelle Valigursky