Leading Budget Expert, Alum Finds Creative Ways to 'Pay it Forward'

April 22, 2010

Doug Brook is the first to say the University of Michigan changed his life. "I am the Michigan story," he says. The University may have changed his life, but he credits the Ford School for having shaped his career. After completing a bachelor's in political science as an undergrad, Brook went on to earn a master's from the Institute of Public Administration, a predecessor of the Ford School, in 1967. Forty-three years later—after a distinguished career including a few presidential appointments—Brook attributes much of his success to the opportunities the Ford School gave him and he looks for creative ways to return the favor.

Last fall, Brook served as the school's Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence, teaching a class on public budgeting.

Ford School students jumped at the opportunity to take his course. Instead of focusing on the mechanical budget-building process, which he knows students can learn on the job, Brook aimed to give Ford School students an understanding of budget theory, the purpose and types of budgets, and the role of the executive branch and legislature in developing and implementing them. "You haven't made policy until you've made a budget," says Brook. "Up until that point, all you've talked about is policy preferences. When you make a budgetary decision, you make a policy decision."

Brook should know. He has spent a good portion of his career making budgetary—and thus policy—decisions as chief financial officer for a number of federal entities including the Army, Navy, and Department of Defense. As someone who oversees complex, multi-million dollar budgets, though, Brook knows that money isn't the only way to invest in something you believe in; time and talent are equally important.

Brook's engagement with the Ford School provides a vivid example. In addition to his financial contributions to the school, Brook has been recognized with the Neil Staebler Award for alumni service. He served on the Ford School's advisory committee for two terms in the 1990s. He has offered career guidance to countless Ford School students over the years. And he has provided MPP students with substantive paid internship experiences at his organizations.

Eight Ford School students have interned for Brook to date—four at the Center for Defense Management Research and four at the LTV Corporation where Brook served as vice president of government relations for nine years. Brook applauds their discipline, maturity, pleasant dispositions, and writing and analytic skills. He also cheerfully acknowledges the benefit his organizations received from these internships. "Each intern added value to the projects they were working on," he says.

Like many graduates, when Brook left the Ford School he concentrated on his professional career, losing touch with the school and university. He recalls being contacted at some point by the school's alumni relations staff and making a choice to reconnect because he wanted to "pay it forward," a phrase he uses when talking about his engagement as an alumnus. "Somebody did this for us. Somebody raised the money, built the school, and had the vision," Brook says. "You can't pay them back, but you can help make something better for the future."


Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2010 State & Hill here.