If you have ever experienced a debilitating hangover from too much Jägermeister, then chances are you can thank a man named Sidney Frank. Born in 1919, Frank's life resembled something torn from the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel: from the humble beginnings of a poor farm boy, to a short stint in the Ivy League, followed by a wildly successful career in the liquor industry that resulted in Frank landing on Forbes' list of top U.S. billionaires. Frank began his legendary career in the spirits industry during the mid-1940s, when he married the daughter of Lewis Rosenstiel, the man who owned the largest distiller and importer of spirits in America. In 1973, Frank started his own company, Sidney Frank Importing Company, where he turned an obscure German herbal elixir called Jägermeister into one of the U.S. market's greatest success stories. Frank's next big success was the French vodka Grey Goose, which he introduced to the market in 1997 and later sold to Bacardi for more than $2 billion.
Before that, Frank's time at Brown University was as brief as it was impactful. During the late 1930s, with no scholarships available at Brown, Frank saved money in high school by working and selling "junk." This earned him the $1,000 that was needed to attend Brown for one year. At Brown, Frank was introduced to the world of the wealthy. For one, it was the first time that he slept on real bed sheets instead of the sewn-together flour sacks his family used back home. As a freshman, his roommate was the son of David Sarnoff, president of RCA. Brown was also the place where Frank met his future wife, another "rich girl." In the meantime, Frank's lack of money forced him to drop out of Brown after only one year—but at least he'd learned firsthand about the life to which he aspired.
Few could have guessed that Frank would one day become the biggest donor in Brown University's history. In 2004, Frank made headlines when he gifted $100 million to Brown (the largest donation in the school's history) to establish an endowed scholarship fund that provides financial assistance for the neediest Brown undergraduates. University leaders showed their appreciation in multiple ways, including honoring this unlikeliest of patrons by naming the school’s imposing Life Sciences building after Frank. Likewise, in 2005, the cigar-chomping liquor baron was back on campus, this time to collect that long-awaited degree: an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Summing up Frank's legacy, the honorary degree explained, "Your success in the face of hardship, your consistent largesse and forward-looking ideals, make you not only an embodiment of the American dream but also a philanthropic role model. Your generosity to Brown will ameliorate for future students the fiscal hardships you suffered as a young freshman."