Bobbie and Mark Greenfield: Donors’ Endowment Supports Education Faculty, K-12 Learning

The philanthropists are enthusiastic about groundbreaking research by GSE&IS's renowned education faculty.

Partnerships with philanthropists who care about K-12 education is key to the excellence of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, which is ranked one of the top in the nation alongside Harvard, Vanderbilt, and Stanford.

Bobbie and Mark Greenfield are Los Angeles philanthropists who several years ago very generously stepped forward to invest in an award given annually to a UCLA Education faculty member whose research is having an impact on real-world K-12 classrooms.  The Bobbie and Mark Greenfield Faculty Award for Applied Research in Learning and Achievement brings visibility to the important UCLA research work that is shaping K-12 education for tomorrow.

The Greenfields are successful business leaders in the Los Angeles community who believe in giving back.  Mark Greenfield is a partner in the international law firm of Blank Rome, heading their corporate practice for the West Coast, and a UCLA alumnus. Bobbie Greenfield is the owner and operator of the recently opened Beverly Hills Brownie Company. Located on North Beverly Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills, the shop has seen rapid success in the few months since its opening.

This success is indicative of the Greenfields, their work ethic, and their commitment to excellence. Bobbie Greenfield has taken what started as an Internet business and has grown it into a bricks-and-mortar reality in one of America’s most elegant shopping districts. With the support of her husband, as well as her family and friends, she was able to use her grandmother’s brownie recipe as the foundation of her business, and turn Beverly Hills Brownie Company into a profitable and uplifting enterprise.

“It’s one thing to have an idea and it’s another thing to be blessed with the opportunity to make your idea real,” says Greenfield. “I’m so grateful, there were so many angels along the way.”

Mark Greenfield, who earned his undergraduate degree in political science at UCLA, and his wife have chosen to support GSE&IS because of its focus on training teachers in inner city schools.

“We are deeply grateful to be involved with the Graduate School,” he says. “We have a decimated school system in Los Angeles as well as other school systems around the country. That UCLA is pulling an oar to improve K-12 education will improve… our citizenry and our future workforce. That’s extremely important for society, and we’re glad to be a small part of it.”

Bobbie Greenfield says that the couple feels a responsibility to share the mission of GSE&IS with their friends and colleagues, “because of the significance of what [the School is] doing in the urban setting.”

“We’ve had several events and salons at our home, so that we could introduce them to the great work that’s going on, but also talk to them, friend-to-friend, about the importance of the responsibility we feel is on all of our shoulders to support not just UCLA, but in particular, the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies,” she says.

It was at events like these that Bobbie Greenfield would delight her guests with her homemade brownies. She is a former corporate marketing consultant who ran her own firm. When the economic downturn slowed down her marketing business, she was able to combine her professional marketing know-how with her baking skills to build a new enterprise.

“I didn’t set out to start a brownie company,” Greenfield says. “I’ve always loved to bake as a hobby. When the wheels fell off the economy and a business that I had for 18 years just started to evaporate, I did what any self-respecting woman does – I retreated to my kitchen at night.

“During the day, I was still breathing life into my company, but it was tough. And I guess because my brain just ‘works’ marketing, one day out of nowhere the name, ‘Beverly Hills Brownie Company’ came to me. I asked Mark if we could trademark it, and he did that successfully, which was not a small undertaking. And I thought, ‘Now I know what to do.’ I had built brands for other people – I could do it for myself.”

The Beverly Hills Brownie Company existed online for nearly three years until this past summer, when the Greenfields opened their store in Beverly Hills to the great anticipation of their loyal internet customer base and the local Beverly Hills community. Bobbie Greenfield says that she strives to re-create as much as possible the homey atmosphere of her own kitchen in her new shop. In addition, she hires a number of UCLA students as sales staff.

“There’s a certain warmth here that was really important for me to have,” she says of the store’s atmosphere. “And it’s really important to me in the young people that are working for us. They have thousand-watt smiles. They’re almost zealots about the brownies, they love them so much. And it makes a difference.”

Likewise, the Greenfields have sought to provide support to faculty members in the Department of Education who have demonstrated that same high level of care in their efforts to raise the bar for K-12 education. This year, the Greenfield Faculty Award was bestowed upon Professor of Education Patricia Gándara, who also serves as co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA. Gándara was honored with the 2012 Greenfield Faculty Award in recognition of her research on dual language programs.  K-12 schools are struggling with the challenge of educating a growing number of English Language Learners and Professor Gándara’s work is nationally recognized.

The Greenfield Faculty Award was permanently established as an endowment in 2008, and was given that year to Dr. Megan Franke, chair and professor of the Department of Education. Other past recipients have been Dr. Noreen Webb, 2009; Dr. William Sandoval, 2010; and Dr. Tyrone Howard, 2011.

The Greenfields have two daughters, one of whom is a graduate of UCLA; her parents say that she is considering earning her advanced degree in education. Bobbie Greenfield says that as a parent, the value of higher education resonates deeply with her as a goal not only for her own children, but for the community at large.

“I realized very early on that the most important thing we can do for our kids is give them a good education,” she says. “It’s such a competitive world. Mark and I feel very strongly [about] supporting the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA, which is training the best and brightest to go out in the urban setting to better the quality of education – we just feel great about that.”