Helen Gurley Brown May Never Have Used a Computer. But Her Trust is Into Coding

The trust of the famed Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown made its second large grant for education in New York City in the past year, this time to encourage girls and low-income youth to take up computer science and coding. 

The trust of Brown, who passed away in 2012, and her late husband, movie exec David Brown (he produced Jaws), recently announced it would give $7.5 million to the Natural History Museum for its educational program BridgeUp: STEM.

The program will recruit up to 35 female high school students with an interest in science and computers and help them learn technical skills. There’s also a mentoring aspect to it, with a fellows program that will connect female college students to younger participants, an afterschool program for middle school students, and a “den space” at the museum for program activities. 

The director of the program is Christina Wallace, a vice president of the Startup Institute, a school that teaches skills like web development and design to staff up tech startups. She'll be the founding director of BridgeUp: STEM, which will be funded by the Brown gift for five years.  

The program is actually an extension of sorts of an earlier program the Brown Trust funded, NYPL BridgeUp, an afterschool program that served at-risk youth in New York City. The Trust gave $15 million to that initiative, run through the New York Public Library, in September 2013. At the time of the grant, it was the largest funded anti-poverty program in the city.

This is the first major K-12 STEM grant the Brown Trust has made (legend has it, Helen Gurley Brown never used a computer in her life), but it has made gifts in education, the New York community, and technology. In 2012, however, Helen Gurley Brown made a $30 million grant to both Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford University’s School of Engineering to create a bi-coastal Institute for Media Innovation. The couple’s philanthropy has also given smaller grants to Smith College and a high school in the Bronx. 

The trust is overseen by Eve Burton, who is senior vice president of the Hearst Corporation, and other members of the company. Other than that, there is surprisingly little public information about the Trust, with communications coming right from the Hearst Corp., and little known about its assets or future giving plans.