Brown School Recognizes 2019 Distinguished Alumni


Hear 2019 Distinguished Alumni reflect on their career paths.

On April 3, 2019, four Brown School graduates were honored as Distinguished Alumni for their outstanding contributions to the fields of social work or public health. Through tireless commitment, innovation and strong leadership, these alumni have applied their Brown School education to improve society’s most urgent issues.

Distinguished Alumni 2019 include:

Michael Kaufman, MSW ’77, Managing Partner, KBT Partners

After receiving his MSW from the Brown School with an emphasis on Social Policy and Administration, Kaufman joined his father in launching SDK Healthcare Information Systems, which focused on providing computer-based information systems to hospitals.

He led SDK for 20 years, growing the company to a position of leadership in healthcare information systems. In 2005, he founded KBT Partners, a company with a successful record of mentoring CEOs and nurturing a multitude of early-stage companies.

Kaufman joined the Brown School National Council in 2005. In 2015, he established the Michael B. Kaufman Professor of Practice in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Brown School, which is held by Professor of Practice Heather Cameron. Through his commitment to social entrepreneurship, he has placed the Brown School at the forefront of innovation and transdisciplinary work.

“I mentor CEOs and I help them get to a place where they have effective organizations, and a lot of it comes down to the people,” he said. “The Brown School is really my primary focus of how people work together and how you can make people be more effective and be able to put their ideas into real action. There’s a big intersection between organizational behavior and what you learn at the Brown School.”

Bruce Sowatsky, MSW ’83, Executive Director, Community & Children’s Resource Board

For nearly 20 years, Bruce Sowatsky has served as the executive director of the Community & Children’s Resource Board of St. Charles County. He oversaw the first System of Care federal grant awarded in Missouri, a grant designed to keep at-risk youth from entering the juvenile justice system or long-term residential care by aligning providers, funding and services around the family. The success of this effort and the need to sustain the program led to the passage of a local tax to expand mental health services for youth.

Since 2004, Sowatsky has helped nine other counties pass similar measures, totaling over $93 million annually to support mental health services. St. Charles County has been ranked either first or second in child well-being by Missouri Kids Count for the past 14 years. This expansion of services has contributed to reductions in infant mortality, teenage pregnancy, juvenile law violations, runaways and the number of high school dropouts. In addition, Sowatsky initiated a county-wide baby supply drive, which has raised nearly $1 million in diaper and formula donations since 2007.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in St. Charles County, and we’re seeing it in the other communities as well. I think the model is working,” he said. “As a result of the things that we’ve helped pass there’s all sorts of opportunities for social workers,” he said. “And so that’s what I’m really passionate about: how do we recruit more young people into the field?”

Sarah Hunter, MSW ’08, Senior Program Manager, CSH—The Source for Housing Solutions

Hunter is a national expert working to end youth homelessness. Over the past two years, Hunter has traveled across the country to help city and state government officials, community organizers, homeless service providers, and young adults design robust plans and innovative programs to move youth and young adults from homelessness to independence and stability.

Prior to joining CSH, Hunter served in the Obama administration for seven years; first in the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and then in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She led the development of national policies to improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in foster care and those experiencing homelessness.

Hunter came to the Brown School after interviewing homeless people on the streets of St. Louis while working for a Washington University professor. “That job totally changed my life,” she said. “My time at the Brown School led me to understand and empower young people and listen and learn and grow in ways I hadn’t really thought about before,” she said. “Most young people are incredibly resilient and when we put the right supports around them, they do amazing things.”

Sharon Johnson, MSW ’92, PhD ’99, MPE ’02, Dean and Professor, School of Social Work, University of Missouri-St. Louis

Johnson has demonstrated a near 20-year commitment to UMSL’S diverse student body, most of whom remain in the region after graduation and provide social services to the community. Before becoming dean, she was the director of the Bachelor of Social Work program and director of the school’s Center for Family Research and Policy. She maintains an active research agenda focused on violence, HIV-risk, trauma, post- traumatic stress disorder, and substance use among minorities, women, and youth. She was named UMSL’s senior investigator of the year in 2015.

Johnson said her experiences growing up in Arkansas inspired her to enter the field of social work. “Seeing the mistreatment of people who needed services sparked a passion in me,” she said. “What I really love about social work is how diverse it is in terms of what you can do and who you can impact.”

Her federally funded training grants prepare students for practice in integrated behavioral health settings and substance abuse screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment. She has conducted community needs assessments and social service program evaluations primarily aimed at strengthening agencies’ abilities to provide quality services to at-risk youth.

“I want to help other people give back and reach their full potential,” Johnson said.