- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Asked about the recent state of his health, J. Carter Brown was unable to resist a classical allusion as he awaited guests at the Cathedral Choral Society benefit in his honor Saturday night.

"The River Styx is long. I've come out on the other side."

The National Gallery of Art's longtime (1969-1992) former director is something of a medical miracle man these days after an "extraordinary stem-cell transplant technique" recently saved him from the ravages of multiple myeloma.

"The treatment finds bad cells and goes after their ability to grow. Unlike chemotherapy, it doesn't touch the good ones," Mr. Brown reported, sounding justifiably pleased now that his life is back on track after a 13-month ordeal at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Although he is residing in nearby Cambridge, Mass., and "enjoying the intellectual bubble and squeak" of a metropolitan center containing more than 100 colleges and universities, Mr. Brown hasn't severed ties with Washington since the sale last year of his Georgetown house (for $4.3 million). He still returns at least once a month for various board meetings, including those for the National Geographic Society, the Kennedy Center and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (to which he has been "appointed by six presidents in a row" since 1971.

Not to forget the White House Historical Association, of course, as benefit chairwoman Bitsey Folger pointed out during the silent-auction portion of the evening at the Four Seasons Hotel.

His affiliations with important cultural organizations and philanthropies outside of the District remain lengthy, as well: the World Monument Fund, the American Academy in Rome, Brown University (named after ancestor Nicholas Brown). Then there's the pleasant task of "trying to figure out what to do with $1.5 billion" in the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which makes grants in the fields of medicine, the environment and the performing arts.

Maintaining the late tobacco heiress's three substantial homes as a public trust is another part of the mission. In addition to Rough Point in Newport (which opened two years ago), they include Shangri-La, her "Orientalist fantasy" in Hawaii (set to open in October) and Duke Farm in Somerville, N.J., a 2,700-acre estate with lakes, waterfalls and 14 greenhouses, each with a different ecology.

Music, however, is another story. As far as his once-major love is concerned, there's been too little time in recent years.

"I was once a terrific treble, but it's been downhill ever since," the former Groton chorister, Harvard Glee Club president and Cathedral Choral Society member told the crowd after receiving the Laura E. Phillips Angel of the Arts Award for a lifetime of dedication to art in all its forms.

It was a wonderfully apt tribute, as mistress of ceremonies Jennifer Cover Payne put it, "to a Renaissance man."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide