James "Jim" P. Brandau, a 2003 Penn State graduate, and his wife, Micaela, have created the Brandau Family Trustee Scholarship in the Smeal College of Business with a gift of $100,000, one of the largest gifts ever given to the college by a young alumnus.
“Traditionally, friends and alumni make a gift to the University later in life or as part of their estate,” Jim said. “Micaela and I really like the structure of an endowed scholarship because it goes on in perpetuity. We felt that the earlier we made our own gift, the more impact we could make in our lifetime. We’d be able to meet more scholarship recipients and help an additional generation of students in need than if we waited until we were in our 50s or 60s to make this gift.”
Jim earned a bachelor of science in finance from the Smeal College of Business, graduating with honors, and holds a master of business administration from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While attending Penn State, he was a member of Phi Chi Theta business fraternity and participated in THON.
The last decade has seen tremendous change for Penn State students pursuing a degree in finance. The Rogers Family Trading Room and the Nittany Lion Fund, a student-managed investment fund, have positioned students for the most coveted positions on Wall Street and placed Penn State at the forefront of recruiting efforts for top investment firms.
“The Nittany Lion Fund did not exist while I was a student, but I have had the chance to interact with student managers as a professional,” Jim said. “They are the cream of the crop. These are the types of students that Micaela and I are hoping to help with our gift.”
Since graduating from Penn State, Jim has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the University. He is currently president of the Smeal Alumni Society Board. He has mentored students through his involvement in the Smeal Mentoring Program, Wall Street Boot Camp, Alumni Mentoring Network, and LionLink. Jim is also a lifetime member of the Penn State Alumni Association.
Jim knew when he graduated that he wanted to give back and help students. “It’s been fulfilling to be involved and mentor students the same way others mentored me when I was in school. To be able to do even more with the Brandau Family Trustee Scholarship is so rewarding,” he said.
He is currently senior vice president, Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., providing investment advice to high net worth individuals, businesses, endowments and foundations. He also has spent time with JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management.
Jim comes from a true Penn State family. His father, James, and uncle, Timothy, are both graduates of the University. The Brandau family has been coming to Penn State for football games for as long as Jim can remember -- a tradition that now includes his two sons, Max and Charlie. “My dad and uncle helped inspire my lifelong love of Penn State because of those weekends. It was a chance to spend time together,” he said.
Even at an early age, Jim’s parents stressed the importance of education. “My grandfather’s goal for his children was to position them in a better spot. He was a working-class man and saw education as the key to upward mobility.” he said. “My dad has that same approach. He taught me that if I went to college and studied hard, it would open doors for me.
“It’s important to us that this scholarship is a tribute to our family, particularly my mom and dad. That’s why we chose to name the scholarship the Brandau Family Trustee Scholarship.”
Jim said he hopes to inspire other young alumni. “I hope they will see what Micaela and I are doing and be encouraged to make a gift too. I think that would be a great result for our students with financial need.”
Supporters like the Brandaus are invaluable partners in fulfilling the University’s land-grant mission of education, research and service. Private gifts from alumni, friends, and corporate partners enrich the experiences of students both in and out of the classroom, expand the research and teaching capacity of our faculty, enhance the University's ability to recruit and retain top students and faculty, and help to ensure that students from every economic background have access to a Penn State education. The University's colleges and campuses are now enlisting the support of alumni and friends to advance a range of unit-specific initiatives.