James T. Brady, former chairman of the University System of Maryland’s board of regents who resigned in 2018 in the wake of the controversy surrounding the death of University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair and earlier had served as secretary of the state’s Department of Business and Economic Development, died Friday at the Adler Center in Aldie, Virginia, of complications from a stroke.
The Frederick resident who earlier had lived on Charlcote Place in Guilford and in Timonium, was 81.
“The First lady and I were saddened to learn of the passing for former University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents chair James T. Brady,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a weekend statement.
“Jim served as the chair of our campaign in 2014 and was the chair of our transition team as well. Throughout his incredible life, he was deeply committed to making Maryland a better place to live, get a good education, and start a successful business,” the governor wrote. “Jim was a great leader in both the public and private sectors, a trusted advisor to governors of both parties, and a good friend. I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones.”
“Jim was an involved advocate throughout Baltimore and the state and was an amazing leader,” said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, who has been president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County since 1992. “He was a Renaissance man who was well-educated and interested in a broad liberal education. He always enjoyed talking about ideas and solving the problems of humankind.”
“We lost a good one,” said Towson University President Kim Schatzel. “He was chairman of the Board of Regents when I came to Towson as president. He had both business acumen and vision to see what the university system needed to do. He was a gentleman who reached out to colleagues and university presidents and was always very supportive.”
James Thomas Brady, son of James Brady, a banker, and his wife, Betty Brady, a community activist, was a native New Yorker who was raised in the Bronx.
He was a graduate of All Hallows High School, a Catholic boys high school, in the Bronx. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1962 in business administration from Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.
In 1962, he began a three-decade career at the accounting firm Arthur Andersen & Co. in New York, and was named a partner in 1975. He was managing partner of the firm’s Long Island, New York, office from 1978 to 1985, when he was promoted to managing partner of its Baltimore office, a position he held for a decade.
Mr. Brady was appointed Maryland’s secretary of what was then the Department of Economic and Employment Development, now Business and Economic Development, in 1995 by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, whose transition team he had headed.
In 1998, he broke with the governor, a Democrat, over a perceived failure to promote business and his opposition to the Intercounty Connector, and his frustration with the Democratic-led General Assembly.
“During his three years at the agency, Brady emphasized making Maryland more business-friendly at a time similar to this one, when the state was emerging from a severe recession. And he became familiar with both sides of the political aisle,” The Baltimore Sun reported in a 2010 profile.
He also worried about the state being too dependent on the federal government.
“It’s one of the greatest challenges we have in this state. ... We’re seeing it now,” he explained in the interview. “Politicians are saying, ‘We’re doing better than most other states in this recession.’ Well, yeah. But it’s not because of private-sector development. And to me, that’s where the real juice is.”
After he resigned from the Glendening administration, Mr. Brady left the Democratic Party and became a Republican, endorsing Republican candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who lost the 1998 gubernatorial election.
From 1998 to 2000, he oversaw the regional office of business consultants Ballantrae International. He subsequently headed the gubernatorial transition teams for Robert Ehrlich and Hogan.
He had sat on the boards of T. Rowe Price, McCormick & Co., Constellation Energy and NexCen Brands, and from 2006 to 2012 he was a member of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
In the mid-1990s, he was chair of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Board of Visitors.
Gov. Hogan appointed Mr. Brady to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents in 2016 where he led the Committee on Education Policy and Student Life before being appointed board chair in 2016, a position he held until his resigning two years later.
“When I think of Jim, the first thing I think of is the fact that he was a superb and engaging leader, who was a champion of diversity and inclusion,” the current chair, Linda Gooden, said in a telephone interview. “He backed me as a board member and always made time to listen. He was a caring leader who cared about the university system, faculty, students and alumni. He will certainly be missed.”
In a joint statement, Ms. Gooden and University of Maryland Chancellor Jay A. Perman described Mr. Brady as a “Marylander through-and-through. And in everything he dedicated himself to — a successful career in the private sector, years of government service [supporting both Democratic and Republican administrations], volunteering with community organizations — Jim Brady always gave his very best to the people and the state of Maryland.”
Mr. Brady resigned from the board of regents in 2018 after its controversial decision — which was later overturned — to keep University of Maryland football coach DJ Durkin — following McNair’s death after suffering heatstroke during a June 2018 practice.
“In recent days, I have become the public face of both the board and its decisions,” Mr. Brady said in a statement at the time of his November resignation. “In my estimation, my continued presence on the board will inhibit its ability to move Maryland’s higher education agenda forward. And I have no interest in serving as a distraction from that important work.”
Said Dr. Schatzel: “My vision of Jim Brady is that he always had dignity and he held his head up high and his back was straight.
“He always saw so many sides to different situations and he had the courage of leadership, but he did not want to be a distraction and his decision took real courage which was in the best interest of the system. He wanted the best for the students, faculty and alumni. Jim Brady was the real deal.”
During his tenure with the board, he brought accountability and responsibility and founded the USM Scorecard, which allowed at-a-glance data on strategic plan progress, and led the system that received strong ratings from all three major bond rating agencies.
Concerned about the rising cost of college tuition at Maryland, they never exceeded 2 percent during Mr. Brady’s time on the board. Other roles included leading the board through the launch of the USM’s $10 million Maryland Momentum Fund, which provides investment in early-stage companies affiliated with the University System, which to date has invested in 24 USM startups, with additional support from external co-investors.
“He was an extraordinarily intelligent man who could work with all kinds of people, and had one of the keenest minds of anyone I’ve ever known,” Dr. Hrabowski said. “He was sincere and cared deeply about our students on our campuses. People who saw Jim, came to admire him, and what defined him was his faith, family and people, and he’d say, “They are my spirit.’ He had the generosity of spirit and he gave back to others.”
Mr. Brady never lost his deep affection for New York’s sports teams, said his daughter, Linda E. Davidson, of Leesburg, Virginia. She also added that her father was a voracious reader of history, biographies and “liked nonfiction.” He was also an avid fan of 1950s doo-wop music.
He was a communicant of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church at 118 E. 2nd St. in Frederick, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday, with interment in Frederick’s historic Mount Olivet Cemetery.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Brady is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Francine G. Palermo, an artist; a son, James M. Brady of Arlington, Virginia; three sisters, Patricia Jeffrey of Massapequa, New York, Eileen Ingrim of Eureka, Missouri, and Katherine Brady of Hawaii; and two grandchildren.
Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.