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A desire to be, do, give more

Joe Kramer's estate bequest ensures future support for student fellowships
Posted October 13, 2017
Joe Kramer (pictured left with his business partner and husband, Mark Brown) has made a generous bequest that will ensure future SAIS students can benefit from the great experiences he enjoyed as a student in Bologna. Joe Kramer (pictured left with his business partner and husband, Mark Brown) has made a generous bequest that will ensure future SAIS students can benefit from the great experiences he enjoyed as a student in Bologna.

For a quarter century, Silver Lake Guest House welcomed travelers from all paths of life. From members of Congress to members of the B-52s, from D.C. weekend refugees to overseas vacationers, the stately inn in Rehoboth Beach, Del., has hosted conversations on just about every theme imaginable. It may come, then, as no surprise to find a Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies alumnus behind it all. Joe Kramer, MA (SAIS '71), Dipl (SAIS '70), and his partner of 40 years (and now husband) Mark T. Brown, MS (Bus '77), had successful careers in Washington for the better part of two decades before acting on a fantasy that many have, yet few do anything about. They traded it all to run a bed and breakfast. Soon after they purchased it, Silver Lake Guest House was thriving.

Kramer and Brown said success came from their ability to help visitors "find what they are looking for." Everyone who checked in to the inn from 1990 to 2015 had something they hoped to experience. Some tucked into the solace of their bedrooms while others sought out the continual chatter of the common spaces or the owners' recommendations for local cuisine.

As he made his life of reading people's dreams, Kramer's thoughts turned to his own estate plan. Contemplating retirement, he wanted to make sure the assets he and Brown had built over the years would ultimately benefit others. To that end, he has earmarked his share of the couple's estate to establish a significant endowment providing financial aid for SAIS Europe. Kramer's decision is a testament to the profound effect the Bologna experience had on him.

Kramer was a young man from rural Iowa when he arrived in Bologna in 1969. To adventure around Europe during the roiling late 1960s was transfixing. Antiwar protests on both sides of the Atlantic bred in Kramer an antiestablishmen cynicism coupled with a desire to contribute to a higher purpose.

"SAIS was the most important two years in my formal educational life," Kramer said. "What I consider its mission is extremely important, especially in current times. Let's all get along."

He said the interaction with fellow students and professors from different cultures was especially powerful.

"SAIS, while imperfect, I believe is one of the premier international institutions that tries to bring us together, striving to create a better world for all," said Kramer, whose bequest responds to SAIS Europe's deep need for financial support for fellowships.

Kramer may have retired from the hospitality industry, but his far-reaching gift will ensure that more talented young people attend SAIS and find, with a bit of luck and hard work, what they are looking for.

This article first appeared in the Johns Hopkins SAIS Magazine, Summer 2017 edition, on pages 70-71.

For more information about making a planned gift to support Johns Hopkins SAIS, please contact Kim Morton, associate dean of development.