Ethan Brown ’94

Ethan Brown

Ethan Brown ’94, the founder, president and CEO of Beyond Meat, will deliver the keynote address at Connecticut College’s 103rd Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 23, 2021.

Equally celebrated as a visionary entrepreneur and environmentalist, Brown founded Beyond Meat in 2009 with the revolutionary concept that muscle could be synthesized from a variety of plant-based proteins, providing an animal-friendly and environmentally responsible alternative for traditional meat eaters. Prominent early investors in the company include famous names such as Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio. 

A recent member of the College’s Board of Trustees, Brown graduated from Connecticut College with a bachelor’s in history and government before receiving an MBA from Columbia University and a Master of Public Policy with a focus on the Environment from the University of Maryland. His professional career began in the clean energy field when he worked as an energy analyst for the National Governors’ Center for Best Practices. He then joined hydrogen fuel-cell company Ballard Power Systems, where he worked his way up from entry-level manager to a top position reporting directly to the CEO. In 2009 he left Ballard to start Beyond Meat. 

In 2019, Brown’s determination paid off when Beyond Meat experienced the best first-day initial public offering of any major American company in nearly two decades. The company reported close to $300 million in revenue in 2019 and is projecting revenues of $500 million in 2020. 

In the realm of environmentalism, Brown has long been a distinguished leader. He created and opened a center for fuel reformation and has held prominent positions in the renewable energy industry, including as Vice Chairman of the Board at The National Hydrogen Association and Secretary of the U.S. Fuel Cell Council. The Aspen institute named him a Henry Crown Fellow—a distinction reserved for young entrepreneurs that demonstrate leadership driven by a spirit of community. In 2018, he received the United Nation’s highest environmental recognition—the Champion of the Earth award. 

During the ceremony the College will confer on Brown an honorary degree—a doctor of humane letters honoris causa—an award that reflects not only his achievements as an entrepreneur dedicated to environmentalism but also his commitment to the values that animate the College’s mission of putting the liberal arts into action.