Lisa John, MSW ’91, PhD ’08, and Rajeev John, MSW ’90

Loyalty Society members
​21 years loyal

“I knew you’d come back!” said Rajeev John, MSW ’90, to Lisa, the young woman whom he had met the previous semester when she visited the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis as a prospective student. After losing touch over the summer of 1990, the two—both pursuing master’s degrees in social work at Brown— crossed paths again, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. For Rajeev John and Lisa John, MSW ’91, PhD ’08, the Brown School is truly personal. It is where their life together, including marriage and family, and their professional careers began to take shape.

As Brown School students, the pair studied social work because they wanted to solve problems and make a difference in the world. As Brown School alumni, their goals remain the same. The couple continues to give back to the school where it all began so that their support might write a new beginning for someone else. Twenty-one years and counting, the Johns continue to be loyal to the Brown School and to WashU.

How did you meet?

Lisa John: I knew that I wanted to transition straight into graduate school after earning my bachelor’s degree in social work. In my senior year of college, I came to WashU for a visit and was picked up at the airport by a very friendly and helpful group of first-year graduate students. Among them was Rajeev, and I was assigned to one of his friends. We hung out together that whole weekend but didn’t stay in touch after I left. I arrived at WashU in the fall, walked into Brown Hall, and there he was again. And from that moment, we pretty much never looked back.

What inspired you to make your first gift to the Brown School?

Rajeev John: After we graduated, Lisa and I both found jobs and decided to stay in St. Louis. The Brown School is a very inspiring place, especially the relationships we built with professors and fellow students. Brown offers a lot of opportunities for alumni to stay connected, whether it’s through participating in continuing education programs or working with graduate students in practicum. So, when it became a financial possibility for us, it felt very natural to give back to the Brown School. Lisa and I figured that even if our contribution was small, it would help someone else have the same kind of experience that we did. That is the reason we began to give.

Lisa: Both of us left graduate school with heavy student loan debt, despite having received scholarships. As soon as we paid off our student loans, we felt like we could start paying it forward and giving a little bit back to the school. There are so many students who want to study at top schools but cannot afford to do so without scholarships. We wanted to help make that happen for other people who are excited to change the world, which is why students come to Brown. Over the years, we’ve been able to increase our giving and continue to support all of the wonderful things that are happening at the Brown School. 

Why do you think it is important for alumni to give to Washington University year after year?

Rajeev: There’s a reason people come to Brown to study social work, and it’s because they want to do good in the world. And I believe that is what you need to remember—that your gift helps someone else attend Brown. It’s that simple.

Lisa: I think there are also a lot of graduates who receive a great education from Brown but don’t necessarily end up with a career in social work, which leaves them feeling somewhat disconnected from the school. On a personal note, I now work in public health project management and have not been professionally active in social work for some time. But I believe giving back to Brown is a way to make sure the school’s good work continues, even though I’m not necessarily in the thick of it. And in terms of finding inspiration to give, I encourage alumni to consider all of the amazing things the school is doing, from research to public policy. There’s so much depth and incredible thinking that goes on at the Brown School. Even a small gift plants a seed. And although you may not know what that seed will grow into, your contribution is a solid investment in making the world a better place.

Please share a bit about your life since graduating from the Brown School.

Lisa: I work as a project and program manager in the public health group of Battelle. My position is a direct result of my Brown School education. My master’s program research assistantship with [Professor Emeritus] Robert Pierce led to an entry-level position at Battelle, and I’ve now been with the company for more than 25 years.

Rajeev: Although I entered the Brown School with an interest in pursuing gerontology, I ended up working first in medical social work and then administration and behavioral health consulting in the primary health-care sector. Currently, I am responsible for the trauma-informed care program at Affinia Healthcare, and I also see patients in the clinics as a behavioral health consultant. I am now in my 30th year at Affinia Healthcare, which was formerly known as Grace Hill Health Centers.

Are you involved with WashU in other ways? If so, how?

Rajeev: I’ve occasionally mentored Brown School students in practicum, and I served on the Brown School Alumni Board for several years.

Lisa: Rajeev and I have always been very Brown School-focused, so most of our post-graduate involvement has been with Brown. I’ve come back to participate in career fairs, helping Brown School students practice networking and job interview skills. We also really enjoy attending the Brown School’s Distinguished Alumni Awards each year. It’s inspiring to listen to faculty and alumni discuss the work they do around the world.

Looking back on your time at WashU, what are some of your favorite memories?

Rajeev: I was an international student [from India], and everyone at the school was so nurturing and caring from the very beginning. To this day, I still talk about how I never felt any cultural shock at WashU because the school was so supportive of international students. My professors and classmates at the Brown School were especially generous. When I arrived on campus, I didn’t even know how to type, and fellow students volunteered to help me type my papers.

Lisa: In 2003, I returned to the Brown School to begin a doctoral program in social work. There were only a few other students in the program who also worked full time, yet I had a fabulous experience and found great support. Statistics have never been my strongest suit, but my dissertation required complicated figures. My colleagues took time out of their days to sit and help me work through the numbers. Our teachers were fabulous, but the students really took it upon themselves to build relationships and support one another.

What is your favorite spot on campus or in St. Louis?

Rajeev: Brown 100! And actually, Brown Hall itself, especially the lounge. There was also a huge canopy tree between Brown Hall and the Sam Fox School buildings that I loved.

Lisa: Rajeev used to work in the Brown School Library, so that was another favorite spot. We also spent a lot of time hanging out and relaxing on the steps of Brookings Hall. As students, we lived in University City and enjoyed walking in Forest Park, as well.