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Howard Bragman, Flint Native, Philanthropist and ‘Coming Out Guru’ to the Stars, Dies at 66

Bragman donated $1 million to establish the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund

Sarah Bricker Hunt

Friends and family near and far are mourning the death of PR giant and Flint native Howard Bragman, who died from leukemia Saturday, Feb. 11. Bragman was 66. 

Bragman’s enviable client list included big names celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Terrence Howard, but he was perhaps best known in LGBTQ+ circles for his expertise in a unique niche — helping his queer clients navigate the tricky process of coming out while famous. 

Bragman helped several high profile clients on this front, including WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, NFL player Michael Sam, country singer Chely Wright and the actors Meredith Baxter and Chaz Bono. 

Bragman was also known for his philanthropic pursuits, including a $1 million endowment to establish the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund at the University of Michigan in 2021, which included funds to support the campus LGBTQ+ organization, the Spectrum Center. 

“I don’t care how liberal the school is. I don’t care how accepting and loving your parents are. I don’t care how ‘woke’ the times are. Coming out is the most personal of journeys, and it’s a challenging journey,” Bragman told Pride Source at the time. “It’s so important for students to know they are not alone and that the Spectrum Center is there for them.”

“It’s so important for students to know they are not alone and that the Spectrum Center is there for them,” he continued. “I want to assure that other people get that same access that I had: life-changing, life-saving access.”

Bragman moved out of Michigan after graduating from U-M in 1978 and held prominent public relations positions in Chicago and Los Angeles and went on to open his La Brea Media firm there. But Bragman never forgot the acceptance he first found in Ann Arbor.

“It’s important to understand that the Spectrum Center has endured [and] that’s huge,” he said. “It was founded only two years after Stonewall, which we look at as the birth of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. So, the center is not a flash in the pan, but something venerable that’s been on campus for a long time and is going to be on campus as a permanent fixture, like the pillars outside Angell Hall.”

The Spectrum Center posted to Facebook about the news. “With heavy hearts, we share news that Howard Bragman (AB ‘78)—long-time friend and supporter of the Spectrum Center—passed away on Saturday evening, February 11,” the center posted.

“I’m deeply saddened over Howard’s passing,” said Jesse Beal, director of the Spectrum Center on the Facebook post. “He was a giant and the fiercest of advocates, dedicating himself to making it possible for LGBTQIA2S+ folks to live as they truly are. Our work and university are transformed—and the world is better today—because Howard was in it. His electric spirit, generosity, and impact will continue to live on in all of us.”

“In the brief time that I knew Howard, I was struck by his enduring dedication and passion for transforming the world into a kinder, more welcoming place for our members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community,” said Dr. Martino Hartman, vice president for Student Life on the post. “We look forward to recognizing and celebrating Howard’s continued legacy.”

Howard’s family is seeking donations to the Howard Brahman Coming Out Fund in lieu of flowers. Learn more at spectrumcenter.umich.edu

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