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In a resource limited environment, universities may increasingly need to conceive themselves as ‘brands’ and to mobilize capitalist marketing strategies to enhance institutional reputations. Between 1994 and July 2018, 24% of accredited United States public health schools were renamed for private donors. We suggest branding public health schools with private names carries ethical risks, including threats to stated school values, public health practice, and community accountability and trust. These interrelated harms implicitly redefine the ‘public’ in public health, promoting the perception that public health should ultimately serve and celebrate private profit. Public health schools offering branding in exchange for private donations should critically consider the unique harms of private branding, beyond those of private donations alone, when pursuing the mission of public health.