Brown: A Timeline

Brown: A Timeline

1600–1759

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    "...unto me in my distresse, called the place PROVIDENCE..."

  • First Baptist Church in America

    After a year of leading worship with a small group of followers in Providence, Roger Williams converted his small congregation into the First Baptist Church in America. Although Roger Williams left the church soon after, the congregation...

  • Chad Brown Arrives in Rhode Island

    The Reverend Chad Brown was the founding father of the Brown family in America. After emigrating from England to the Massachusetts Colony, he soon made his way to Providence. Here, he assumed the leadership of the First Baptist Church in...

  • Beginnings of Baptist Education in America

    Established in 1756, Hopewell Academy in New Jersey was the first educational institution sponsored by the Baptists in the American colonies. The secondary school educated a number of men who would be instrumental to...

1760–1769

  • Baptists Decide to Found a College in New England

    In late 1762, a group of Baptist leaders met in Philadelphia, among them Morgan Edwards, who made a motion for the establishment of a Baptist college in New England. Rhode Island, one of the few colonies without a college, also housed at...

  • College Charter Granted

    The charter was approved by the Rhode Island legislature in the Spring of 1764. The new “Rhode Island College” was the third college in New England and only the seventh in America. In keeping with the spirit of religious freedom brought to...

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    “Whereas Institutions for liberal Education are highly beneficial to Society, by forming the rising Generation to Virtue Knowledge & useful Literature & thus preserving in the Community a Succession of Men duly qualify’d

    ...
  • First Meeting of the Corporation, Newport

    At the first meeting of the Corporation that would run the new college, members were sworn in and the business of fundraising rose to the fore. Among the organization’s members were Nicholas Brown, one of four Brown brothers and father of...

  • First President: James Manning

    Baptist James Manning was instrumental in the founding of the College in Rhode Island and a fitting choice to be its first leader. He was the first (and initially only) professor and oversaw many of the College’s early accomplishments,...

  • The First Student

    The College’s first student was its only student. For the first year, 14-year-old William Rogers studied alone with James Manning in the parsonage of the Baptist Church in Warren. After graduating from the College in 1769, he went on to...

  • First Commencement Held in Warren

    At the first commencement, held at the Baptist Church in Warren, seven students were awarded degrees. Initiating a tradition of commencement debates, students presented arguments on both sides of the statement: “The Americans, in their...

  • Observing the Transit of Venus

    As the debate raged about the best permanent location for the College, a proof of interest and knowledge of science in Providence was about to take place. Future college Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy Benjamin West used a telescope...

1770–1779

  • “John and Josie, Nick and Mosie”

    The Brown family and in particular the four sons of James Brown (grandson of Chad Brown, who established the family in America), were associated with Brown University from its earliest days, when it was founded as Rhode Island College....

  • A Permanent Home in Providence

    After years of competition among the communities of Rhode Island and strong advocacy by both the Brown family and city leaders, the decision was finally made to make the College’s permanent home in Providence. With a number of factors in...

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    “The situation of the College is remarkably airy, healthful and pleasant, being the summit of a hill pretty easy of ascent, and commanding a prospect of the town of Providence below, of the Narragansett Bay, and the islands, and

    ...
  • Commencement Cancelled

    Deeply affected by the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the students of the Class of 1775 decided to cancel the public commencement ceremony, recognizing, “the Distresses of our oppressed Country, which now most unjustly feels the baneful...

  • College Closed Due to War

    When British troops seized Newport and Aquidneck Island, the College was garrisoned by American troops. With no other option, President Manning published a notice in the Providence Gazette, closing the College. The school wouldn’t...

1780–1789

  • The College Reopens After War

    During the six years that the College was closed, the campus was requisitioned as a barracks for American troops and later used as a military hospital for the French soldiers of General de Rochambeau. Many students left to join the war...

  • First Bell

    The first university bell rang from inside the new College Edifice in 1788. Within just four years, it would be replaced by a larger bell of “about 300 pounds,” hung inside the newly completed cupola. A student was given free tuition and...

1790–1799

  • Visit by President George Washington

    While the second day of the President’s visit was devoted to speeches and addresses, it was the evening of his arrival that was, perhaps, most memorable. After sailing from Newport, he landed in Providence to a greeting of “discharge of...

  • Controlling the Celebration

    For many years, Brown’s commencement was a public celebration that drew observers from around the state. As historian Janet Phillips describes it, “Although much of it was conducted in Latin or Greek and was over the audience’s heads, it...

  • Second President: Jonathan Maxcy

    Jonathan Maxcy, Class of 1787, was appointed president of the College in 1792 after the death of his mentor James Manning. At only 24 years of age, he is still the youngest person to have served in the position. During his tenure, he...

1800–1809

  • Enrollment Passes 100 Students

    The number of students enrolled in the College grew steadily in the late 1700s, reaching 107, as listed in the first printed Catalogue of the Officers and Students, in 1800. The names of the students and their home states were...

  • Third President: Asa Messer

    Asa Messer, Class of 1790, served in a variety of functions at the College including tutor, librarian, and professor of both “learned languages” and “natural philosophy” before being named first president pro tempore and, finally, president...

1810–1819

  • Early Medical Department Established

    A short-lived program in medical instruction was organized in 1811. Three professors were appointed: Solomon Drowne, Class of 1773, professor of materia medica (pharmacology) and botany; William Ingalls, professor of anatomy and...

  • Philophysian Society Formed

    The Philophysian Society, formed with the purpose of “trying experiments and acquiring knowledge in Chemistry, Botany and Mineralogy and other branches in the Natural Science,” held bi-monthly meetings, which featured scientific experiments...

1820–1829

  • Second College Building

    Built as dormitory space to house the growing student body, Brown’s second building was paid for by Nicholas Brown, who asked that it be named after his sister, Hope. At the same meeting at which Hope College was received and named, the...

  • Fourth President: Francis Wayland

    Son of a Baptist minister and a graduate of Union College, Francis Wayland, as president of Brown, would prove to be both a successful fundraiser and an educational reformer. As one of his first orders of business, he dealt decisively with...

  • Medical Instruction Suspended

    In a letter to Anatomy and Surgery Professor Usher Parsons, President Wayland announced his intention to end the short-lived medical course. Wayland’s desire to improve discipline at the College drove his insistence that instructors live and...

  • First Student Publication

    Launched in the summer of 1829, the Brunonian was Brown’s first student publication. Before it finally folded in 1918, the publication had evolved from literary magazine to chronicler of campus life to critique and finally,...

1830–1839

  • First Latin American Graduate

    Geronimo Urmeneta was the first Latin American to graduate from Brown. Born in Santiago, he returned to Chile in 1850 to become Secretary of Finance.

  • The Greeks Arrive

    As fraternities began to populate American campuses in the 1830s, Brown was no exception. Alpha Delta Phi established a chapter in 1836, followed by Delta Phi in 1838, and Psi Upsilon in 1840, with many more to follow, despite disapproval...

1840–1849

  • Engineering Program Established

    Established in 1847, Brown’s Engineering program was the first in the Ivy League and the third civilian engineering program in the country.

1850–1859

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    “The various courses should be so arranged that, in so far as it is practicable...

  • Fifth President: Barnas Sears

    The presidency of Barnas Sears, Class of 1825, was a successful one, but markedly different than that of his respected predecessor, Francis Wayland. By tightening entrance and degree requirements, Sears tactfully phased out the aspects of...

1860–1869

  • Brown Becomes Land Grant University

    In 1863, Brown became Rhode Island’s first land grant university when it received 120,000 acres in Kansas from the federal government under the Morrill Act. In exchange for the money generated by the sale of the land, Brown was to educate...

  • “A Hundred Times the Bells of Brown”

    Occurring in the midst of the Civil War, Brown’s centennial celebration was subdued, but still “interesting and impressive” according to historian Walter Bronson. Spectators enjoyed a review of the University’s history by President Sears, a...

  • Sixth President: Alexis Caswell

    Alexis Caswell, Class of 1822, had been a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy for many years and was 69 years old when he came out of retirement to assume the presidency. While not an innovator, Caswell was effective and Brown...

1870–1879

  • Seventh President: Ezekiel Gilman Robinson

    A president with, reportedly, “more force than tact,” Ezekiel Gilman Robinson, Class of 1838, was nevertheless an effective leader. Robinson oversaw a number of building restorations, as well as the construction of Robinson, Slater, and...

1880–1889

  • Public Health Pioneer Begins Teaching at Brown

    After receiving his undergraduate degree from Brown in 1876 and a medical degree from New York University, Charles Chapin returned to his hometown of Providence where he taught physiology at Brown and served as Superintendant of Health in...

  • First Advanced Degrees Awarded

    Although graduate courses were offered beginning in the 1870s, there were no advanced degrees. In an 1881 report, President Robinson noted that “Individual graduates…are every year proposing to remain and continue their studies in one...

  • Eighth President: Elisha Benjamin Andrews

    The decade that Elisha Benjamin Andrews, Class of 1870, served as president was a time of great growth and accomplishment for the University. In addition to championing academic freedom (including in his own dealings with the Corporation),...

1890–1899

  • First Women Students Begin Study

    After the Corporation voted to allow women to sit for exams, President Andrews recruited six women to begin study at Brown in the fall of 1891. They received similar, but separate, instruction from Brown professors in Greek, math, French,...

  • First Female Ph.D. Recipient

    In 1897, Brown conferred its first doctoral degree on a woman. Martha Tarbell earned the Ph.D. in German studies for her dissertation on the history and criticism of the German ballad.

  • William Herbert Perry Faunce

    President Faunce, Class of 1880, served for 30 years, longer than any president before or since. Even accounting for the length of his term, his accomplishments were many. The physical growth of the campus included a new President’s House,...

1900–1909

  • Alumnae Association Formed

    In 1900, the Class of 1899 first organized an association of the women graduates of Brown. The organization was initially named the Andrews Association, in honor of Brown President Elisha Andrews, who worked to help gain women admittance to...

  • Sock and Buskin Theater Company Founded

    Unique among college companies for its faculty-staff collaboration, Sock and Buskin was formed in 1901 by English Professor Tom Crosby, Class of 1894. The name derived from the Greek dramatic genres: Tragedy (represented by the buskin...

  • RISD Classes Open to Brown Students

    Brown’s close neighbor, the co-educational Rhode Island School of Design, opened in 1877. The school entered into cooperative arrangement with Brown in 1902, initially opening three courses to Brown students.

  • Birth of the Brown Bear

    “Here over the arch at the central point of student life at Brown [Rockefeller Hall trophy room], I put the head of a real Brown bear, labeled beyond recognition....

  • First African American Woman Graduates

    A graduate of Providence’s Classical High School, Ethel Robinson was the first black female graduate of Brown. She went on to teach English at Howard University and was the founder of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first black sorority.

  • Sayles Gym Dedicated

    In 1907, the new Sayles Gymnasium (now Smith-Buonanno Hall) opened for the use of female students. The building’s facilities included a track, a bowling alley, and a “resting room.” Among wider efforts to create a separate women’s culture at...

1910-1919

  • Enrollment Passes 1,000

    In the fall of 1915, there were 1,053 students enrolled at Brown, passing the 1,000 mark for the first time. Of these, 246 were women and 807 were men.

1920–1929

  • The Brown Jug Debuts

    Brown’s first humor magazine, the Brown Jug, was published from 1920 until 1933. Editor S. J. Perelman, Class of 1925, went on to be a noted humorist, penning scripts for the likes of the Marx Brothers and writing for the New...

  • Pembroke Record Founded

    Pembroke College’s student newspaper was published from 1922 to 1970. Known initially as The Record, “Pembroke” was added in 1931 after the change in name of the Women’s College.

  • Brown Band Founded

    Although there were informal bands that played at campus occasions prior to 1924, it was Irving Harris, Class of 1928, who organized what would become the Brown Band. The resourceful Harris borrowed some drums stored on campus by...

  • Enrollment Passes 2,000

    In the fall of 1925, just a decade after passing 1,000 students, Brown began the year with more than 2,000 students for the first time. Of these, 604 were women and 1,465 were men.

  • Women’s College Renamed

    In 1928, the Women’s College was renamed Pembroke College in Brown University. The chosen name made sense, given that the college was informally called Pembroke in reference to the name of its main building. However, some objected to the...

  • Legendary Professor Does Not Give Lecture

    Although the note on the University Hall bulletin board promised a lecture by one J. S. Carberry, the presentation did not take place. Josiah Stinkney Carberry, the immediately legendary “Professor of Psychoceramics” (cracked pots), would go...

  • Tenth President: Clarence Barbour

    Clarence Barbour, Class of 1888, began his presidency just two weeks after the stock market crash that would usher in the Great Depression. With any expansion plans on hold, Barbour focused instead on the task of connecting with Brown’s far-...

1930–1939

  • First Asian American Graduate

    Born in California of Japanese parents, John F. Aiso faced prejudice in his schooling due to widespread anti-Japanese sentiment, including being asked to resign as the district winner of a national oratorical contest on the Constitution. He...

  • Breakthrough in Studying Brain Activity

    In 1932, Dr. Herbert H. Jasper, of Brown’s psychology department, was the first researcher in the nation to make electroencephalograph (EEG) recordings of the activity of the intact human brain. In 1935, he published the first paper in the...

  • First African American Receives Doctorate

    A graduate of Morehouse College, Samuel M. Nabrit was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Brown, completing the degree in just three years. He would later serve as the president of Texas Southern University and was Brown’s first...

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    “It is always Old Brown and it is always New Brown...”

  • Eleventh President: Henry Wriston

    Benefitting from a change to the Brown Charter that allowed for a non-Baptist to assume the presidency, Henry Merritt Wriston was the first non-Baptist, but also the first president (since Manning, of necessity) who was not a Brown alumnus....

1940–1949

  • Brown in World War II

    As the United States was drawn into war again, Brown re-initiated training of Army and Navy men on the campus. The University undertook year-round operations and accelerated programs to provide the educated personnel needed for the war...

  • First American Indian Graduate

    Albert L. Anthony, from Wayne, New Jersey, was the first Native American student to graduate from Brown. A member of the Class of 1944, he received a Bachelor of Science in Engineering. After serving as a lieutenant in the Navy in World War...

  • Veterans College Established

    After World War II, veterans eligible for college studies under the G.I. Bill flooded America’s universities. Brown was no exception. Beginning as the Veterans Extension Division, the program admitted 486 of 1400 applicants. Speaking at...

  • History of Mathematics Department Founded

    Founded by Otto Neugebauer, professor of mathematics, Brown’s History of Mathematics Department was the first in the country. From its founding in 1947 until it was disbanded in 2005, the department’s program focused on the history and...

  • Diplomas First Awarded on the College Green

    After nearly 200 years of conducting commencement ceremonies in the First Baptist Church, the size of the graduating class finally forced another approach. With 1,596 seats needed for seniors and their parents, a larger space was needed....

1950–1959

  • Twelfth President: Barnaby Keeney

    A decorated soldier in World War II, Barnaby Keeney came to Brown as an assistant professor of medieval history in 1946. Advancing rapidly, he was chosen as president just nine years later. His tenure was marked by rapid growth in graduate...

  • Haffenreffer Museum Acquired

    Inspired by the American Indian artifacts he found on his Bristol property, Rudolf F. Haffenreffer II began to acquire items from further afield. After his death in 1954, his family donated his museum and 500-acre estate to Brown. In 2008,...

  • Brown NAACP Chapter Founded

    In 1955, the Brown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded. The activities of the co-ed group included voting drives, leafleting, fundraising, and, in 1962, the picketing of a local...

  • Computer Science Arrives at Brown

    Initially part of the Applied Mathematics division, the study of Computer Science began at Brown in 1956. That same year, an (then cutting-edge) IBM card-programmed calculator (CPC), which could be fed 150 punch cards a minute, was installed...

  • Historic Preservation of College Hill

    In 1959, the Providence City Plan Commission and Providence Preservation Society published a report, College Hill: A Demonstration Study of Historic Area Renewal, which served as a local and national model for preservation...

1960–1969

  • Return of Medical Education

    In 1963, Brown initiated a six-year program leading to a master of medical science degree. It had been 136 years since Brown’s short-lived foray into medical education in the 1820s. This time, the program would grow, with clinical training...

  • Thirteenth President: Ray Heffner

    A scholar of Elizabethan England from an academic background, Ray L. Heffner served as president during a time of tumult. In the late 1960s, Brown, like many other college campuses, was facing protests, walkouts, and controversy surrounding...

  • Enrollment Passes 5,000

    In the fall of 1967, student enrollment reached 5,062. Of these, 1,368 were women and 3,694 were men.

  • First Woman Editor of Ivy League Daily

    In 1968, the board of the Brown Daily Herald named Beverly Hodgson editor. Although the BDH announced the new editorial board without fanfare, noting Hodgson’s five semesters of experience, national headlines remarked on...

1970–1979

  • Fourteenth President: Donald Hornig

    Arriving at Brown from his role as Vice President at the Eastman Kodak Company, Donald F. Hornig was the first president to come directly from industry, although he had previously served on the faculty in chemistry and as Dean of the...

  • Men’s and Women’s Colleges Combine

    From the time in 1891 when women were first permitted to take classes, stand for examinations, and receive Brown degrees, they had been admitted to and enrolled in a separate college, first the Women’s College, later Pembroke College in...

  • Minority Peer Counseling Program

    In 1973, African American upperclass students created the Minority Peer Counseling (MPC) Program. These students volunteered their time to provide black first-year students with academic support emphasizing a sense of community, tradition,...

  • Doctor of Medicine Degrees Awarded

    On June 2, 1975, Brown awarded Doctor of Medicine degrees to 58 students–45 men and 13 women. This was the first medical class since the 1820s to pursue and complete academic medical studies and clinical training within Rhode Island’s...

  • Third World Center Established

    At Brown, students embraced the use of the phrase “Third World” over “minority” to collectively address the needs of students of color without suggestions of inferiority and powerlessness. The Third World Center was opened to meet the needs...

  • Fifteenth President: Howard Swearer

    Howard Swearer became president as Brown was beginning to make a financial recovery; he led a successful capital campaign that garnered $180 million and greatly improved the University’s financial picture. The popularity of the school during...

1980–1989

  • Pembroke Center Established

    In 1981, the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women was established as a research center on gender. The center supported a new, multidisciplinary Women’s Studies concentration as well as the integration of the study of gender...

  • Eight-Year Medical Course Approved

    In 1984, the Brown corporation approved the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME). This new eight-year continuum incorporated four years of undergraduate work and four years of professional training into a single course of study. The...

  • Third World Coalition Protest

    On March 13, 1985, over 300 students rallied on the Green to protest institutional racism at Brown. Five weeks of protests followed, led by the Third World Coalition. Students protested that the University had not followed through on...

  • Center for Public Service Founded

    Brown’s Center for Public Service was founded in 1986 to support the integration of public service into the educational experience at Brown. One of the first centers of its kind in the nation, it connected students to community partners in...

  • Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

    In July 1988, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity was established at Brown. One of the nation’s earliest academic centers dedicated to research, scholarship, and academic exchanges on issues of race and ethnicity, the center...

  • Sixteenth President: Vartan Gregorian

    Born in Iran, Vartan Gregorian studied in Lebanon before being awarded a scholarship to attend Stanford. After holding a number of teaching and administrative positions, Gregorian became head of the New York Public Library. In 1984, he was...

1990–1999

  • Title IX Lawsuit Initiated

    In April 1992, Gymnastics co-captain Amy Cohen, Class of 1992, and twelve other Brown female student-athletes brought suit against the University for violation of the 1972 Title IX legislation that stipulated that there be no gender-based...

  • Female Enrollment Passes Male

    In the fall of 1994, the number of women attending Brown exceeded the number of men for the first time, with 3,714 female and 3,672 male students. This approximate gender ratio would continue for at least the next 19 years, through the fall...

  • Women’s Basketball Wins Title

    In 1994, Women’s Basketball Coach Jean Burr’s team won the Ivy League title and the first automatic bid for an Ivy to participate in the NCAA main bracket.

  • Seventeenth President: E. Gordon Gee

    In his inaugural address, E. Gordon Gee, a Mormon who had received both a law degree and doctorate in education from Columbia University and then returned to his home state to serve as president of the University of Utah, set his purpose as...

2000–2009

  • President Gordon Gee Resigns

    While E. Gordon Gee was not the first president to resign from Brown, his decision to leave after only two years and to assume...

  • Eighteenth President: Ruth J. Simmons

    A native of Texas and a 1967 graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans, Simmons received her Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures from Harvard University in 1973. Her appointment as the president of Brown made her the first African...

  • First Annual Pow Wow

    The first annual Pow Wow at Brown was organized with support from the Third World Center and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. The intertribal event attracted over 1,000 people in one afternoon. The following year, the Pow Wow...

  • Department of Africana Studies

    In 2001, the Afro-American Studies Program was upgraded to department status and renamed the Department of Africana Studies. According to department chair Lewis Gordon, the name reflected “the current broad focus on the African diaspora, the...

  • Center for Biomedical Engineering Founded

    In an effort to integrate research and study of engineering and physical sciences with the life sciences and clinical practice, Brown founded the Center for Biomedical Engineering in 2002. Interdisciplinary research areas include...

  • Plan for Academic Enrichment

    In 2002, President Ruth Simmons launched an ambitious program of academic enrichment. Initiatives undertaken as a result of the plan included: increasing the size of the faculty, providing resources to advance scholarship and teaching, and...

  • Brown Humanities Center Launched

    In support of Brown’s long tradition of interdisciplinary studies, the Brown Humanities Center (later re-named the Cogut Center for the Humanities) opened in 2003 to support collaborative research among scholars in the humanities. Since 2008...

  • LGBTQ Resource Center Opens

    In March 2004, a new resource center opened in Faunce House to allow students to explore issues related to sexuality and gender. Today, the LGBTQ Center is co-located with the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center and offers educational programming,...

  • Doctoring Course Initiated

    In 2006, the Brown Medical School instituted the two-year Doctoring Course. This required course exposes first- and second-year medical students to clinical settings early in their training. Closely guided and mentored by physicians in...

  • Report of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice

    In 2003, President Ruth Simmons appointed a committee, which included faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and administrators, to investigate the University’s historical relationship to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade....

  • Advent of Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program

    After years of being able to cross-register for individual classes, beginning with the 2008–2009 academic years, high school students were able to apply for a fully dual degree program from both Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design....

  • Brown-IBM Supercomputing Partnership

    In 2009, Brown and long-time partner IBM opened a multimillion-dollar supercomputer at Brown’s Center for Computation and Visualization. The supercomputer could perform 14 trillion calculations per second, making it the most powerful...

2010–2015

  • School of Engineering Established

    With the oldest undergraduate engineering program in the Ivy League and third-oldest civilian engineering program in the country, in 2010, Brown transformed its Division of Engineering into the Brown School of Engineering. The new school...

  • Nineteenth President: Christina H. Paxson

    At the time of her appointment in March 2012, Christina Paxson was dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs and the Hughes Rogers Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. As Brown’s...

  • School of Public Health Opened

    In July 2013, the new Brown School of Public health officially opened and began a two-year accreditation process. The transformation from the Public Health Program made the School of Public Health Brown’s third professional school, along...

  • Slavery Memorial to be Installed

    In 2014, a sculpture by American artist Martin Puryear will be installed on the Front Green acknowledging Brown’s connection to the trans-Atlantic slave trade....

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