Brown at 250

By PHILIP EIL  |  March 6, 2014



The height, in feet, of the bronze Kodiak bear statue — titled “Indomitable” — unveiled on Brown’s athletic campus in the Fall of 2013. The statue is reportedly the largest bronze sculpture of a bear ever crafted in Britain. During his planning and design process, sculptor Nick Bibby was sent excerpts from Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana (also available online and well worth perusing) explaining Brown’s choice of a bear as a mascot.

Theodore Francis Greene, of 1887, apparently once advocated for Brown students to becoming “bears” with the following rationale: “While it may be somewhat unsociable and uncouth, it is good natured and clean. While courageous and ready to fight, it does not look for trouble for its own sake, nor is it bloodthirsty. It is not one of a herd, but acts independently. It is intelligent and capable of being educated.”


The number of pages, including appendices, of part one (of two) of Brown’s “Report of the Committee on the Events of October 29, 2013,” released in February. The “Events of October 29, 2013” are better known as the “shout down” protests that prevented then-commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Ray Kelly, from completing a speech entitled “Proactive Policing in American’s Biggest City.”

An excerpt from the report:

Early on Tuesday, October 29, an anonymous email from a “concerned student” was sent to the Taubman Center. The email warned of a walk-out to be staged by “70+ students… planning to arrive at List around 3:00 pm under the pretense of attending the lecture.” The email was forwarded to Vice Presidents Klawunn and Quinn, Deputy Chief Shanley, Dean Ward, and Julie Haworth. The decision was made to keep the doors of List Art Center locked until 3:30 PM, thirty minutes prior to the scheduled start time, in order to manage the flow of traffic until such time when there was adequate staffing in the hall.

At approximately 3:15 pm, protesters gathered outside the Taubman Center. They distributed flyers about racial profiling and reenacted student experiences of racial profiling as documented by the 2006 Coalition for Police Accountability and Institutional Transparency, hoping to “contextualize our organizing in the history of racial justice activism at Brown.” Protesters then marched to List Art Center; some entered the hall, while others continued chanting outside.

At many University events, the first several rows of seating are reserved for invited guests. While a complete list of guests in attendance at Commissioner Kelly’s lecture is not available, multiple individuals interviewed by the Committee indicated that the presence of uniformed state and local police in the first several rows of the lecture hall was palpable. Those who protested the lecture indicated that this uniformed police presence was a visual symbol of the potentially threatening nature of Commissioner Kelly’s policies for Rhode Islanders of color. The front rows were so full that several officers were asked to move to make room for the Kriegers [donors underwriting the lecture] in the reserved area. It should be noted that approximately two weeks prior to the lecture, Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements asked Brown’s Director of State and City Relations if he could bring up to ten members of his department to the lecture. Staff members at the Taubman Center were consulted, and the additional officers were allowed to attend, along with those guests whose names were exchanged between Taubman staff and GCR staff in early October. Those present included Providence Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Paré, State Police Colonel Steven O’Donnell, Police Chief Clements, and Cranston Captains Stephen Antonucci and Sean Carmody. Uniformed DPS officers were also present in anticipation of the protest.


The year Inman Page became the first African American to graduate from Brown. He would later become president of Oklahoma’s Agricultural & Normal University, Tennessee’s Roger Williams University, and Missouri’s Lincoln University and Western Baptist College.


The year Anne Tillinghast Weeden and Mary Emma Woolley become the first women to graduate from Brown. Woolley would later become president of Mount Holyoke College.


The number of people employed by Brown — including 1223 faculty members — as of November, 2011.


The number of speeches LBJ delivered on his way to Brown from the airport in 1964. [Editor’s note: This is celebrity-guest entry from historian, author, and Brown’s Assistant to the President for Special Projects, Ted Widmer, whose book on the history of Brown will be published this fall.]

Fifty years ago, as Brown celebrated its bicentennial, it lured a President of the United States to campus for the first time since George Washington. September 28, 1964 was a big day — and Lyndon Johnson was a big president, then at the height of his powers. He had signed the Civil Rights Act that summer, and the Wilderness Act in early September, and would cruise to an overwhelming victory over Barry Goldwater in November. But he had trouble sticking to a schedule, especially when there was politicking to be done.

Rhode Island was never in doubt for LBJ — but he could not help himself, and gave 15 impromptu speeches to the crowds lining his route between the airport and Brown. This took time, of course, and by the time he was done, he was 100 minutes late for his big speech, to 4700 souls waiting inside Meehan Auditorium. There, he dutifully talked about Brown, and Roger Williams, and freedom of conscience, but an annoyed young reporter for the Brown Daily Herald chided him for his lateness and dismissed his efforts as “a venture in triviality.”

A few months later, when a Pembroke student visited a White House receiving line, he took her aside and asked why the BDH was being so hard on him. Johnson may have been at the height of his powers, but he was famous for his sensitivity to criticism. The Brown Daily Herald, a tiny paper from a tiny state, had scored a point for freedom of conscience. No President has been to Brown since.


Brown’s spot on U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of American universities. “At Brown University, undergraduate students are responsible for designing their own academic study with more than 70 concentration programs to choose from,” U.S. News says. “Another unique offering at this private, Ivy League institution in Providence, R.I. is the Program in Liberal Medical Education, which grants both a bachelor’s degree and medical degree in eight years.” On this list, Brown trails most immediately behind Northwestern University & Johns Hopkins University — tied for #12. Brown’s Ivy rivals fill the list’s top ranks: Princeton (1), Harvard (2), Yale (3), and Columbia (4).


The year US Representative (and former Providence Mayor) David Cicilline established a branch of the College Democrats at Brown. His partners in this project: William Mondale (son of 1984 Democratic Presidential candidate Walter Mondale), Robert Walsh (current executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island and former RI candidate for Congress), and the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.


Also the year — September 17, to be exact — Bob Marley performed at Brown’s Meehan Auditorium. The Brown concert (opening songs: “Natural Mystic,” “Positive Vibration,” “Dem Belly Full,” “War/No More Trouble”) took place just days before Marley collapsed while jogging in New York’s Central Park on September 21. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor shortly thereafter, and passed away on May 11, 1981. Full audio of the Providence show is available online at:

For more on Brown’s 250th, go to

Philip Eil can be reached Follow him on Twitter @phileil.

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