Fun Facts About Brown University

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Brown campus

Fun Facts About Brown University

Brown University has a longstanding reputation as one of the premier institutions of higher education in the United States. Its rich history, unique traditions, notable alumni, academic achievements, and beautiful campus make it a beacon in the world of academia. Here, we bring you fun facts about Brown University, which has been shaping minds and making history since its founding over two centuries ago.

A Brief History of Brown University

Due to its incredible history, it is no surprise that there are a lot of fun facts about Brown University. The seeds of Brown University were sowed back in 1764, marking it as one of the oldest in the U.S. Originally known as “The College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”, it was the seventh college established in the original colonies that would become the United States. The university received its current name in 1804, in honor of Nicholas Brown Jr., a benefactor of the institution. With the passing of years, Brown University expanded its offerings, maturing into the world-renowned institution it is today.

Founding and Early Years

The university was initially founded as a Baptist institution, with religious freedom and independence at its heart. The curriculum of the early years was practical and geared towards preparing students for leadership roles. The first president of the college, James Manning, led the institution with the goal of cultivating “the future guardians of the sacred rights of mankind”.

Notably, the university was progressive from its infancy, admitting its first Black student, John Russwurm, in 1823 – paving the way for a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. In 1891, it started accepting female students, making it one of the earliest coeducational colleges.

During its early years, Brown University faced numerous challenges, including financial struggles and the need to establish a strong reputation in the academic community. However, through the dedication and perseverance of its faculty and students, the university managed to overcome these obstacles and emerge as a respected educational institution.

Significant Milestones

In 1850, Brown introduced a ‘New Curriculum’, focusing on comprehensive learning, rather than rote learning practiced before. This was considered revolutionary, earning Brown an identity as an innovative educational institution. The New Curriculum emphasized critical thinking, independent study, and interdisciplinary approaches, providing students with a well-rounded education.

The 1960s and 70s also saw transformative changes at Brown. The university became a hotbed of activism and social change, with students and faculty actively participating in the civil rights movement, anti-war protests, and advocating for gender equality. During this period, Brown University adopted the Open Curriculum in 1969, eliminating general education requirements and giving students the freedom to design their own course of study. This milestone still defines the Brown educational experience today.

With the Open Curriculum, Brown University encourages students to explore their passions and pursue interdisciplinary studies. This approach fostered creativity, intellectual curiosity, and a sense of ownership over one’s education. It attracted students who sought a more personalized and flexible learning experience, setting Brown apart from other institutions.

Brown University building

Over the years, Brown University has continued to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of its students and society. It has expanded its academic programs, established research centers, and fostered collaborations with leading institutions around the world. Today, Brown University is recognized for its commitment to academic excellence, diversity, and the pursuit of knowledge that serves the greater good.

Brown University’s Unique Traditions

One of the fun facts about Brown University is its unique tradition. Beyond the academics, the university’s culture has some intriguing traditions that add an extra layer of charm to campus life. From folklore tales to annual festivities, students at Brown enjoy an array of unique customs.

One of the most fascinating traditions at Brown is the ‘Midnight Organ Concerts’ held in Sayles Hall. Every Halloween and last day of classes, a mysterious masked figure emerges from the shadows to perform a hauntingly beautiful organ concert. This tradition has been passed down for more than half a century, captivating generations of students with its enigmatic allure.

Another intriguing legend that permeates the campus is the story behind ‘Quiet Green’. According to local folklore, anyone who dares to speak while traversing the grassy expanse will be cursed with bad grades. While the truth behind this superstition remains uncertain, students at Brown often respect it, creating an atmosphere of unusual tranquility in this hallowed space.

But it’s not just legends and lore that make Brown University’s traditions unique. The annual Spring Weekend is a two-day music festival that is eagerly anticipated by the student population. Since the 1960s, this event has attracted big names from the music industry, turning the campus into a vibrant hub of live performances and energetic crowds. Students can be seen donning cleverly themed T-shirts as they immerse themselves in infectious melodies and unforgettable experiences.

In addition to Spring Weekend, another cherished tradition at Brown is the annual Lighting of the Van Wickle Gates. As the holiday season approaches, students gather in anticipation to witness the transformation of the iconic gates into a breathtaking display of lights and decorations. The campus is filled with a sense of wonder and joy as the vibrant colors illuminate the night, creating a truly magical atmosphere that leaves a lasting impression on all who witness it.

Noteworthy Alumni of Brown University

One of the fun facts about Brown University is its alumni. Brown University, founded in 1764, has a rich history of producing several prominent personalities who went on to make noteworthy contributions in various fields.

Located in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown University is renowned for its commitment to academic excellence and its vibrant campus life.

Famous Figures in Politics

John F. Kennedy Jr., who graduated from Brown in 1983, is a prominent alumnus of the Political Science department. His time at Brown shaped his passion for public service and laid the foundation for his future political career.

A public servant

In the realm of international leadership, current United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is a graduate of Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Guterres’s time at Brown provided him with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate the complex world of international diplomacy.

Furthermore, Brown University has been a breeding ground for notable leaders in politics. Thomas J. Watson Jr., the former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and CEO of IBM, is a proud Brown graduate. His time at Brown instilled in him the values of leadership and innovation, which he carried throughout his illustrious career.

Another notable alumna is Janet Yellen, the first female Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. Yellen’s time at Brown equipped her with the economic expertise and analytical thinking necessary to tackle the challenges of the global financial landscape.

Stars of Stage and Screen

Brown University’s influence extends beyond the realm of politics. The university has also produced a number of talented individuals who have made their mark in Hollywood.

One such alumna is actress Emma Watson, known globally for her role as Hermione Granger in the ‘Harry Potter’ film series. Watson’s time at Brown allowed her to explore her passion for acting while also nurturing her intellectual curiosity.

Another notable graduate is Laura Linney, a three-time Academy Award nominee. Linney’s time at Brown provided her with a strong foundation in the performing arts, enabling her to excel in her craft and captivate audiences worldwide.

Adding to the list of accomplished alumni is director Todd Haynes, whose film “Far From Heaven” garnered four Academy Award nominations. Haynes’s time at Brown exposed him to diverse perspectives and artistic influences, shaping his unique directorial style.

Furthermore, the famous writer and director Rick Berman, known for his contribution to the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, also hails from Brown. Berman’s time at Brown fostered his creativity and honed his storytelling abilities, leading to his successful career in the entertainment industry.

These notable alumni of Brown University serve as an inspiration to current and future students, showcasing the university’s commitment to fostering talent and nurturing intellectual growth.

Brown University’s Academic Achievements

One of the fun facts about Brown University is its academic achievements. Apart from the impressive alumni, Brown’s academic accolades stand as a testament to the institution’s commitment to academic excellence.

At Brown University, academic achievements go beyond just the notable alumni. The university takes pride in its innovative programs and courses that push the boundaries of traditional education. One such groundbreaking program is the undergraduate degree in Egyptology, which was one of the first of its kind in the United States. Students at Brown have the opportunity to delve into the rich history of ancient Egypt, studying its language, culture, and archaeology.

students studying their academics

But the innovation doesn’t stop there. Brown also offers courses like “The Contemplative Sciences” that explore the intersection of neuroscience and meditation. This unique course examines the impact of meditation on the brain and how it can enhance well-being. Additionally, the university offers “Cybersecurity Ethics,” a course that delves into the ethical implications of cybersecurity and the challenges faced in protecting digital information.

One of the hallmarks of Brown’s academic experience is its Open Curriculum, which allows students to have remarkable academic flexibility. Unlike many other universities, Brown’s Open Curriculum empowers students to shape their own education by giving them the freedom to choose their courses and explore various disciplines. This tradition of academic freedom sets Brown University apart from its peers, fostering a culture of intellectual curiosity and exploration.

Brown University is also known for its groundbreaking research and discoveries. The university’s research teams have made significant contributions to various fields, including engineering and healthcare. For instance, the team from Brown’s School of Engineering invented the world’s first wireless, implanted, rechargeable, long-term brain-computer interface. This groundbreaking technology has the potential to revolutionize the field of neurology and improve the lives of individuals with neurological disorders.

In the realm of healthcare, Brown scientists have been at the forefront of developing methods for early detection and improved management of Alzheimer’s disease. Their research has paved the way for advancements in understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s and developing potential treatments. Brown University’s commitment to scientific research and its impact on society is truly remarkable.

Furthermore, Brown University is home to the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, which houses one of the most comprehensive archaeological collections in the country. This museum provides valuable resources for academic research, allowing students and scholars to study artifacts from various cultures and time periods. The museum’s collection serves as a window into the past, offering insights into the diverse history of human civilization.

Overall, Brown University’s academic achievements are a testament to its dedication to excellence in education, research, and innovation. From pioneering programs and courses to groundbreaking research discoveries, Brown continues to push the boundaries of knowledge and provide students with a transformative academic experience.

The Campus of Brown University

Beyond its academic prowess, Brown’s campus is well-known for its architectural beauty and green spaces.

When walking through the campus of Brown University, one cannot help but be captivated by its stunning architectural highlights. One of the most notable buildings is the University Hall, which was built in 1770. This magnificent structure stands as an excellent example of Georgian architecture and has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark. As you approach the University Hall, you can’t help but admire the intricate details and craftsmanship that went into its construction.

View of an old building in Brown University.

Another architectural gem on campus is Faunce House. This building is instantly recognizable by its large white columns, which give it a grand and imposing presence. Serving as a student center, Faunce House is a hub of activity and is home to the Blue Room, a popular meeting spot for students. Whether it’s grabbing a cup of coffee or engaging in lively discussions, Faunce House is always buzzing with energy.

Aside from its architectural wonders, Brown University’s campus also boasts an abundance of green spaces and outdoor features. One such area is the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle, a peaceful corner of the campus that offers a serene environment for relaxation, study, and contemplation. Surrounded by lush greenery and blooming flowers, this tranquil space provides the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of academic life.

For those seeking a more active outdoor experience, Lincoln Field is the place to be. This expansive field provides ample space for various recreational activities, from friendly games of soccer to frisbee tournaments. Students and visitors alike can be seen enjoying the fresh air and engaging in physical activities, fostering a sense of camaraderie and well-being.

However, it is the Main Green that truly captures the essence of Brown University’s artistic and cultural spirit. Situated at the heart of the campus, the Main Green serves as a vibrant gathering place for students and hosts a myriad of events throughout the year. From outdoor concerts to theatrical performances, this central hub is always abuzz with creativity and excitement.

As the seasons change, so does the atmosphere on the campus of Brown University. During the warmer months, the campus comes alive with the joie de vivre of its students. You can witness students leisurely strolling around, playing Frisbee on the open fields, or simply lounging on blankets, enjoying the sunshine. The century-old trees provide a magnificent canopy of shade, creating the perfect ambiance for outdoor reading or quiet contemplation.

With its exciting traditions, prominent alumni, revolutionary academics, and beautiful campus, Brown University offers a truly enriching experience. It stands as a landmark institution that not only fosters academic excellence but also cultivates a strong sense of community spirit. Whether you’re exploring the architectural wonders, finding solace in the green spaces, or immersing yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, Brown University’s campus is a place where inspiration and discovery intertwine.


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