0 - Brown: The History of an Idea
A great gift for grads and incoming Brunonians!
Author: Ted Widmer
Publisher: Thames & Hudson; Pub. Date: Sept. 2015; Subject: Brown University;
Founded in 1636, essentially as a refuge for outcasts from Massachusetts, Rhode Island emerged as perhaps the most open-minded of the colonies, emphasizing freedom of conscience and religious tolerance. Only such a place could produce a university as unorthodox as Brown and, in 1764, it did. The seventh-oldest college in the United States, Brown has followed its own course ever since it was founded as Rhode Island College. Building on its forward-thinking legacy, in 1969 the university adopted the student-proposed “New Curriculum,” which allowed students to structure their education with remarkable freedom, and continues as the Open Curriculum to this day. Over the last two and a half centuries, the university and its graduates have played a notable role in numerous defining moments in the American story, including the legacy of slavery (one of the Brown brothers was a leading abolitionist, the other an “ardent defender and slave trader”), the Industrial Revolution, and education reform. Although there are plenty of prominent alumni mentioned—among them Horace Mann, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Richard Holbrooke, Janet Yellen, and Edwidge Danticat—Widmer’s is a more ambitious account that weaves its threads into a variegated history of how a university can both mirror and spur the wider culture around it.
Ted Widmer served as the Assistant to the President for Special Projects at Brown University and the Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo Director and Librarian of the John Carter Brown Library. From 2012 to 2013, he also served as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Clinton. He has written or edited many works of history, including Ark of the Liberties and American Speeches (Library of America).