Lippitt leaves the University a legacy

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Frederick Lippitt left the University more than $6 million and the Lippitt property at 108 Prospect St. when he died May 11. A longtime East Side resident and frequent donor to the University, he was 88.

The money left to the University, according to Lippitt’s will, is to be distributed in the form of two $3 million professorship endowments: one in his sister Mary Ann’s name, in American history, and one in Frederick’s name in public policy. The remainder of a trust established in the 1990s will also be given to the University, although according to News Service Director Mark Nickel, it still remains unclear exactly how much money is in the fund.

The James M. Kimball house, a brick house at 108 Prospect St. where the siblings have lived since the 1950s, will also be given to the University upon the death of Mary Ann Lippitt. According to the will, the house is to be kept as a single-family residence for 30 years after Mary Ann’s death, at which point it can be divided into apartments.

The house, itself an artifact of Providence history, was built in 1873 for a cotton manufacturer and includes a two-story brick stable behind the main house. The house rests on the only Prospect Street plot that spans the width of the whole block, and according to the Providence Journal, the property is assessed at more than $2.3 million.

These most recent donations are characteristic of the influential role the Lippits have played in Rhode Island society since John Lippitt settled in Providence in 1638. John Lippitt, a direct ancestor of Frederick, was politically active in the state’s early history. Frederick’s father was a U.S. Senator, and his grandfather and an uncle were Rhode Island governors.

Senator Lincoln Chafee ’75 is descended from the Lippitt family, and the Governor Henry Lippitt House, at the corner of Angell and Hope streets on the East Side, pays tribute to one of Frederick’s ancestors. Frederick was the nephew of President Taft. He also served in the State House of Representatives from 1963 to 1981.

The Lippitt family made its money from textile production, and over the years owned several mills and dyeing facilities, including the Lippitt Mill on the Pawtuxet River in West Warwick. In 1847, one Lippitt textile company owned by Frederick’s grandfather was worth $1 million.

Lippitt’s family has also been involved with philanthropy for years – a Rhode Island history written in 1932 said that one of Lippitt’s forefathers “wrought most potently for the advent of Rhode Island along economic, social, and political lines” and that “his fine family of sons and daughters continued to work for humanity.”

Frederick, a Yale University graduate, received an honorary law degree from Brown in 1977. He was a member of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1963 to 1970, and in 1979 became the last lifelong member of the Board of Fellows. In 2004, he and his sister were awarded the University President’s Medal for their years of “supporting (Brown’s) mission with their remarkable legacy of service and philanthropy.”