University News

Simmons lauds parents at final Family Weekend

Arts & Culture Staff Writer
Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beautiful weather greeted visiting families during Family Weekend.

Correction appended.

Speaking for the last time to parents on Family Weekend, President Ruth Simmons relied on a superlative. “Brown has the most supportive parents, unmatched by any of its peers,” she said.

Simmons’ speech, before a crowd of more than 100 students and parents Saturday, was engaging and casual. She joked with the audience, mentioning Saturday morning’s homecoming win against Princeton and poking fun at Provost Mark Schlissel P’15, a Princeton alum, for sitting at the back of the stands, wearing orange and black.

She also thanked parents for their support, their involvement in their children’s lives and for being role models for students.

Simmons briefly discussed the University’s position as one of the happiest schools in the country and noted that many of her acquaintances are thrown off by the rating. “So often, we don’t trust the fact that we can be gloriously happy and exultant,” Simmons said.

“I’m glad our students can stand up in a public space and articulate their ideas without descending into the vortex of insults,” she said to applause.

At the end of her speech, Simmons opened the floor to questions from parents and students. Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron, Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76, Schlissel and Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration, answered questions such as whether the amount of work students had could be lessened on Parent’s Weekend and inquiries about how the University would survive in an increasingly virtual world. One parent appealed for the return of the printed course bulletin, and a student advertised the next day’s Occupy Providence protest.

Some of the questions led to lengthy discussions. In response to a question about Brown’s role in stemming corporate greed, Simmons described how difficult it is for her to express her own opinions because of her position as the speaker for the University. Simmons said she is eager to be able to speak out on current affairs once she steps down as president.

In response to a question from a student, Simmons said her successor should first give the University physical attention. Improvements to facilities and expansion of the campus are of the utmost importance right now, she said.

“She’s a great speaker. I love how she takes criticism and turns it into something positive. She puts it into action,” said David Pleet P’12 after the speech.

The day after her speech, the Brown Alumni Association presented Simmons with a Brown Bear Award at Sunday’s Alumni Recognition Ceremony. The award, which dates back to the 1940s, traditionally honors alums’ outstanding service to the University. Gladys Ndagire ’13, who works for the Office of Alumni Relations and was at the event, said this is the first time someone who was not a Brown alum received the award.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that President Ruth Simmons gave her address on Friday. In fact, she spoke on Saturday. The Herald regrets the error.