Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76 announced the selection of Christina Paxson, dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as the University’s 19th president to a packed audience of students and faculty in Sayles Hall at noon today. Paxson’s selection was first announced in a University-wide email an hour and a half prior to the Sayles meeting. The Sayles announcement was also broadcast live on the University website.
In his opening remarks, Tisch expressed excitement over Paxson’s selection. “If she could make Brown any happier, I think we’d burst the thermometer,” he said. Professor of Physics Chung-I Tan P’95 P’03, who chaired the Campus Advisory Commitee, also praised Paxson’s leadership and committment to Brown’s values.
Paxson spoke briefly, commenting on her personal connection to the University through her brother, William Paxson ’75.
“My brother was this kind of clean-cut, studious kid” before coming to Brown, she said. “I remember him coming back Thanksgiving vacation to Pittsburgh, and he had long hair, he was listening to new music, he argued with my mother about the ethics of eating meat.”
“My mother was horrified,” she added, to laughter from the crowd. “I thought this was what happened to everybody who went to college. And then I realized, ‘No, it doesn’t, actually. It’s Brown.”
“I’ve just scratched the surface,” she said. “This is a rich institution with a lot going on and a lot of history so I know I have a lot of learning ahead of me.”
Paxson expressed hope for support from the Brown community.
After the announcement, Tisch invited students to celebrate the news in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center. Both President Ruth Simmons and Paxson attended the reception following the event.
Students were largely optimistic about Paxson’s selection.
“She looks like she understands how important and challenging it’s going to be, and she’s excited to get started. She just seems like, you know, a good person,” said Max Clermont ’11 GS, who watched the announcement online, at the reception.
“I think it’s really hard to know,” said Jonah Fisher ’12 at the reception. “It’s hard to get into details when you’re just saying how excited you are, how happy you are to take the position, how happy you are to become a part of Providence. I think next year, when the work begins, we’ll really see what this new president is all about.”
Simmons was “obviously a hard act to follow,” he added.
“(Paxson) is a fantastic scholar, and I think that her scholarship will not only inform the way that she executes her position here but also shape our future for the better,” said Christopher Geggie GS after the announcement in Sayles.
Though the announcement was not followed by a question and answer session, students had the opportunity to talk with Paxson at the reception afterwards. “I think this is a celebratory moment, it’s not necessarily about the nitty-gritty,” Fisher said. “We all just kind of come together, celebrate the announcement and have some good snacks and be jolly together.”