President Christina Paxson announced details about the University’s semiquincentenary opening celebration and formally launched the website “Imagine Brown 250+” dedicated to the 250th anniversary in an email to the student body Tuesday afternoon. Scheduled to begin March 7-8, the University’s celebration will run through May 2015 and feature a variety of speakers, programs and performances.
The celebratory weekend’s date is not accidental, but “timed with the passage of (Brown’s) charter,” said Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs and university relations, adding “there have been students involved in every aspect of planning.”
To publicize the weekend’s events, the University is distributing news releases to a broad variety of local and regional newspapers, as well as employing radio announcements, advertisements and social media. There will also be “direct invitations to various communities,” including students, faculty members and alumni, Quinn said.
“We wanted to get the website up and filled with as many events as we could confirm,” though more elements — such as an interactive timeline — are still being developed, Quinn said. The University also plans to engage the global community by providing live streams of many of the celebratory events, she added. As of Wednesday morning, approximately 5,000 people had visited the website.
The University has collaborated with local leaders and organizations such as Save the Bay, Providence Public Schools and the Rhode Island Historical Society while organizing the anniversary’s events, Quinn said.
By hosting a variety of events, the University hopes to “attract the broader community,” in addition to students and faculty members, she said.
Paxson announced two notable alums — Jim Yong Kim ’82 M.D., Ph.D., President of the World Bank and Thomas Perez ’83, U.S. Secretary of Labor — will be speaking on March 7 and 8 respectively. Additionally, more than 250 seventh and eighth grade students from Rhode Island will undergo basic academic instruction on Friday morning before having lunch in the Sharpe Refectory, the website noted.
The website’s calendar details 29 events over Friday and Saturday, including art exhibits and basketball games.
Though there is a high concentration of celebratory events during the opening weekend in March, many other events — some of which the University began developing more than a year ago — are planned for the coming months.
“I try to tell the story in a way that situates Brown in its local and national context,” said Edward Widmer, assistant for special projects to President Paxson. Widmer’s book, detailing Brown’s history from 1764 to the present, is expected to be published this fall. Though the book is designed for “general readership,” Widmer said he hopes a broad audience of faculty members, community members and students will find the material engaging.
“I’ve been pleased to see that all of the founding language, as old as it is, still resonates with modern relevance,” Widmer said, adding that many of Brown’s “special qualities,” such as constructive irreverence, an unwillingness to conform, excellence in teaching and a commitment to respectfully considering all points of view, endure today.
The University’s commitment to distinguishing itself from other colonial educational institutions such as Harvard and Yale by “(getting) away from orthodoxy” still rings true, he said. In terms of defining itself as a free-thinking institution, “Brown has certainly lived up to that (reputation),” Widmer added.