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Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes dies at 55

Estes joined Brown in 2016, sought to create inclusive communities, spaces of belonging

In addition to his work at Brown, Estes participated in community organizations as a member of both the capital campaign committee for the Boys and Girls Club of Rhode Island and the Conservator Society at the Providence Public Library. Photo courtesy of Nick Dentamaro via Brown University
In addition to his work at Brown, Estes participated in community organizations as a member of both the capital campaign committee for the Boys and Girls Club of Rhode Island and the Conservator Society at the Providence Public Library. Photo courtesy of Nick Dentamaro via Brown University

Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes passed away Tuesday morning as the result of a “sudden illness,” according to a community-wide email from President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20. He was 55 years old.

Estes joined the Brown community in 2016 as Vice President for Campus Life. The Division of Campus Life, which Estes oversaw, comprises more than 20 departments, offices and centers that work to build and support the campus community.

Estes came to Brown with extensive experience in higher education. He worked at Oberlin College for more than a decade, where he directed the Multicultural Resource Center and served as vice president and dean of students. He also taught courses at Duke University and Syracuse University on a range of subjects, including gender, violence and the role of athletics in U.S. culture, according to Paxson’s email.

“Eric and his team of professionals played pivotal roles in guiding Brown through the COVID-19 pandemic and in the challenges of this academic year,” Paxson wrote in her email. “His excellent judgment and calm demeanor were essential during these difficult times.”

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Estes sought to create inclusive communities and spaces of belonging throughout his career. While at Duke, he was involved in several equity and inclusion initiatives, serving as the chair of a task force on LGBTQ+ matters and as a member of the presidential commission on the status of women.

“In some ways, I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider and struggled to find a sense of personal belonging,” he told the Trinity Reporter in 2019. But his undergraduate experience at Trinity College inspired him to pursue a career building communities that “acknowledge and value differences but also seek to build relationships across those differences,” he said.

At Brown, Estes pushed to develop identity centers and diversity on campus. He helped to expand the LGBTQ Center into Stonewall House and worked to increase LGBTQ+ representation among University administrators and staff.

Estes, alongside Vice President of Campus Safety Rodney Chatman, also assembled the Campus Safety and Security Working Group, which engaged members of the Brown community in conversations around how the Department of Public Safety and University offices could best ensure safety, well-being and belonging.

This year, Estes worked with newly formed undergraduate labor unions and played a role in the University’s decision to voluntarily recognize the Labor Organization of Community Coordinators and the Third World Labor Organization.

And since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, Estes had served as one of the principal University administrators that engaged with students who were protesting the war and calling for University divestment from companies with ties to Israel.

In May, Estes met with students staging an encampment on the Main Green to negotiate the end of their demonstration. He was previously one of several administrators who communicated with the two groups of students who staged sit-ins at University Hall in November and December to demand divestment.

“We’re going to work really hard to make sure we’re in a position to try and support them the best that we can,” Estes said, in an interview with The Herald, of the 20 students arrested in the November sit-in.

Paxson wrote in her email that Estes had been slated to receive a promotion to Senior Vice President for Campus Life later this summer.

In addition to his work at Brown, Estes participated in community organizations as a member of both the capital campaign committee for the Boys and Girls Club of Rhode Island and the Conservator Society at the Providence Public Library, Paxson wrote in her email. 

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“Beyond his many professional accomplishments, many of us will remember Eric best as a generous friend who always put the well-being of his colleagues first,” she added. “In both celebratory moments and as we navigated major challenges, he brought warmth, compassion and an unwavering spirit of dedication and kindness. We will deeply miss Eric’s presence on campus.”

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Katie Jain

Katie Jain is a University News editor from New Jersey overseeing the graduate student life beat. She is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs and History.


Sam Levine

Sam Levine is a University News editor from Brooklyn, New York overseeing the staff and student labor and on-campus activism beats. He is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs.



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