History

Two and a half centuries of history 

Brown was founded in 1764—the third college in New England and the seventh in Colonial America. Brown was the first Ivy League school to accept students from all religious affiliations, a testament to the spirit of openness that still typifies Brown today. 

Originally located in Warren, Rhode Island, and called the College of Rhode Island, Brown moved to its current spot on College Hill overlooking Providence in 1770 and was renamed in 1804 in recognition of a $5,000 gift from Nicholas Brown, a prominent Providence businessman and alumnus, Class of 1786.

Women were first admitted to Brown in 1891. The Women’s College was later renamed Pembroke College in Brown University before merging with Brown College, the men’s undergraduate school, in 1971. The northern section of campus where the women’s school was situated is known today as the Pembroke Campus.

The first master’s degrees were granted in 1888 and the first doctorates in 1889. The first medical degrees of the modern era were presented in 1975 to a graduating class of 58 students. Today, Brown awards approximately 100 M.D. degrees annually from the Warren Alpert Medical School.

Undergraduate education changed dramatically in 1970 with the introduction of what became known as the Brown Curriculum. The idea for this change came from a report written by undergraduates Ira Magaziner ’69 and Elliot E. Maxwell ’68, as part of a GISP (Group Independent Study Project) that examined education at Brown.

The “new curriculum” eliminated core requirements shared by all Brown undergraduates and created specific departmental concentration requirements. This approach has defined the undergraduate academic experience at Brown ever since, demanding that students serve as the architects of their courses of study.

Constant change defines Brown’s past and future, though the university’s culture is rich in tradition. Brown’s first building, for example, the red-bricked University Hall, was built in 1770 and still stands on the College Green. Today, the University consists of nearly 230 buildings on approximately 150 acres, and includes undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Warren Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership and the IE Brown Executive MBA

Launched in 2002, The Plan for Academic Enrichment built on Brown’s strengths and set new benchmarks of excellence in research, education and service. President Christina H. Paxson, Brown’s 19th president, has charted the course for the University’s future with the recently approved strategic plan, Building on Distinction. The plan provides a vision and set of broad goals to achieve higher levels of excellence as a university that unites innovative education and outstanding research to benefit the community, the nation and the world. It calls for targeted investments to attract and support the most talented and diverse faculty, students, and staff; capitalize on existing strengths; and provide the environment to foster rigorous inquiry and discovery across the disciplines. The plan highlights the need to keep a Brown education affordable for talented students from all economic backgrounds and to sustain a community with the diversity of thought and experience required for excellence.