Office of the President
May 25, 2013
Tags Community Messages

May 2013 Corporation Meeting: Strategic Planning, Coal Divestment

From the President

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

The Corporation of Brown University has just completed its May meeting, and I write to inform you of discussions held and actions taken at the meetings.

Strategic Planning

Members of the Corporation had an opportunity to discuss a draft of the strategic plan, which represents a preliminary organization of the planning work conducted over the course of the past year. Its aim is to chart the course of the University over the next decade around the themes of excellence, innovation, and engagement through achievement of objectives under three broad priorities:

  • To serve the local and state communities, the nation, and the world;
  • To cultivate innovation and creativity;
  • To strengthen Brown’s academic core.

The draft — which will continue to be revised and refined over the summer and then vetted broadly with the campus community when we reconvene for the fall semester – builds upon the strong foundation set during the past decade. It emphasizes the need for Brown to continue to make distinctive contributions through exceptional teaching, research and service by making targeted investments to promote excellence and maximize our strengths. The ideas and themes are the direct result of the work of more than seventy faculty, students, and staff who devoted substantial time and energy as members of the strategic planning committees, led by Provost Mark Schlissel, and reflect the input and aspirations of the broader Brown community who engaged in an extensive series of forums and outreach activities. We received valuable input and feedback from the Corporation. After conducting the financial analysis needed to underpin the final recommendations, we look forward to sharing a more complete version with the campus in September.

The Corporation noted with appreciation the privilege of reflecting as a community on Brown’s standing as a leading research university and supported taking the requisite time to consider collectively our aspirations for the future. I am grateful to the Provost for leading the academic strategic planning process so well, and to all the participants for their time and contributions.

Discussion of the Matter of Divestiture From Coal

Earlier this spring the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) recommended to me that the University divest any holdings in a list of fifteen companies that either mine or burn coal for the production of power. As I noted at that time, this is a complex social issue with implications for global climate change, financial and environmental sustainability, and potential precedents for other investments involving fossil fuels. The students and others who have advocated for divestment by Brown have done so in a thoughtful and balanced manner, and the recommendation endorsed by ACCRIP deserves careful and thorough consideration. Toward that end, last month I appointed an ad hoc committee of the Corporation, led by Senior Fellow Donald Hood ScM ’68 PhD ’70, to consider the matter.

The committee has spent significant time on the issue over the past several weeks, including discussions with faculty experts, ACCRIP, and student leaders from Brown Divest Coal; and presented their preliminary findings to the Corporation yesterday afternoon. The chair of ACCRIP, members of the faculty with scholarly expertise in environmental science, and two student leaders of Brown Divest Coal attended the meeting and answered questions. Members engaged in a comprehensive discussion of the issue and expressed appreciation of the Brown Divest Coal campaign’s thoughtful approach to highlighting the role of coal in climate change, which the Corporation agrees is a pressing global problem.

During the business meeting of the Corporation today, members asked the University to identify ways to work with students, faculty, staff, peer institutions and other strategic partners to develop a robust response to climate change, and to assume a greater leadership role on the issue of carbon dioxide emissions. Corporation action on the issue of divestment was not expected at this meeting, and the Corporation confirmed that the complexity of the issue of divestment warrants further discussion before responding to the ACCRIP’s recommendation.

Brown’s commitment to issues of environmental sustainability is longstanding, and is a value shared widely by students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters of the University. We are grateful that the Brown Divest Coal campaign has underscored the significant role that the mining and burning of coal plays in climate change, and appreciate the work that ACCRIP and the ad hoc committee have devoted to the issue. We look forward to working with them and others to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive approach that is aligned with our mission of teaching, research and service.

Election of Fellows and Trustees and Other Actions

The Corporation elected two new Fellows: Richard A. Friedman ’79 and O. Rogeriee Thompson ’73; and ten new Trustees: José J. Estabil ’84 ’88 Sc.M., Todd A. Fisher ’87, Robert P. Goodman ’82, Nancy Hyde ’80, Paula M. McNamara ’84, Srihari S. Naidu ’93, MD’97, Ronald O. Perelman P’90, P’17, Joan Wernig Sorensen ’72, P’06 P’06, Alison D. Stewart ’88, and Diana E. Wells ’88. Brief biographical notes on the new Fellows and Trustees are available online.

The Corporation approved the appointment of the following faculty to named chairs, effective July 1, 2013:

  • Laurel Bestock, Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World and Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies;
  • Jonathan Eaton, William R. Rhodes 1957 Professor of International Economics;
  • Mary Louise Gill, David Benedict Professor of Classics and Philosophy;
  • Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence;
  • James Hays, Manning Assistant Professor of Computer Science;
  • George Karniadakis, Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor of Applied Mathematics;
  • Erika Larschan, Richard and Edna Salomon Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry;
  • James Morone, John Hazen White Professor of Public Policy;
  • Jill Pipher, Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor of Mathematics;
  • Robert Self, Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence;
  • Thomas Serre, Manning Assistant Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences;
  • Edward Steinfeld, Dean's Professor of China Studies;

and, effective July 1, 2014:

  • Bonnie Honig, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture and Media.

The Board of Fellows approved the recommendation of the faculty with regard to the candidates for baccalaureate and advanced degrees, to be awarded at Commencement on Sunday, May 26.

The Corporation also endorsed resolutions of appreciation for senior administrators who are ending their respective terms in office this year: Vice President for Research Clyde Briant, Vice President for International Affairs Matthew Gutmann, Vice President for Computing and Information Services Michael Pickett, and Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Edward Wing.

Establishment of Endowed Positions, Acceptance of Gifts

The Corporation established an endowed professorship and coaching chair and accepted a number of gifts. These included the following:

  • The Richard C. Holbrooke ’62 LLD’97 Professorship in International Studies, established effective immediately with gifts in honor of the late Ambassador Holbrooke;
  • The Rothman Head Coaching Chair for Men’s Lacrosse, established effective July 1, 2013;
  • From an anonymous donor, a gift of $13,981,000 to the University's Donor-Advised Fund;
  • From donors who wish to remain anonymous, a gift of $5,000,000, of which $4,000,000 is to establish an endowed professorship in the humanities with preference for a faculty member in the literary arts and $1,000,000 for an associated teaching and research fund;
  • From anonymous donors, a gift of $5,000,000, of which $4,000,000 is to establish an endowed professorship in the Watson Institute for International Studies, and $1,000,000 is to be used at the President's discretion for innovative student initiatives;
  • From an anonymous donor, a gift of $5,000,000, of which $4,000,000 is to establish an endowed professorship in International Relations/Studies associated with the Watson Institute for International Studies and $1,000,000 for an associated endowed research fund;
  • From anonymous parents, a gift of $3,000,000 to support collaboration between Brown and leading Brazilian institutions;
  • From anonymous donors, a gift of $2,250,000, of which $2,000,000 is for the Athletics Initiative in support of Men's and Women's Crew, Men's and Women's Lacrosse and other endowment and facility priorities of Brown Athletics, and $250,000 is to support the Brown Annual Fund, in celebration of their 25th Reunion;
  • From Trustee Robert J. Carney ’61 and Nancy D. Carney, a new gift of $1,000,000 to the Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Innovation Fund for the Brown Institute for Brain Science;
  • From an anonymous donor, a gift of $1,000,000, of which $750,000 is to establish the Engineering Graduate Fellowship Fund, $150,000 is for the Engineering Dean's Discretionary Fund, and $100,000 is to support the Political Theory Project;
  • From Suzanne and Terrence Murray P’84, P’94, a gift of $1,000,000 to the University's Donor-Advised Fund;
  • From Lisa and Lance West P’16, a gift of $1,000,000 pending designation.

The Corporation also approved the naming of a conference room in the Medical Education Building in recognition of a gift from Providence Radiation Oncology Partners and the Department of Radiation Oncology.


As my first year as President of Brown draws to a close, I wish to express my appreciation for the hard work and accomplishments of all members of the community – faculty, students, and staff. Members of the Corporation were impressed not only by the intense engagement in the planning process, but by the many other endeavors that have taken place this year, including the diligent efforts by many staff to implement successfully the Workday financial system. There is much work ahead of us in the coming year, but I cannot imagine any place better to be than at Brown. Thank you for all that you do to make this a truly exceptional and engaging learning community.


Christina H. Paxson

Further information about the Corporation is available on-line.