|By The Editors|
Although in the end the BAM 100 was chosen by the magazine’s editors—and therefore does not represent any kind of official University list—the selection process was broad and deep. About a year ago we began soliciting nominations from you in the pages of the magazine, on our Web site, and at Commencement and reunion weekend. We asked our board of editors for their guidance and suggestions.Over the summer and fall we badgered the faculty and staff in every academic department for the names of worthy graduates. We consulted Brown archivist Martha Mitchell and her classic Encyclopedia Brunoniana.
More than 300 individual alumni received nominations. We reviewed each one, seeking advice from more knowledgeable experts when necessary. Because we were looking for impact on the twentieth century—not the nineteenth or the twenty-first—we considered alumni from classes of the late 1800s and excluded most from classes of the 1990s. We opened the nominations to recipients of any Brown degree and to a few individuals who never earned one but are nevertheless considered alumni.
We quickly realized, of course, how arbitrary and foolish was our task. With more than 75,000 alumni out there, choosing 100 meant leaving out hundreds who deserved to be on such a list. And how could we compare the impact of a corporate CEO with that of a historian or a theoretical mathematician?
The solution was to organize our choices in twenty-nine categories that emerged from the nominations and to consider our choices within each as more representative than definitive. We broke our own rules twice. In five instances impact was better illustrated by a pair of nominees considered jointly rather than by a single nominee. And we allowed ourselves three special mentions.
Naming names is always dangerous. So why did we do it? We think that looking at a period of history through the narratives of a selected group of individuals can reveal much about the character of the period as well as the nature of the group. In the BAM 100 we believe you will be able to discern the contours of a century—its wars, its prosperity, its technological ambition, and its passion for combating injustice.
We hope you will see how you were shaped by these things and how you responded.
The BAM 100 is our list—your own might be very different. We think that’s a good thing. In fact, we hope this exercise triggers an honest discussion about the ever-changing relationship between the world within the Van Wickle Gates and the world beyond them. What will that relationship be like a century from now? No doubt the BAM 200 will have more racial, ethnic, gender, and international diversity than we found in the twentieth century. History is pulling us in that direction, pulled itself by men and women discharging the offices of life with usefulness and reputation. Their young minds are carrying on the work today in the year 2000.
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