Merit Badges

By Charlotte Bruce Harvey ’78 / November / December 2007
December 5th, 2007

Here’s a smattering of facts you can learn about Brown’s fifteenth president, the late Howard R. Swearer, from an exhibition at the Watson Institute this fall: He earned the twenty-one merit badges required to make Eagle Scout (something only two percent of Boy Scouts accomplish). He made good grades in school (no surprise there), looked at home on a potter’s wheel, and made quite respectable pots. His children and his wife, Jan, shared his love of the arts; she was a printmaker, and son Nick made whimsical bronze sculptures of an iguana and bears in his youth.

A Midwesterner, Swearer was dedicated to getting Americans to pitch in, and to improving U.S.–Soviet relations (the Watson Institute was conceived under his tenure, which lasted from 1977 to 1988). An interview with the Brown Daily Herald revealed that the president patronized the barbershop in Faunce House and that his pet peeves included student reporters asking nasty questions. (The BAM, too, occasionally infuriated him.)

Swearer died in 1991. This year Brown’s Swearer Center for Public Service turns twenty-five, and to mark the occasion the staff created this exhibition. The family lent personal items: a pair of baby shoes, the scouting sash at right, and Swearer’s Princeton yearbook. University Archives contributed old clippings and correspondence.

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice. 
Related Issue
November / December 2007