Blowing Kisses

July 16th, 2010

"How many of you were at Campus Dance last night?" President Ruth Simmons asked a tent full of alumni and parents on Saturday morning of Reunion and Commencement weekend. A flurry of hands went up. "How many of you were jamming down there with the rap band?" The hands sank. "I went down there to pretend that I knew what was going on," she said, "and I stood there and listened for a good while. I think the band was very good." She paused and looked quizzical. "It's hard to judge. Let's ask a student," She pointed to a young face in the crowd. "He doesn't know!"

If The Late Show is David Letterman's natural element, the annual Hour with the President is Ruth Simmons'. After accepting a gigantic check for $67,708,250 from Tony Ittleson '60, who chaired the fiftieth-reunion class gift committee, Simmons effused, "I love big checks—and what we can do with them."

"How are you this morning?" she asked the crowd, and when someone called back, "Poor!" she applauded. "Outstanding! A little poverty is a good thing." With just 80,000 alumni, she said, Brown is now ranked sixth nationally for alumni giving. "That's against places that have 300,000 alumni," she said. "We're number two in the country for non-alumni parental giving. And number sixteen for total giving." She brought on stage Senior Vice President for Advancement Ronald Vanden Dorpel '71 AM, who had announced his retirement this year after exceeding the Campaign for Brown's $1.4 billion goal nineteen months ahead of schedule. The Campaign has now exceeded $1.5 billion, Simmons announced. "You can blow him kisses!"

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Related Issue
July/August 2010