Renaming Lincoln Field

September 28th, 2012

I was dismayed to read of the Corporation’s decision that Lincoln Field would be “henceforth and in perpetuity known to all as the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle.” (“Ruth’s Place,” Finally, July/August)

John Larkin Lincoln was a professor of classics at Brown for nearly forty-five years in the nineteenth century, and the details of his long, loyal, and productive tenure can be found in the Encyclopedia Brunoniana (available online). He turned down several offers of university presidencies to remain at Brown—serving under presidents Wayland, Sears, Caswell, and Robinson. Another Brown president, former Lincoln student William Faunce, remembered the “contagious gladness” of Lincoln’s teaching, how he “radiated his own joy” at the classics, and how he “beamed and glowed” over good student work. Shortly after his death, in another testament to his life-long influence, two students Lincoln had tutored decades earlier renamed in his honor a school they had founded. I teach at the Lincoln School in Providence, and I strive every day to emulate and inspire the joy, gladness, and love of learning of John Larkin Lincoln.

Institutions forget and erase their own legacies at their peril. Surely there is a better way to commemorate Ruth Simmons’s eleven-year tenure at Brown than to remove a past generation’s commemoration of a beloved and loyal figure? Given the extensive landscaping and construction of new buildings during her presidency, could not some other place have been named in her honor? I would suggest that a space similar to Lincoln Field, the walkway between the main campus and Pembroke, developed during her time at Brown and still without a specific appellation, be named for her. If the Corporation hoped for its action to be honored “for perpetuity,” it needs to be mindful to honor the acts of the past by those who cared for Brown and its legacy.

In 1985 a plan to erect a building on Lincoln Field was scrapped when alumni spoke out against it. I hope that other alumni, including recent graduates, might now make their voices heard to persuade the Corporation to reconsider this well-intentioned but poor decision.

Richard Canedo ’88 AM, ’07 PhD


The decision to rename Lincoln 
Field is as unfathomable as it is shortsighted. It is an affront to history and to generations of Brunonians who cherish memories of this special place. Brown has always prided itself on its longevity and permanence: “Names That Live Through Time” is an oft-used development phrase to entice donors to associate their name with a significant campus project. The message going forward is that nothing at Brown is truly permanent. The Lincoln Field name has stood since 1880, when students and faculty labored side by side to build our first ball field on a swamp. It too was intended to last in perpetuity.

Past practice at Brown has honored presidents by naming structures built during their tenure: Wriston Quadrangle, Keeney Quadrangle, and Gregorian Quadrangle are examples from the modern era. While there can be no question that the Simmons years have been extraordinary, and that President Simmons deserves our enduring gratitude, there are more fitting ways to honor her. The Walk is one, a unifying link between Lincoln Field and Pembroke Campus and an exciting setting for buildings of the future. If it is symbolically important to link President Simmons’s name to the original campus tract, adding her name to the Front Campus instead of un-naming Lincoln Field would accomplish the same result. The Front Campus is Brown’s front door, and coupled with the fact that the Slavery and Justice Memorial is to be located there, would underscore President Simmons’s bold initiative which has enabled Brown to confront its role in slavery.

It is never too late to revisit an unwise decision made in good faith. I urge the Brown Corporation to do so. At the very least, retain the Lincoln Field name by calling the area the Ruth Simmons Quadrangle on Lincoln Field, and also name the Walk for her.  

Peter A. Mackie ’59
Lexington, Mass.


I read that renaming Lincoln Field as the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle was cause for celebration for all—with the possible exception of descendants of the presumably beloved professor of Latin John Larkin Lincoln, for whom the field was named in the 1880s. Was his legacy casually tossed aside, or has Brown placed a suitable plaque in the newly christened Simmons Quad to perpetuate the memory of Professor Lincoln?  

Jane E. Good ’72
Annapolis, Md.


Last May the Corporation voted to name the area between Sayles Hall and Soldier’s Arch the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle. Originally a wetland filled for a baseball field, Lincoln Field, named after Professor of Latin John Larkin Lincoln, who taught at Brown for forty-four years, eventually became the locus of buildings used by all four disciplines. The area, says Chancellor Thomas J. Tisch ’76, “represents Brown in our breadth and at our very best. There is no more fitting location for the Corporation to come together to say how deeply grateful we are for all that Ruth has done for us.” The Lincoln Field Building, built in 1903, continues to commemorate Professor Lincoln at Brown.Editor

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September/October 2012