The first Brown students I met were members of the men’s and women’s
track and field teams. In the spring of 2012—after my appointment as
the nineteenth president of Brown had been announced but before I
officially started—I had breakfast with the Brown team at an all-Ivy
meet. We talked about athletics: how the students balance the demands
of athletics and academics, and how athletics enriches their Brown
experiences. But we also spoke about the full range of the students’
interests and concerns, including summer internships, study abroad, and
academics in fields ranging from economics to public health to
neuroscience. This conversation quickly dispelled any misguided notion
I might have held that time spent on the field detracts from students’
Also that spring, I made my first Brown hiring decision—again, in athletics. I received a phone call from Ruth Simmons asking me to interview the finalists for the position of athletic director. From a pool of excellent candidates, Jack Hayes stood out, for his aspiration to develop winning teams, his sense of the importance of integrating academics and athletics, and his view of athletics as a vehicle for improving the health and wellness of the entire community as well as for building bridges between the university and the local community.
I did not know, at the time, that I was selecting someone I would eventually spend large chunks of my weekends with. Jack Hayes and I have spent hours standing on the sidelines at soccer matches and football games, sweating through the final nail-biting moments of close basketball games, and attending banquets to honor current and former team members and coaches. Under Jack’s leadership, there have been deliberate steps to build community through athletics—on campus, with alumni locally and globally, and across Providence and Rhode Island.
In recent years, Brown has made a number of significant improvements to our athletics programs. To attract the best talent, we have committed to maintaining coaching salaries at competitive levels and establishing endowed coaching chairs. In addition, we’ve built the wonderful Nelson Fitness Center and Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center, constructed a new women’s field hockey field, renovated the Pizzitola Sports Center athletic training room, and built new locker rooms for men’s and women’s lacrosse. Our ability to match financial aid offers from other universities has helped to attract outstanding students—both athletes and nonathletes—to Brown. With the establishment of the Ivy League Digital Network in 2013, Brown’s alumni, parents, and friends can watch athletics events from anywhere in the world.
Building on the principle of competitive excellence, the athletics department devoted the last year to working with a committee of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to develop a new strategic plan to move Brown athletics forward. Last spring, the committee completed its work of assessing our position within the Ivy League, establishing a vision for the athletics program, and identifying ambitious goals and objectives to achieve over the next five years. With the aim of complementing the academic mission of the University, the department plans to make strategic investments in intercollegiate programs and to enhance the experience for all students, whether they participate through varsity athletics, club or intramural sports, or as users of fitness and recreation facilities.
We are indebted to Brown alumni and parents, who continue to be a
critical source of financial support and inspiration. Please visit www.brownbears.com
to learn more about the plan. I am confident that it defines a clear
path forward for athletics, fitness, and recreation at Brown, and I
look forward to talking more with students, faculty, alumni, and staff
about this shared vision. Whether on the field of competition or over a
conversation in the Blue Room or on the College Green, I am continually
impressed by the dedication and true Brown spirit that emanates from
those who represent our athletic traditions with pride and distinction.