Ever True

The vaccine, commencement, and the passing of Vartan Gregorian.

By Pippa Jack / June–August 2021
June 15th, 2021

On a humdrum midweek day in mid May, I realized my husband and I were officially fully vaccinated. It was the same day we took my 16-year-old for her second shot. As a family, we were suddenly on the cusp of a new reality, one that—barring the rise of new vaccine-resistant variants—promised passage into a post-COVID world. Whatever that world will look like, I felt filled with relief and gratitude.

Seth Berkley ’78, ’81 MD wants everyone to know what that feels like. Not particularly well known in the United States, Berkley gets plenty of air time in Europe and much of the developing world, as does an expression he often uses, “vaccine equity.” Those two words pretty much sum up not just Berkley’s efforts since the COVID-19 pandemic began but his entire life’s work. He’s long labored to set up a model that will allow rich and poor nations access to the vaccines their citizens need, despite what he argues are countervailing market forces. Read more in our cover story, which starts on page 18.

A few pages later, we introduce you to seven members of the Class of 2021, a class that has persevered through uncertainty and isolation and yet, in complying with Brown’s COVID policies, “defied the theory that college students would be super-spreaders of the virus,” President Paxson remarked at Commencement 2021. It was a celebratory moment, if hardly the usual Memorial Day weekend on College Hill. Many students attended virtually, and for those who made the procession out through the Van Wickle Gates on this year’s adjusted date of May 2, there were no family or friends to cheer them on, no alums to shake their hands as they made the passage. Well-wishers, however, watched from computer screens the world over. 

The Class of 2020 will finally get its chance to exit the Gates, too. Brown has asked its members to fill out a survey indicating whether they would prefer to gather this fall or over Memorial Day 2022. Either way, Paxson remarked, it “just might be the most highly anticipated and enthusiastic celebration ever seen at Brown.” 

I hope you are all able to mark your own highly anticipated and enthusiastic reunions this year, with friends, family, and loved ones. If by chance those gatherings include classmates, send us a note at alumni_magazine@brown.edu. These are historic times, and I like to think that this magazine, in its small way, helps provide a record for the larger Brown community—but we can’t do it without you. Reach out, too, if you or an alum you know has a great business or nonprofit BAM should feature in the Gift Guide. Many of you wrote asking us to reinstate it, and we’re excited to be able to renew the tradition this year.

Finally, this issue marks the passing of Vartan Gregorian, the immigrant raised poor in Iran who would go on to lead the New York Public Library, the Carnegie Corporation and, of course, Brown. Whatever he approached, he did with enthusiasm, humility, and a steadfast determination to lift others up. Words to live by.   

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