We don’t know exactly when this photo was taken, but the landscape offers some clues. The Hay stands proud to the right of the Van Wickle Gates, telling us that this snowy scene was captured some time after 1910, when Brown’s first dedicated library was built. But the Rock, which started construction in 1962, does not yet occupy the corner to the left. Then there’s that dashing trilby worn by the figure passing through the left side gate, and the absence of cars (unless, of course, they’re buried in snow). Whatever the mid-20th-century date, the scene recalls the Cicero inscription carved into the stone tablet on one side of the Gates: “These studies fortify one’s youth, delight one’s old age; amid success they are an ornament, in failure they are a refuge and a comfort.”
Reader Responses to Amid snow they are an ornament.
I attended Brown because of this very picture and may be able to shed some light on its origin. During the winter of 1961-62, I was a senior at a military school in Tennessee and had written to Brown and other colleges requesting applicant information. This picture was in that material and made an impression on me. Having grown up in Miami, I never saw snow until I was 16. One day, I was in Colonel Devere Armstrong’s office where a large framed version of this image hung behind his desk. I said something about it; he responded that his brother-in-law was Brown director of admissions for many years and had taken the picture from his office window, adding “would you like me to write you a letter of recommendation?” Years later I contacted the Brown Archives and got a copy, which has hung in my office ever since.
The man in the fedora walking through the left hand gate of the Van Wickle Gates is clearly Prof. Josiah Carberry on his way to further research. I recognize him clearly from the faculty roster of 1956.
When the John D. Rockefeller Library was being built, students began referring to it as “The Rock” (Van Wickle Gates, Classes Opener, Jan.-Mar. ’23). There was some blowback from administrators who thought the nickname was insufficiently dignified. So students began suggesting an alternative: “The John.” Whereupon the University quietly acquiesced in the now cherished name, “the Rock.”