President Paxson Visits Brown West Coast Communities
They met up in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle—almost 750 members of the Brown community in all—drawn by the opportunity to meet President Christina H. Paxson during her five-day swing through the West Coast, hear about the new strategic plan for Brown, catch up with old friends, and meet new ones.
Brown provided me with skills I would not have been able to get elsewhere. There's no better way to show appreciation than to preserve those same benefits for future generations.
—Scott Westerfield ’79 in LA
• In Los Angeles, almost 250 alumni, parents and friends gathered at the historic downtown California Club September 25 for what was, for most, the first opportunity to meet President Paxson. Between cocktails, appetizers and mingling, the packed room heard from a number of people, including impromptu speaker Mike Martin '04, Brown's head mens's basketball coach, who happened to be in LA and took the podium briefly. Brown Club of Southern California co-presidents Brooke Dammkoehler '85 and Teri Ende '07 commented on the common bond Brown had given those assembled. Alison Ressler '80, P'09, P'10, P'13, P'15 praised President Paxson’s leadership and her "clear ability to connect meaningfully” with constituents. President Paxson gave the highlight of the evening: an overview of Building On Distinction, the new strategic plan she will present to the Brown University Corporation later in October, emphasizing the importance of "integrative scholarship" and taking questions from the audience. Scott Westerfield ’79 urged those present to consider expanding their role in Brown life in some way.
• On September 27, about 150 people gathered in Seattle’s stately Rainier Club, where David Chichester ’67 and Brown Alumni Association Board Member Eric de los Santos ’89 greeted them and introduced President Paxson, urging them to give her as rowdy a reception as they would the Seattle Seahawks. When she took the mic, President Paxson outlined the strategic plan and spoke of the need to continue to bolster financial aid, not only for those at the lowest income levels, but also for the middle class. She assured the crowd, to a round of applause, that the open curriculum is safe and revered, and went on to field a wide range of questions from the highly engaged crowd. One unexpected attendee: an alumnus from Chicago happened to be downstairs attending a wedding. When he heard about the all-constituency event, he came upstairs just to meet President Paxson.
• The next evening, President Paxson welcomed the largest crowd yet—about 350 people—to the landmark Fairmont San Francisco Hotel atop Nob Hill. She noted that Brown wants to grow its presence on the West Coast and that more Brown students come from California than from any other state. Points she highlighted from the strategic plan included Brown’s cross-disciplinary approach to research and teaching and vital areas of scholarship such as climate change and public health. She was joined by other speakers including Corporation Trustee Dick Barker ’57, P’03, P’05; James Sinai ’01; and Vice Chancellor Jerome Vascellaro ’74, P’07, who mentioned that the two lead gifts for the School of Engineering had come from the Bay Area. The crowd asked President Paxson questions that ranged from the importance of athletics, to whether the Corporation would divest from coal, to how Brown would ensure that online courses maintained the University’s high educational standards.
Additional photos are on the Brown Alumni Association's Facebook page.