How Brown is embracing its veteran community

With University initiatives and generous community support, more student veterans are making their academic home on College Hill.

In 2014, the number of student veterans at Brown barely cracked double digits. Today, 26 undergraduate and eight medical student veterans are enrolled at Brown. 

Joseph P. Healey P'22, P'24 posing with the city skyline behind him
A gift from Joseph P. Healey P'22, P'24 will support financial aid for student veterans at Brown.

With recent efforts, those numbers will only continue to grow. 

The first big push was last year's announcement by President Christina H. Paxson of a new initiative to double the number of U.S. military veterans enrolled as undergraduates at Brown by 2024

A year to the day after announcing the new initiative, a new $20 million gift is helping to make this pledge a reality.

Half of the generous gift from Joseph P. Healey P'22, P'24—a U.S. Army veteran, son of a Brown alumna, and parent to two Brown students—will help create a permanent endowment scholarship for veterans. The other half, a bequest, will establish a scholarship for Brown's Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) program.

“A Brown degree is a ticket that opens doors for the rest of your life,” says Healey. “To give veterans who have served our country a chance to attend Brown—the way that Brown gave that chance to my mom, and the military gave a chance to me—was a unique opportunity to return an investment that was made in my mother and in me.”

The University's efforts in this area have garnered national recognition. Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report ranked Brown third on its list of best universities for U.S. military veterans.

Meet today's veteran and ROTC students

Military-affiliated students demonstrate great curiosity about the world, consistent dedication to skill development, and a desire to serve others—all qualities central to Brown's mission to prepare students "to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation." While it's clear their diverse experiences enrich campus life in so many ways, we wondered, what in particular brought them to Brown?

Seth Bae '22Seth Bae '22

Army veteran

Seth Bae chose a concentration in International and Public Affairs that will allow him to apply his practical experience to his education. As a first-generation American and college student, Bae’s career plans involve empowering and inspiring people who share his background.


"I was particularly drawn by Brown’s relentless support for students with unconventional backgrounds. The Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) program and broad non-traditional student and veteran communities manifest Brown's awareness of socioeconomic diversity and commitment to creating inclusive communities."


Raquel Ruiter '23Raquel Ruiter '23

ROTC cadet

With a passion for languages and an interest in pursuing a career in the Air Force’s intelligence community after graduation, Raquel Ruiter is studying Russian and International and Public Affairs at Brown. After her service in the Air Force, Ruiter hopes to pair her experience with an advanced degree in business that would lead to a second career in finance or consulting.


"One of my favorite parts of Brown is the flexibility to connect and interlink my academic and military education. Taking full advantage of the Open Curriculum—everything from Bible classes to immunology—has provided me with a new perspective."

Call of Duty: Brown veterans and their legacy to serve others

As an attorney for the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit that would later be known as the Agent Orange case, the late V. Donald Russo ’50 had a lasting impact on the lives of millions of Vietnam War veterans.

Yearbook photo of V. Donald RussoA former service member himself, Russo served in the Navy in the final months of World War II. Russo’s family connections with the University—his father and three brothers had all gone to Brown, his sister graduated from Pembroke—prompted him to apply before shipping out to Okinawa. He matriculated upon his return from service, studying English and history at Brown before heading to St. John’s School of Law. During his career as a trial attorney with Allstate, Russo joined his colleagues in preparing and taking to trial the first mass tort case in the country: the class action suit brought by Vietnam veterans suffering from health issues they alleged to be the result of exposure to the dangerous chemical during their service.

Working this case was a career highlight for Russo, who felt strongly that veterans should be compensated for both their medical expenses and the pain and suffering they’d endured. The case was settled in 1984, awarding $180 million to veterans and their families. Russo received the Award of Gratitude from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and later donated his papers relating to the litigation to Brown’s John Hay Library.

Related Links