A look back: 2020 highlights

From providing emergency support to students during a global pandemic to game-changing research in malaria, we're looking back at some important accomplishments supported by Brown donors in a year that was anything but ordinary.

Graphic of Van Wickle Gates with "A look back at 2020" text.

Few years have tested our resilience and strength like 2020. Despite the adversity we've faced, Brown University was able to have a banner year. We came together as a community to support one another, made path-breaking discoveries, and invested in the people that make the whole of Brunonia better and brighter.

One area that galvanized Brown faculty, students, staff, and community members in particular this year was diversity, equity, and inclusion. President Christina H. Paxson’s 2020 Financial Report opens with a summary of the ways in which the University made progress with its commitment to creating peaceful, just, and prosperous societies.

View the 2020 Financial Report

As we close the books on a year wrought with unpredictability, here's a look back at some of the other moments worth celebrating and the achievements that were made possible through the BrownTogether campaign.

View out of classroom windows at University Hall

Increasing the number of professorships

Brown made strong headway in deepening its academic bench with top-flight educators. With generous support from alumni, parents, and friends, the University created 15 new endowed faculty positions, representing professorships at various levels in brain science, economics, medicine, and international affairs. Two of these were leadership positions: the directorship of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society and the directorship of the Howard R. Swearer Center for Public Service. These new additions bring the total professorships established during the BrownTogether campaign to 90.

Jack pumps in a field

Taking action to address climate change

In September, Brown announced the Climate Solutions Initiative, a three-year undertaking to study and reduce roadblocks to progress in the fight against climate change. Partially funded by an anonymous donor, this will be a joint effort among the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES), the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and the Office of the Provost. The goal is to combat the forces that seek to maintain the status quo and inhibit transformational change. Among the leaders of this initiative is J. Timmons Roberts, whose collaborative work is uncovering the depth and breadth of climate misinformation.

+  Learn more about the work of IBES and the Watson Institute.

Dr. Jonathan Kurtis looking through a microscope in a lab.

Brown researchers discover promising lead for malaria vaccine

In April, Brown researchers made headlines with their discovery of a potential "kill switch" for malaria. Dr. Jonathan Kurtis, the Stanley M. Aronson Professor of Pathobiology and Laboratory Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School and laboratory director of the Center for International Health Research at Rhode Island Hospital, has worked with a team to identify antibodies that can trigger malarial cells to self destruct, causing the parasite cells living in human red blood cells to ostensibly program their own death. With these findings, researchers now have a new target to attack the deadly parasite that could be used to develop a new vaccine. Dr. Kurtis’s endowed faculty position and donor support for biomedical research has made this work possible.

+  Learn more about how you can support pioneering discoveries at Brown.

Student participating in a Zoom meeting on their laptop while sitting outside

Supporting our students in remote learning

As the coronavirus quickly began to spread throughout the country in mid March, the University made the decision to pivot to full distance learning. For many of Brown's most vulnerable students, leaving campus brought with it unexpected financial challenges and expenses. Helping them meet those needs was the might of the Brown community. Alumni, parents, families, and friends of the University answered the call with their contributions to the newly-created Student Emergency Support Fund. With their support, we were able to provide assistance for moving and travel expenses, technology requirements for remote learning, and support students facing food insecurity while away from campus.

+  Find out how you can support today's students where it's most needed through The Brown Fund.

Prototype of a 3D-printed ventilator
Researchers at Brown are developing innovative ways to combat the pandemic, including creating designs for a 3D-printed ventilator.

Researchers respond to COVID

As COVID-19 rapidly spread from country to country, the world scrambled to find solutions and ways to respond to this unparalleled situation. With top researchers from a myriad of fields—including public health, computer science, engineering, and biomedical research—Brown was well-positioned to help provide those solutions and develop innovative ways to combat the pandemic. Brown awarded funding to 15 teams of faculty researchers as part of its new COVID-19 Research Seed Fund. Projects range from at-home COVID-19 tests to 3D-printed ventilators to antiviral drugs for treatment.

The COVID-19 Research Seed Fund was supported by the President's Response Fund, created by the Corporation to address unexpected and urgent needs resulting from the pandemic.

Veterans carrying flags during Veterans Day ceremonies on the main green.

Bringing student veterans to College Hill

In the fall, Brown announced a $20 million gift that would help increase the number of student veterans on campus. The generous gift from U.S. Army veteran and Brown parent Joseph P. Healy P’22, P’24 will create a permanent scholarship endowment for veterans. The endowment will help accelerate Brown's plan to double the number of U.S. military veterans enrolled as undergraduates by 2024.

+  Learn more about supporting financial aid at Brown.

Dr. Wafik S. El-Deiry viewing a screen in his lab.

New Cancer Center established at Brown

Continuing its commitment to cancer research and treatment, the University announced the creation of a new Cancer Center. From understanding how cancer develops and grows to developing new therapeutics for patients, the new center sets out to explore and tackle a broad spectrum of research. Tapped to lead the center as its inaugural director is Dr. Wafik S. El-Deiry—associate dean for oncologic sciences and a professor of medical science, pathology, and laboratory medicine—who has garnered international recognition for his work in the field.

+  Learn more about how Brown is supporting biomedical research.

Design rendering of the new locker room suites for the Meehan Auditorium
A design rendering of the future locker room suites for Meehan Auditorium.

Meehan Auditorium renovations move forward

During a year with many campus construction projects being put on hold, donor support has kept the long-awaited upgrade of Meehan Auditorium moving forward—providing a state-of-the-art home for men's and women's hockey. The $7.25 million phase one of the project includes the creation of the Brown Hockey Locker Room Center, with locker room suites for both teams and a sports medicine room, along with renovations to the Davis Lounge. So far, $5.3 million has been raised. Renovations will begin in spring 2021 and will be completed by August 2021 before the 2021-22 season, with timing depending on fundraising progress.

+  Learn more about supporting Brown Athletics.