The Brown Alumni Association established the William Rogers Award in 1984 to recognize an outstanding alumna or alumnus whose service to society in general is representative of the words of the Brown Charter: living a life “of usefulness and reputation.” It recognizes important contributions to humankind made by Brown alumni anywhere in the world.
Roger Williams was the first Rhode Islander. In a neat bit of symmetry, William Rogers was the first Brunonian, enrolling in 1765. Rogers was the only student attending the new college for the first nine months, and when he graduated with six other men in 1769, he gave the first Commencement oration. In 1790 Rogers became president of oratory and belles-lettres at the University of Pennsylvania, a position he held until 1811. He served as vice president of the Society for Gradual Abolition of Slavery, and in 1797 he was vice president of the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. He died on April 7, 1824.