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.

2023 Recipient

Brianna Brown ’03

Brianna Brown, recipient of the William Rogers AwardBrianna Brown's work in Texas is not just about organizing: it's about envisioning and tirelessly working towards a future where democracy truly represents all. Her dedication to social justice, combined with her effective leadership, makes her an exemplary recipient for Brown University’s William Rogers Award, as she embodies the essence of living a life of “usefulness and reputation,” significantly contributing to society and human rights, much like Rogers himself.

A fourth-generation Texan, Brown is a trailblazer in grassroots organizing and civic engagement. As co-executive director of the Texas Organizing Project (TOP), she has played a pivotal role in redefining the political landscape of Texas. Her work, deeply rooted in the experiences of Black and Latinx communities, has been instrumental in shaping a more inclusive and representative democracy in the state. Brown champions the idea that lasting change requires constant presence and action, not just around elections but every day on the ground in communities. During her time co-leading the organization, TOP’s key wins have included civics classes in Bexar County Jail, misdemeanor bail reform in Harris County, expanded educational programs in Dallas, and the election of progressive candidates statewide.


Previous Award Recipients

  • Lynn Pasquerella PhD’85, education advocate and president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Lauren J. Asher ’87, nationally recognized expert on college affordability and outcomes
  • Aaron T. Beck ’42 DMS'82 hon., P'74, founder of cognitive therapy
  • Seth F. Berkley ’78 MD'81 DMS'22 hon., founder of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
  • Thomas G. Catena ’86 DMS'16 hon., medical doctor
  • Spencer R. Crew '71, P'00, P'04, historian, educator, and Smithsonian curator
  • Edwidge Danticat MFA’93 LITTD'08 hon., award-winning author
  • George M. C. Fisher ScM'64 PhD'66 LLD'91 hon., P'88, P'92, president, chairman of the board, and chief executive officer, Eastman Kodak Company
  • Kathryn Scott Fuller ’68 LHD’92 hon., P’06, president, World Wildlife Fund and the Conservation Foundation
  • James B. Garvin '78 ScM'81 PhD'84, P'17, chief scientist for NASA’s Mars and Lunar Exploration Programs
  • David R. Gockley ’65 DFA’93 hon., general director, Houston Grand Opera
  • Hermes C. Grillo ’44, P’87, chief of general thoracic surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Hill Harper ’88, film, television, and stage actor; author; philanthropist
  • Maggie Hassan ’80, P’15, American politician and attorney serving as the junior United States senator from New Hampshire
  • Richard C. Holbrooke ’62 LLD'97 hon., permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations
  • Lucile M. Jones ’76, seismologist
  • Jim Yong Kim ’82 DMS’09 hon., P’22 ScM’24 chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School
  • Irving R. Levine ’44 LITTD'69 hon., NBC News chief economics correspondent
  • Byron K. Lichtenberg ’69, astronaut, pilot, and engineer
  • Lois Hammersberg Lowry ’58 LITTD'14 hon., award-winning children’s author and illustrator
  • Kurt M. Luedtke ’61, Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winner
  • Linda S. Mason ’64, P’01, vice president, public affairs, CBS News
  • Jaykumar A. Menon ’90, international human rights lawyer
  • Zachary P. Morfogen ’50, P’87, founding chairman emeritus, National Hospice Foundation and the National Hospice Organization
  • Samuel M. Nabrit ScM'28 PhD'32 DSC'62 hon., educator and developmental biologist
  • Frank Newman ’47, former president, Education Commission of the States
  • Nawal M. Nour ’88, founder and director of the African Women’s Health Practice of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston
  • Joseph V. Paterno ’50 LLD'75 hon., professor and head football coach, Pennsylvania State University
  • Thomas E. Pérez ’83 LLD’14 hon., P’18, assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Justice
  • Barbara J. Reisman '71, P'02 MD'06, P'05, executive director, Child Care Action Campaign
  • William R. Rhodes ’57 LHD’05 hon., P’98, senior vice chairman, Citibank
  • Kenneth T. Roth ’77 LHD’11 hon., P’12, executive director of Human Rights Watch, the largest human rights organization in the U.S.
  • Malika Saada Saar ’92, founder and executive director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights
  • William H. Twaddell ’63, U.S. ambassador to Nigeria
  • Diana E. Wells ’88, president of Ashoka
  • Augustus A. White III '57 DMS'97 hon., P'98, distinguished surgeon
  • Gerard B. White ’86, co-founder, Landmine Survivors Network


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