The News Service
Largest building gift in Brown’s history
Corporation accepts gift, approves planning for new academic building
A $20-million gift from New York businessman Sidney Frank – the largest single gift for a building ever made to Brown University – will allow Brown to proceed with planning and construction of a new academic building and a large, landscaped urban green space on Angell Street. At its meeting May 29, 2004, the Brown Corporation accepted the gift and authorized planning for the project to proceed.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — At its Commencement Weekend meeting Saturday, May 29, 2004, the Corporation of Brown University formally accepted the largest single gift for building construction in the University’s history.
The $20-million gift from businessman Sidney Frank, of New Rochelle, N.Y., a member of Brown’s Class of 1942, will allow the University to proceed with plans for Sidney E. Frank Hall, a new academic building that will anchor a proposed green space and walkway linking the Pembroke Campus with the historic main campus. The Corporation has authorized the administration to select an architect and plan the overall construction project.
“With Mr. Frank’s unprecedented, enabling gift, the University begins to give physical expression to its Plan for Academic Enrichment,” said Brown President Ruth J. Simmons. “The new academic building will support our growing capacity for research and instruction and offer new public space, and the associated green space and walkway will further develop the Brown campus as an environment that sustains and enhances the intellectual and social life of our community.”
The new academic building will be a five-story, approximately 60,000-gross-square-foot structure on Angell Street, immediately to the west of the Brown Office Building. The ground floor will offer public function spaces, including a large auditorium and classrooms. The upper floors will house the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and the administrative offices of the Brain Science Program.
The Corporation’s approval allows the administration to proceed with architect selection and continued planning for the project. According to very preliminary estimates, construction could start sometime in 2006, with the building ready for use in 2008. Because this is the initial phase of a larger project to link the historic main campus with the University’s Pembroke campus, the design and planning must encompass more than construction of the building itself:
“This will be an important beginning, not just for the new academic building, but for the greater effort to extend and unify the Brown campus,” said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior advisor to the president. “The University has planned carefully for this larger effort; Mr. Frank’s gift ensures an early and confident start on an important and wonderful project.”
In the fall of 2001, the University engaged the architectural firm R.M. Kliment & Frances Halsband to develop a planning framework so that the physical campus would support the growth of faculty and the enrichment of the academic program. The Strategic Framework for Physical Planning, based on 15 months of careful analysis and broad consultation, laid out guidelines for the expansion and stewardship of the campus over time. The campus could accommodate as much as 1 million square feet of additional space, the report said, without compromising the unique qualities of the historical Brown campus.
The framework’s first design principle is to develop circulation infrastructure – the routes by which students, faculty, staff and others move through the campus. More well-defined, aesthetically pleasing routes would foster a sense of community, unify and enhance the campus and its surroundings.
The Walk [pdf] is a design proposal that would transform several blocks of parking lots, building support services (including refuse and recycling containers) and mixed-use facilities into a new area that would join Lincoln Field to the Life Sciences Building and Pembroke campus. It would open and develop a chain of landscaped green spaces, provide attractive new pedestrian routes, strengthen the fabric of campus and encourage greater interaction among the people who make daily use of the area.
The Walk proposal, which was approved by the Corporation at its May 29 meeting, also defines three new possible sites for academic buildings, including the site selected for the building supported by Mr. Frank’s gift. Those buildings would offer a projected total of more than a quarter-million square feet of additional space.
A native of Norwich, Conn., Frank began his studies at Brown University as a member of the Class of 1942. He left for a war-time assignment in Asia, where he represented Pratt & Whitney Motors during World War II.
Upon his return to the United States in 1945, Frank found work with Schenley Distillers, beginning a long and remarkable career in the importation and marketing of distilled spirits. In 1972, he founded Sidney Frank Importing Co. Inc., of which he continues as chairman. His reputation and skill as a brand builder led to the American marketing success of Jägermeister Liqueur, Grey Goose Vodka and Gekkeikan Saké.
“I was only at Brown for a short time, but it had a tremendous impact on my life,” Frank said. “Though I was just a kid from a farm in Connecticut, that one year at Brown gave me the courage to compete and the ability to succeed in my first job at Pratt & Whitney and beyond.
“It was due to financial difficulties that I had to leave Brown,” he continued. “Today, however, I find I have a little money to spare, and with that, I’d like to thank Brown for all it did for me and gave to me.”
Active in various professional, cultural, and charitable organizations, Frank is chairman of the board of the Sidney and Louise Frank Foundation and is a board member of the Riverdale Country School, where he has established scholarships for scholar-athletes. An avid golfer and art collector, Frank and his wife, Marian, live in New Rochelle, N.Y. Frank has two children and five grandchildren.