Elisha Benjamin Andrews, a Civil War lieutenant, Baptist minister, and Brown alumnus, assumed the presidency of the University in 1889, a year after he had left a Brown professorship for a position at Cornell. He bolstered the program in graduate instruction entered upon by Robinson, and was instrumental in the founding of the Women's College (later Pembroke) in 1891. He also saw undergraduate enrollment increase by 140% during his term. In light of these developments, and in the face of questions regarding the adequacy of the College's current facilities, Andrews proposed that Brown address itself to the business of becoming "a true University."
In 1897, Andrews resigned after a controversy with the Corporation over his views on the coinage of silver, which had been a primary issue in the 1896 presidential campaign. Several Corporation members felt that Andrews' views might adversely affect the prospects of the institution, and that his views had already cost the school alumni donations. However, the faculty and student body advocated the necessity of free speech, and the Corporation refused to accept Andrews' resignation offer. Only a year later, Andrews resigned for good, this time to become superintendent of Chicago public schools.
At the 1947 dedication of Andrews Hall, President Henry Wriston remarked, "Under Andrews, Brown ceased to be a small New England college and embraced the idea of a university. With him the ideal of scholarship, which must dominate a modern university, came to fruition."