William H.P. Faunce, the son of a Baptist minister, entered Brown in 1876. After graduation, he taught freshman mathematics at Brown, but then decided to become a minister. He graduated from the Newton Theological Institution in 1884, and thereafter served as pastor of the State Street Church in Springfield, Massachusetts until 1889, at which time he became pastor of the Fifth Avenue Church in New York City. After a successful tenure in New York, he was offered the presidency of Brown in 1899.
Faunce's administration eventually spanned thirty years, the longest presidential term in Brown's history. The change in the state of the University during that period was marked, and the growth of the physical plant was nothing short of extraordinary—a new president's house and the Van Wickle Gates in 1901, an administration building in 1902, a modern engineering building and a swimming pool in 1903, Caswell Hall, Rockefeller Hall (Faunce House), and the John Carter Brown Library in 1904, the John Hay Library in 1910, Arnold Laboratory in 1914, Metcalf Laboratory in 1923, an engineering laboratory in 1925, and Marston, Hegeman and Littlefield Halls in 1926. On the Pembroke campus, Sayles Gym was built in 1907, and Miller, Metcalf, and Alumnae Halls appeared in 1910, 1919, and 1927, respectively. The University's endowment increased from $1.7 to $9.9 million during his term, and the size of both the student body and faculty nearly tripled.
When the beloved president known to students as "Willie Horse Power Faunce" retired in 1929 at the age of seventy, the Corporation wanted to acquire a residence for him, and $40,000 was contributed by five friends to acquire the house at 41 Lloyd Avenue where he lived until his death the following year.