Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed Mau 25, 1999
Contact: Glenn Hare

Commencement 1999

University to honor its first African-American Ph.D. recipient with portrait

In recognition of his service to Brown University, higher education and the nation, the Brown Corporation will honor Samuel Nabrit, the University's first African-American Ph.D. recipient, by unveiling his portrait Friday evening, May 28, in Sayles Hall.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University will honor Samuel Nabrit, its first African-American Ph.D. graduate, for his service and support to Brown, higher education and the nation by unveiling his portrait during a dinner of the Brown Corporation, the University's governing body, in Sayles Hall Friday, May 28, 1999.

Editors: Photographs of Nabrit are available from the Brown News Bureau. A photograph of the portrait will be available Friday, May 28, before the unveiling. Call the News Bureau for information.

Nabrit, now 94, received his doctoral degree in biology in 1932, completing his studies in only three years. He went on teach at Morehouse College and Atlanta University. In 1955, Nabrit was appointed president of Texas Southern University in Houston. He received additional appointments to the National Science Board and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Nabrit also worked as a founding member of Upward Bound and as the director of the Southern Fellowship Fund, a pioneer affirmative action program that helped hundreds of African-American students earn their doctorates.

Nabrit also was the first African-American to be elected a Brown University trustee. Appointed in 1967, he served until 1972. In recognition of his achievements and service, the University established the Nabrit Fellowship in 1985, to assist Brown minority graduate students, and awarded Nabrit an honorary degree in 1962.

The portrait, oil on linen, prominently shows Nabrit at the open door of a science laboratory. The background features test tubes, beakers and other lab instruments. A morning sunrise, symbolizing the dawning of minority graduate studies at Brown, is visible through the lab's windows. The painting is the work of Boston artist Robert Freeman, an artist-in-residence at the Noble and Greenough School, who has taught painting and drawing at Harvard University.

The painting will hang in Sayles Hall with portraits of other prominent University officials, among them past presidents, former chancellors and distinguished faculty.