PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the highest honor bestowed by the Brown University faculty, Thomas J. Tisch, a Class of 1976 Brown graduate and chancellor emeritus of the Brown Corporation, accepted the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal of Honor at the University’s 251st Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 26.
The medal has been awarded just 31 times since its establishment in 1919 to a distinguished group of individuals who include among them Nobel laureates, university presidents and chancellors, and esteemed public servants.
Faculty Executive Committee chair Ross Cheit, a professor of political science, international affairs and public policy, presented the medal to Tisch and read a citation on behalf of the faculty. He noted Tisch’s steadfast commitment to Brown’s essential qualities during his nine years as chancellor and his dedication to pushing the University to become an ever greater version of itself.
“You do not seek attention and are happiest sitting unnoticed on a bench under the elms on the College Green,” Cheit said. “Yet the faculty have noticed all that you have done and all that you continue to do for your alma mater. We raise in loud chorus your name and with joyful emotion offer our praise through the highest honor that we can grant, the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal.”
Tisch become a member of the Brown Corporation in 2003 and remains on the University’s governing board to this day. He began his service as chancellor in 2007 and led the Corporation until his term concluded in 2016. His nine years of leadership included navigating challenging moments — notably, the 2008 financial crisis — and guiding Brown through a period of growth for the physical campus and for the stature of the University.
Among the projects approved by the Corporation under Tisch's leadership, with an eye toward strengthening Brown’s academic core, were the the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, the Warren Alpert Medical School and the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center. Other major accomplishments during his tenure included investments in the growth of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and the founding of the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics.
At a 2016 event celebrating Tisch’s term as chancellor, Brown President Christina Paxson said that he was instrumental in establishing a roadmap for Brown’s future.
“Tom has given countless hours of his time to Brown,” Paxson said, “providing me and other members of the administration with wise advice and brilliant ideas; steering the University through the 2008 financial meltdown and other difficult times; and reconnecting alumni to Brown. Although Tom’s name does not appear on any university building or endowed professorship, he and Alice are the largest benefactors to Brown. Throughout, he has continued to press for the ideals of academic excellence and open inquiry.”
When his term as chancellor concluded, Tisch said he believed that Brown stood ready to build on its strengths to rise to new levels of excellence.
“The vision is really simple for me,” he said at the time. “Brown has always been a very special place. It’s a magical mix of an urban campus that’s not too porous, but not too encapsulated. We have the aspirations of the greatest of research universities, but we build from the idea that research and teaching can exist in harmony… There are so many opportunities for greatness in our grasp.”
Away from the Brown campus, Tisch serves as managing partner of Four Partners, an investment firm in New York City. He serves on the boards of kgb inc., Sears Holding Corporation, the New York University Langone Medical Center and KIPP New York. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown in 1976 and a J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 1979.
Full Text of the Citation
Thomas J. Tisch, 20th chancellor of Brown University, you have graced these time-honored walls with loyal devotion, with no desire or request for praise or adulation.
As chancellor, you moderated trustees, stewarded resources, navigated the great recession, focused with intensity on academic excellence and interdisciplinary strength, and led an exhaustive and engaging presidential search that brought Christina Paxson to Brunonia’s halls. Throughout your nine years at the helm of the Brown Corporation, you remained steadfast in your commitment to Brown’s essential qualities and distinctiveness while also willing and enabling Brown to aim higher, be better, become an ever great version of itself. And, with Alice, your unparalleled philanthropy has transformed the campus and provided perpetual and critical support to faculty, students and staff for generations yet to rise.
You do not seek attention and are happiest sitting unnoticed on a bench under the elms on the College Green. Yet the faculty have noticed all that you have done and all that you continue to do for your alma mater. We raise in loud chorus your name and with joyful emotion offer our praise through the highest honor that we can grant, the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal.
The Rosenberger Medal
The Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal is awarded through the Susan Colver Rosenberger Fund, established by Jesse L. Rosenberger in 1919 as a memorial to his wife, the daughter of Charles K. Colver, Class of 1842. His gift provided that from time to time a medal should be awarded for “specially notable or beneficial achievement.”
Previous recipients include, among others, Barrett Hazeltine, professor emeritus of engineering; Brown physicist and Nobel Laureate Leon Cooper; Sheila Blumstein, professor emerita of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences and former interim president of Brown; Theodore Francis Green, former governor and senator from Rhode Island; Brown presidents Ruth J. Simmons, Vartan Gregorian, Howard R. Swearer and Henry M. Wriston; Charles Evans Hughes, former chief justice of the United States; Artemis A.W. Joukowsky, chancellor emeritus, and Martha Sharp Joukowsky, professor emerita; Alexander Meiklejohn, educator and Amherst College president; Sen. Claiborne Pell, the longest-serving U.S. senator in Rhode Island history; Stephen Robert, the 19th chancellor of Brown University; John D. Rockefeller Jr.; Thomas J. Watson Jr., former vice chancellor; and Mary Emma Woolley, educator and Mt. Holyoke president.