Date June 16, 2022
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Two accomplished leaders recognized with highest honor a Brown president can bestow

Brown University President Christina H. Paxson honored Jonathan M. Nelson and Dr. John Nkengasong with President’s Medals in recognition of their achievements at Brown and beyond.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University President Christina H. Paxson has recognized two accomplished leaders with the President’s Medal, the highest honor a Brown president can bestow.

Jonathan M. Nelson — a Class of 1977 Brown alumnus, and founder and executive chairman of Providence Equity Partners — was honored for his steady leadership and deep contributions to Brown as the longest-serving current member of the Corporation of Brown University. Dr. John Nkengasong, a global public health leader who directs the Africa CDC, was recognized for his advocacy in protecting the health of communities across the globe.

The President’s Medal honors individuals who have achieved distinction in a particular field, including education, scholarship, public service, the arts or philanthropy. Paxson presented both medals during activities accompanying Brown’s Commencement and Reunion celebration in late May.

Nelson was honored at an event during the Brown Corporation’s spring meeting. Paxson said that as a member of the Brown Corporation since 2000, Nelson has been instrumental in advancing a wide range of priorities and academic initiatives, and holding the University on course during challenges including a financial crisis and global pandemic.

“Jonathan has shown an unwavering commitment to advancing excellence in our education and research,” Paxson said. “He believes that what we do at Brown, we should do very well, and the Brown Corporation has benefitted so much from his strategic insight. We all value his unwavering commitment to Brown, our students and our mission of preparing brilliant, intellectually curious students for lives of usefulness and reputation.”

An accomplished investor for more than 35 years, Nelson leads Providence Equity Partners, a leading private equity firm focused on media, communications, education and information investments, and serves as a director of numerous other Providence portfolio companies.

Among the legacies he will leave at Brown when his Corporation service ends on June 30 are the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, a central part of academic life at Brown launched in 2016 with a $25 million gift from Nelson, and the Nelson Fitness Center, a crucial athletics facility that Paxson said supports more students, faculty and staff than perhaps any other building on campus.

Paxson presented a President’s Medal to Nkengasong virtually in a May 29 Brown University School of Public Health ceremony during Commencement Weekend. Nkengasong participated remotely in a number of weekend events, including a Commencement Forum focused on what the COVID-19 pandemic can teach the world about building a healthier, more equitable future.

Nkengasong has been a leader in global public health for decades, including working for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and serving on the boards of organizations including the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives. He has served as the director of the Africa CDC since its founding five years ago, and he has played a central role in the continent’s efforts to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dr. Nkengasong has served and led in crucial regional, continental and global roles, from early in the HIV epidemic to his exceptional leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Paxson said in remarks bestowing the medal. “We recognize and deeply appreciate his leadership over the past two and a half years of the pandemic, and his advocacy on behalf of vulnerable people in Africa and around the world.”

An accomplished list of President’s Medal recipients

Since its origination in 1994, the President’s Medal has been awarded 19 times to the following leaders:

  • Jose Blanco (1997)
  • Nuno do Botelho (1997)
  • Maury Bromsen (2003)
  • Finn M.W. Caspersen (1997)
  • Alan Shawn Feinstein (1996)
  • Susan Pilch Friedman (2017)
  • Carl W. Haffenreffer (1994)
  • Donald F. Hornig (1997)
  • Tadao Ishikawa (1994)
  • H. Anthony Ittleson (1996)
  • Artemis A.W. Joukowsky (1996)
  • Fred and Mary Ann Lippitt (2004)
  • Jonathan M. Nelson (2022)
  • John N. Nkengasong (2022)
  • Nuala Pell (1997)
  • Theodore R. Sizer (1996)
  • Charles C. Tillinghast (1997)
  • Alva O. Way (1997)
  • Janet Yellen (2017)