For most Brown alumni, Commencement and Reunion Weekend begins on Wriston Quad. On Friday, thousands of former students gathered to check in, collect commemorative class buttons and plan out the next three days.
Inside the check-in tent, 1983 graduates Lisha and Leroy Cole were gearing up to reunite with a long list of old classmates during the weekend — and to get reacquainted with Providence from the seats of their bicycles.
“There’s a lot here now that wasn’t here when we were students — the river, for one,” Leroy Cole said, laughing: The city uncovered large swaths of downtown Providence’s rivers in the mid-1980s.
The pair met by chance the summer before their first year at Brown, while working at a bank in Brooklyn. They “hit it off as friends right away,” said Lisha Cole, who also earned an executive MBA from Brown in 2013. They eventually became a couple “after a lot of begging on his part.” They’ll celebrate 36 years of marriage in October.
Like the Coles, 1987 graduate Eric Dobson remembers when Providence’s rivers were paved over. In the midst of city talks to uncover the water, he saved a copy of the Providence Journal featuring an article titled, “Providence: The Venice of America?” — part of an independent research project that later became a slideshow introducing incoming students to the city.
Dobson, an urban planner in the Washington, D.C., area, later donated that newspaper and more clippings to Brown’s urban studies program, where he was once a student.
“The Open Curriculum was fantastic for me,” Dobson said. “I started at Brown as an applied math concentrator, but I was taking classes in everything. When I was a sophomore, I met a senior who was in almost all of my classes. He said he was concentrating in urban studies, and I thought — ‘Oh, is that what I should be studying? Great.’”
The graduate’s father, Stan Dobson, a Class of 1958 graduate, has attended more Commencement and Reunion Weekends than he can count. Every five years, he inches closer to the front of the Sunday procession — which customarily begins with University leaders and the oldest alumni in attendance.
“When I get to the front of the line, I’m going to jog down College Street,” Stan Dobson said. “I’m not a jogger, so that should grab people’s attention.”