Date November 10, 2023
Media Contact

Veterans Day Ceremony honors, affirms commitment to military community at Brown

U.S. Sen. and Army veteran Jack Reed and Class of 1975 alumnus Benjamin Cassidy joined University leaders, student veterans and Brown ROTC students in celebrating the nation’s military members.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — More than 200 people gathered on Brown’s campus on Friday, Nov. 10, to commemorate Veterans Day— one day ahead of the federal holiday — and honor the service of U.S. military veterans and reaffirm the University’s commitment to supporting student veterans on campus.

The specter of a wet, chilly forecast moved the ceremony indoors to Sayles Hall from its usual location on Simmons Quadrangle near Soldiers Memorial Arch, erected in memory of the 42 Brown students, alumni and faculty who lost their lives during World War I. But the mood indoors was warm, bright and jubilant as the community reflected on the significant growth of military-affiliated students at Brown.  

“Brown has recognized something very, very important — the impressive set of skills, diverse experiences and exceptional value that veterans bring to the classroom and campus community,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a U.S. Army veteran who delivered remarks during the ceremony.

There are now 50 enrolled undergraduate student veterans at Brown, and more than 50 ROTC cadets who will go on to serve the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and — for the first time in University history — Space Force. Fourteen of those cadets were welcomed during the ceremony’s ROTC contracting event, with eight Army and six Air Force ROTC members solemnly taking their oaths.

The success in recruiting and retaining talented student veterans at Brown stems from a sweeping initiative launched nearly four years ago to the day.

Since 2019, the University has marked a set of major milestones in its effort to expand support for U.S. military veterans: welcoming its largest-ever cohort of new undergraduate student veterans; doubling the total enrollment of those students one year ahead of schedule; and surpassing an ambitious $25 million fundraising goal to permanently fund full scholarships for current and future generations of undergraduate student veterans.

“I can’t overstate how thrilled I am about this progress…” Brown President Christina H. Paxson said during the ceremony. “I hope this population continues to grow. Just because we hit our goal doesn’t mean we can’t exceed our goal, so we are certainly not at the end of our evolution.”

To accommodate such rapid growth, the University is working to provide additional resources for the student-veteran community. The Office of Military-Affiliated Students (OMAS) hired a full-time program coordinator during the past year; initiated the Battle Buddies mentorship program, which pairs new student veterans with a peer mentor on campus; and strengthened partnerships with organizations like Service to School and the Warrior-Scholar Program, aimed at easing the transition between military, civilian and academic life.

During the ceremony, Paxson also shared that the military-affiliated community at Brown will soon have a new dedicated home on campus: Next spring, OMAS will relocate to a new, expanded space in Alumnae Hall, providing them with more capacity to offer more students a broader range of supports.

“Our commitment to you is ongoing,” Paxson said. “It is a commitment not just to honor our veterans on one day, but to understand your unique experiences and embrace you as valued members of the Brown community, all the time.”

Keynote speaker Benjamin Cassidy, a Class of 1975 alumnus and Marine Corps veteran, made a point to embrace some of Brown’s lesser-known veterans during his remarks.

The University reinforced in me an understanding of the power of diversity of opinion, race, religion, creed and color — all of which I know made me a better person, citizen, Marine and veteran.

Benjamin Cassidy Class of 1975 alumnus and co-chair of Brown University Veterans Alumni Council
Benjamin cassidy delivers remarks at podium

Cassidy, who serves as co-chair of the Brown University Veterans Alumni Council, recalled a trip to France, where he had the opportunity to visit gravesites of three Brown veterans whose names are permanently etched into Soldiers Memorial Arch. Cassidy pondered the personalities, dreams, goals and values of the veterans he visited, imagining the types of lives they led.

“I think Brown contributed to their uniqueness of character,” Cassidy said.

Whether in the early days of World War I or the present moment, Cassidy said the University continues to make an indelible mark on all who enter through the Van Wickle Gates.

“Brown taught me a respect for teamwork, to be humble in my abilities, to persevere when challenged,” he said. “The University reinforced in me an understanding of the power of diversity of opinion, race, religion, creed and color — all of which I know made me a better person, citizen, Marine and veteran.”

Those are values that have remained steadfast across generations of Brown students, including junior Sean Braga, an Army veteran who now serves as president of the Brown University Student Veterans Society.

Braga said student veterans sometimes struggle to appreciate the culmination of those values and accomplishments within themselves. In closing remarks, he shared his journey through “impostor syndrome” — the presence of self-doubt of intellect or ability among high-achieving individuals — and offered an encouraging message to his fellow veterans.

“Transitioning from the enlisted ranks to an Ivy League institution, though increasingly common, is far from the standard path,” he said. “But… I would encourage all veterans to remember that a lot of people see something in you that you may not. You belong here, and every challenge you face is an opportunity to show them that.”