During my tenure here as President of Brown University, I’ve dealt with a lot of tough issues. But there is one question to which I don’t have an answer, no matter how much time I spend thinking about it: I can’t tell you which academic building is my favorite, because I love them all exactly the same amount.
That’s right. You’d think a highly successful professional like me would be able to make a decision like this, but it’s true. Picking which academic building I like the best is a Herculean task for me. Whenever I think I’ve nailed it, I remember how much I love a different one.
I’ve failed you in this task, and I apologize.
I don’t know where this sentimentality came from. Last week, I swear I thought my favorite was Smith-Buonanno Hall, or Smitty-B as I hear the students call it. I love the fact that it’s an old converted gymnasium, and I almost got a tear in my eye while thinking about it as a reminder of the rich history of Pembroke College, which educated so many women in almost a century of operation. But then I walked by the CIT, where brilliant minds gather to solve tomorrow’s technological problems, and I felt like I’d be selling it short by choosing Smitty-B. All the academic buildings are unique and beautiful in their own way, and I am simply unable to choose a favorite. I consider this a personal failing.
Just yesterday, every academic building passed through my mind as a potential favorite. I love University Hall of course, since it’s my home, but also J. Walter Wilson and its new mailroom. Salomon – so big! The Sci Li – so tall! Sayles – that organ! These buildings are all great, and one deserves the same amount of love as the next. The Rock, because of all the knowledge stored in its walls. Wilson. Hell, even Barus and Holley comes in a first-place tie.
I know that you wanted me to choose a favorite building, and I wish I could’ve, but I cannot. I am not strong enough.
The first time I saw the new Applied Math building was simply a transformative experience. I watched a new academic building be created from nothing, before my very eyes, and it filled me with a sense of duty and meaning like nothing I’d ever felt. I never knew I could love something so much. But then I thought about all the other academic buildings, and was overwhelmed with tenderness and affection. It is simply awe-inspiring. The heart wants what it wants, and I there’s nothing I can do about it, no matter how hard I try.
I’m just a sucker, I guess.