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Brown University fulfills its $10 million pledge to Providence public schools — 13 years later

The university had raised just $1.9 million for the education fund

Brown University in Providence.
Brown University in Providence.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE – More than 13 years after Brown University announced it would create a $10 million endowment for Providence public schools, the university said Wednesday that it has finally followed through on its pledge.

The Corporation of Brown University, the institution’s governing board, committed $8.1 million to the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence earlier this month, according to university press release. The university previously raised just $1.9 million for the fund between 2007 and this year.

“The Fund’s permanent $10 million endowment will ensure sustainable financial support from Brown, enable continuous improvement to teaching and learning in Providence, and play an important part in promoting academic excellence and student success for generations to come,” Brown University President Christina Paxson said in a prepared statement.

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The new stream of funding comes nearly a year after a Globe report raised questions about why the university had not raised the $10 million it promised Providence schools, and at a time when institutions all over the country are reevaluating their commitment to people of color.

The fund was started with a $250,000 anonymous donation, but a university spokesman said last year that it “didn’t resonate as much with donors,” as the university had initially hoped. The university also provided a list of other resources the university provides to the city, including funding for scholarships and summer programs, along with more than $6 million a year in payments in lieu of property taxes (as a nonprofit, most properties owned by Brown are exempt from the city’s tax roll).

Paxson also wrote a letter to the editor saying that Brown commits $840,000 in direct services to Providence each year, much of which includes programs that were created long before the Providence education fund was established.

It’s unclear what directly prompted the university’s change of heart, but in a letter to the Brown University community on Wednesday, Paxson said the “need to do even more became apparent last summer after the release of an external review of the Providence Public School District.” The scathing report released by researchers at Johns Hopkins University prompted the state to take over the city’s schools.

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Paxson said a new public education committee will meet at least twice a year, and will be responsible for recommending how the money in the fund should be spent to most effectively help Providence students.

Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green, who led the state takeover of Providence schools, hailed the university’s endowment as a “historic moment” and said she is looking forward to working with Paxson and her team to transform the school district.

“What’s more, we hope Brown’s commitment inspires Rhode Island’s corporate and philanthropic leaders to contribute even more to this compelling cause,” Infante-Green said.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.