I was deeply saddened to learn of Senator Claiborne Pell’s passing. He was a great man whose legacy as a devoted public servant will affect the lives of citizens for generations to come. In addition to his commitment to Rhode Island and the nation, we are grateful for Senator Pell’s service and contributions as a member of the Brown Corporation from 1974-1979.
Senator Pell will long be remembered as a statesman, a supreme diplomat, and a champion of education, the arts and the humanities. As a member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Pell was a fierce advocate of legislation to advance peace, defend human rights and encourage a sustainable global environment. On college and university campuses, though, perhaps he will best be remembered for spearheading the creation of the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, now known commonly as the Pell Grant.
Since its inception, the Pell Grant program has enabled tens of thousands of young people to come to College Hill to engage in scholarship, advance knowledge and to go on to “lead lives of usefulness and reputation.” Over these same three decades, the program has ensured that educational opportunity is available to millions of students with the drive and desire to pursue postsecondary education at more than 5,000 institutions of higher education. The University recognized Senator Pell for his work by conferring an honorary Doctor of Laws degree (LL.D.) in 1972. In May 2006, in acknowledgement of his personal contributions to higher education and the advancement of knowledge, Senator Pell was awarded the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal, the highest honor that the Brown Faculty can grant.
Senator Pell viewed education as a path to opportunity, and he devoted his life to making access to education available to all Americans, regardless of income. We are forever grateful to the Senator for his visionary leadership, his courage, and for his lifelong commitment to higher education.
On behalf of the Brown University Community, I extend heartfelt condolences to his wife, Nuala, who had been a steady and graceful force during the Senator’s long and remarkable life, and to the entire Pell family. May his life serve as a reminder of the value, nobility and importance of public service.