Our History

About the Swearer Center

With the creation of the Swearer Center for Public Service in 1986, Brown became one of the first campuses in the nation to establish a formal center for public service. Its founder, President Howard Swearer, believed that community engagement should be a powerful and formative part of a Brown education. Read more of Carrying Out Howard Swearer's Legacy on the Brown 250+ website.

About Our Founder

"We want Brown to be a community of compassionate people, involved in serious intellectual pursuits, but never divorced from one of the principal purposes of education, to prepare young people for responsible citizenship." - Howard R. Swearer, Fifteenth President of Brown University

Howard R. Swearer served as the President of Brown University from 1976 to 1988. Born in Hutchinson, Kansas, Swearer attended public school in Wichita and matriculated in 1950 to Princeton, where  he earned his undergraduate degree. He completed his master’s and doctoral degrees at Harvard. After teaching at UCLA, directing Peace Corps training for Africa and Latin America, and working for the international division of the Ford Foundation, Howard Swearer assumed the presidency of Carleton College. In August 1976 he became the fifteenth president of Brown University.

Howard Swearer was a modest man who had a broad and deep vision for higher education. He recognized the importance of connecting the university to the outside world, and devoted his presidency to creating programs that realized this vision. Among the many programs and centers he established at Brown were the Center for Public Service and the Center for Teaching and Learning. On a national scale, President Swearer co-founded Campus Compact, a coalition of college and university presidents who affirmed personal and institutional responsibility for serving the communities in which we live.

President Swearer stepped down from office in 1988. He died three years later, following a courageous battle with cancer. In 1992, the Center for Public Service was named the Howard R. Swearer Center for Public Service. In remarks prepared for the Center's dedication, Senator John Chafee stated, “Howard believed that an undergraduate education should include learning the practices of others. By establishing the Center for Public Service in 1987 and forming Campus Compact, Howard helped renew an ethic of public service in students at Brown and at universities across the country.”