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.”