Samuel Tomlinson Arnold (1892-1956), first provost of Brown University, was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, on August 23, 1892, the son of a minister. He graduated from Brown in 1913 with final honors in chemistry, having been a James Manning and a Francis Wayland scholar, a Carpenter Prize speaker, and elected to both Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. He found time also to take the train to Central Falls to teach evening classes. He stayed on at Brown, earning an A.M. degree in 1914 and a Ph.D. in 1916. He was appointed assistant in chemistry in 1913-14, and was promoted to instructor in 1914, assistant professor in 1917, associate professor in 1922, and full professor in 1930. In 1929 he was Acting Dean of the University during Dean Randall’s leave of absence, with responsibility for the three upper classes of students. In 1930 he was given the new title of Dean of Undergraduates. In 1937 he was named Dean of the College, and in 1946 the title of Dean of the University was revived for him, with a wider meaning as his academic responsibilities now extended to include the Graduate School, Pembroke College, and the Veterans College. In addition to his administrative duties he retained his connection with the Department of Chemistry and the scientific world outside the University. It was because of his wide acquaintance with other scientists and the confidence that they had in him that during the Second World War he was on leave of absence, having been enlisted by President Conant of Harvard for a “vital job on behalf of the War Department.” President Wriston acted as dean in his absence. Arnold was working for an agency with the noncommittal name of Manhattan Engineers District of the Corps of Engineers, the “Manhattan project” which produced the atomic bomb. It was his job to recruit scientists from industry and education for the project, an undertaking which depended on the confidence which these people had in him, since he could not tell them the reason that the government required their services. His activities outside the University were many – first president of the Association of Naval NROTC Colleges, vice-president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, president of the Eastern Association of Deans and Advisors of Men, to name a few. He served the community on the State Council of Defense and the Governor’s Committee of Educational Television, and was a trustee of the Rhode Island School of Design and Citizens Saving Bank, and a director of the Narragansett Electric Company. He devoted his life to Brown and the community up to the last minute. On the day of his death, December 22, 1956, he presided at a special Christmas Chapel, conducted business in his office as usual, and was about to attend an evening party for the employees of Citizens Savings Bank, when he suffered a fatal heart attack on his way to his car.
A Providence Journal editorial described him after his death, “Sam Arnold never sought anything for himself or for the benefit of his career in all his life, and that was why assignments, duties, distinctions, and plain hard work sought him out: because he was Sam – trustworthy, capable, honest, and cheerful. ... A native kindliness, which was reflected in his gentle face, governed his actions, but not indiscriminately. As an important executive, he had to say ‘no’ frequently, but he said ‘no’ in such a manner that the petitioner thanked him instead of stumping out of his office.”