The Bicentennial celebration began on March 2, 1964, with a formal convocation in Sayles Hall at noon, with John Nicholas Brown as the principal speaker, after which the American flag was lowered and hoisted again with the Bicentennial Flag of the University flying below. The new flag, bearing the bicentennial emblem, the Colonial seal together with the present seal, had been sewn by a Pembroke senior, Shirley Morrison. Then several University delegates traveled to East Greenwich, where the Charter had been granted on March 2, 1764, to present a plaque to the Old Colony House in commemoration of this event. The celebration of the bicentennial year included a variety of events between September 1964 and June 1965. On Wednesday, September 2, 1964 the annual meeting of the Corporation was held in the Colony House in Newport where the first Corporation met for the first time on the first Wednesday in September 1764, when 24 of the original incorporators took the oath of office. Governor John H. Chafee brought the greetings of the State of Rhode Island and officially proclaimed the opening of Brown’s Bicentennial Year. A commemorative plaque inscribed “In this building on September 5, 1764 was held the first meeting of the Corporation of ’the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island,’ now Brown University” was unveiled and installed in the Colony House. Another plaque was placed on John Gardner’s house, now the Old Colony - Newport National Bank, at 8 Washington Square, to commemorate James Manning’s meeting with Rhode Island residents to discuss the design of the Baptists to found a college in the colony. Professor Carl Bridenbaugh delivered an historical address on the University’s beginnings and connections with Newport.
An all-University Convocation at Meehan Auditorium opened the academic year on September 21 with an address by President Keeney. On Sunday, September 27, a three-day celebration began in the First Baptist Meeting House, as the University acknowledged its Baptist origins and its religious tolerance from the beginning. The seven honorary degrees awarded on this day went to a Greek, a Jew, two Catholic priests, a Methodist layman, a Baptist theologian, and an Episcopal bishop. The next day Meehan Auditorium was filled for the Academic Convocation. The speaker was Lyndon Johnson, President of the United States, who arrived late after an election-year motorcade through downtown Providence.
Three symposia on the bicentennial theme, “Higher Education in this Age of Expanding Knowledge,” were held on Monday and Tuesday. The panelists at the first symposium, “Future Directions of the University,” moderated by President Emeritus Henry M. Wriston, were Chancellor George W. Beadle of the University of Chicago, President John S. Dickey of Dartmouth, President Robert F. Goheen of Princeton, President James A. Perkins of Cornell, and President O. Meredith Wilson of the University of Minnesota. The second symposium, “The Influence of Scientific Knowledge,” was introduced by Robert W. Morse, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development and former Dean of the College. There were speeches by Dr. Hans A. Bethe, professor of physics at Cornell, and Professor Ralph W. Gerard, director of special studies and biologist at the University of California at Irvine, and commentary by Dr. Harvey Brooks, dean of engineering and applied physics at Harvard, Dr. Solomon Lefschetz, emeritus professor of mathematics at Princeton and visiting professor at Brown, and Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgi, director of research at the Institute of Muscle Research at the Marine Biological Institute at Woods Hole. The third symposium, “Future Directions of the Humane Studies,” was moderated by Brown Professor Juan López-Morillas. The speakers were Dr. David Daiches, Dean of the School of English and American Studies at the University of Sussex in England, and Professor Jack H. Hexter, professor of history at Yale. The panelists were Professor Loren C. Eiseley, University of Pennsylvania anthropologist, Dr. Richard P. McKeon, Distinguished Professor of Greek and Philosophy at the University of Chicago, and Dr. Barbara K. Lewalski, professor of English at Brown, who filled in for Marjorie H. Nicolson, who was ill.
On November 15th the University joined the First Baptist Church in Warren in the celebration of the church’s 200th anniversary. Two hundred years earlier 58 people had formed this church by signing the covenant, and calling the author of the covenant, James Manning, to be its first pastor. At the anniversary convocation Reverend Albert C. Thomas ’08 delivered an address on the beginnings of the Church and the College.
The bicentennial year came to a close with a pops concert by the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, sponsored by the Brown Club of Rhode Island and the Pembroke College Club of Providence. The popular event, which became the first of the annual Commencement Pops Concerts, was held on the Pembroke campus. The bicentennial year ended with a bang, provided by the setting off of a display of fireworks at Aldrich-Dexter Field at the exact moment that the singers of the “Star Spangled Banner,” reached “the bombs bursting in air.”