The Graduate School started in 1927, succeeding the Graduate Department which had been in existence since 1903. Through the years alumni had desired graduate instruction and in the late 1870s faculty members had accommodated them. President E. G. Robinson gave philosophy courses, and Professor John Larkin Lincoln met weekly with a class of fifteen Latin scholars. Robinson himself had stayed on in a rented room in the college after his graduation in 1838 in order to study German with Professor Horatio B. Hackett. Starting in 1859-60, most of the annual catalogues carried a list of graduates in residence, although there were no advanced degrees. Robinson, in his 1881 report, noted, “Individual graduates ... are every year proposing to remain and continue their studies in one direction of another; but the number is not large enough, nor the studies proposed to be pursued of a kind, to warrant at present the organization of a special department.” His own post-graduate lectures given in 1878-79 and 1879-80 had been replaced the next year by a course of lectures on a variety of subjects, also open to the public, taught by six faculty members. In 1887 study for the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy was instituted. The Master of Arts required one year of graduate study in residence or two in absence. The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree were two years in residence, a knowledge of Latin, French, and German, and a “thesis giving evidence of high scholarship and special excellence in the studies pursued.” The introduction of the doctorate proposed by President Robinson was met with opposition by two senior members of the faculty, one of whom felt that the faculty should not be burdened with the extra work involved, and the other thought the degree would be cheapened by the course of study which Brown would be able to offer.
The first graduate degrees were awarded to Austen K. DeBlois and George Grafton Wilson 1886, both of whom received the Master of Arts degree in 1888 and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1889, DeBlois in philosophy and psychology and Wilson in history and political science. Wilson taught political and social science at Brown from 1891 to 1910, when he became professor of international law at Harvard. DeBlois was president of Shurtleff College and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. President Robinson recalled in his Autobiography that the first to receive a Ph.D., Austen K. DeBlois, “after an extended and thorough course of reading chiefly in Philosophy, was subjected to a written examination extending through parts of three days, after which he read to the Faculty a carefully prepared thesis.” In 1889 President Andrews appointed a committee on graduate students, consisting of Alonzo Williams, Alpheus Spring Packard, and Albert G. Harkness. Williams, as chairman, continued throughout his life to manage graduate affairs from his office in the German Seminary in Sayles Hall. By the end of Williams’ service, the committee had grown to ten members. During the administration of Andrews, fifteen Ph.D. degrees were earned. Of these, perhaps through the influence of Williams, six were in German, while no other department had more than one. Also through the efforts of Professor Williams the first graduate fellowship was established in 1891 by the Rhode Island Department of Grand Army of the Republic with a fund of $10,000, the income of which was available to assist a graduate student, preferably the descendant of a Union veteran of the Civil War.
In 1903 Carl Barus was appointed dean of the newly established Graduate Department. He ran the department out of his office in Wilson Hall aided by what Professor R. Bruce Lindsay 1920 described as “a stack of forms with slots for the insertion of names, courses and dates. These forms, when duly filled out, were passed over to a half-time secretary, who was often an advanced undergraduate of what was then known as the Women’s College in Brown University.” The Master of Science degree was added in 1904. Work in absentia was abolished in 1908. The State of Rhode Island began in 1912-13 to grant graduate scholarships in education to teachers in service. Over one hundred doctorates were awarded during Barus’ administration from 1903 to 1926, in the latter half of which many were in chemistry and biology. In 1917-18 new rules governing graduate education provided that the major department be responsible for seeing that candidates for the master’s degree submit a substantial thesis on an approved topic. After it became apparent that few departments were requiring the thesis, a Graduate Council consisting of four members and the Dean was established in 1922 to help with the administration of graduate work.
Barus retired in 1926. Between 1888 and 1926 the number of degrees conferred amounted to 132 Ph.D. degrees, 1,001 Master of Arts degrees, 98 Master of Science degrees, and 5 Master of Business Administration degrees. In 1927 the Graduate School, with Roland G. D. Richardson as dean, replaced the Graduate Department. In that year Henry D. Sharpe gave five scholarships to the Graduate School for study in biology, English, history, mathematics, and Romance languages. Richardson encouraged doctoral programs in mathematics and physics, especially by the establishment of the Graduate Division of Applied Mathematics in 1941. The emphasis during Richardson’s administration was on the doctorate. Three hundred and sixty Ph.D degrees were awarded between 1930 to 1950, an annual average of eighteen, compared to four per year during Barus’ time. Following Dean Richardson, the deans of the Graduate School have been Barnaby C. Keeney from 1949 to 1953, Robert Bruce Lindsay from 1954 to 1966, Michael J. Brennan from 1966 to 1974, Maurice Glicksman from 1974 to 1976, Ernest S. Frerichs from 1976 to 1982, Mark B. Schupack from 1983 to 1986, and Phillip J. Stiles (as Dean of the Graduate School and Dean of Research) since 1986. Acting deans were Curt J. Ducasse from 1947 to 1949, Edmund S. Morgan in 1951-52, and Donald F. Hornig in 1953-54. The total enrollment of the Graduate School in September 1991 was 1379, composed of 816 men and 563 women, of whom 1316 are full-time and 73 were part-time students.