The history of Brown dates back to the early 1960s when Jones was the only all-women’s college on campus. A severe housing shortage forced some Rice women to be housed in the dorms of nearby Texas Women’s University, which incited the plans to build another (and vastly superior) women’s college on campus. Through the generous $1 million donation of George R. Brown and his wife Alice Pratt Brown, a new women’s residential college was established in the memory of their sister-in-law, Margarett Root Brown. Thus the Enlightened Era of Rice University began on October 3, 1965 with the dedication of Brown College.
In the beginning, Brown had a housemother who lived in the Resident Associate’s (RA) apartment and required all women to check in and out of the building at night and on weekends. The first Master of Brown was Frank Vandiver, who later became president of Texas A&M University. In 1966, he resigned from Brown because of a “scandal” – the members of Brown blazed a trail for future generations by voting to drink alcohol in their own rooms (provided they were of legal drinking age). Vandiver resigned because he considered it inappropriate behavior for young ladies.
Up until her death in 1985, Alice Pratt Brown was an active patron of the college, giving the college much of the furniture and art in the first floor lobbies and private dining room. As the colleges became coed in 1971, Brown held out as the only female college until 1987, when male members were accepted into the college for the first time. However, the community bathrooms on all floors remained coed until 1994, when the bathrooms were remodeled and separate facilities for men and women were built on each floor. Also in 1994, Brown ceased to be the only college with only one RA when it remodeled the suite and single on the eighth floor in order to form another RA apartment, now known colloquially as the President’s Suite.
Since both Brown and Jones were originally all-women’s colleges, they remained isolated on the North side of campus. Thus, the walkway leading to the rest of campus became known as Virgin’s Walk. Legend has it that on any given night, if a person kicks out every light along Virgin’s Walk, that person will meet a companion before the end of the evening. No actual accounts of the legend being true exist, but determined Brown members seek to distinguish fact from fiction at every possible opportunity (one Brown member even broke his foot trying). In 2007, Virgin’s Walk was sadly demolished in order to accommodate for the construction of the Duncan and McMurtry Colleges.
The new wing of Brown opened in 2002 and supplements the 188 beds in the tower. The new wing houses 56 additional students, taking Brown from being the smallest to the largest residential college. Unlike the tower, which is comprised of doubles and singles with community bathrooms, the new wing is composed of four-person suites. Each suite has four small single rooms, a large common room, and a private bathroom. The new wing also provides Brown with a new RA suite, a new college coordinator office, classrooms, and a new commons connecting to the North Servery.