Who Is Jo?

Ra Ra Brunonia: Our Most Elusive Professor

Who Is Jo?


Who is this brilliant man who brought us the “Spicy-With,” the “chicken carb(erry),” and consequently the 15 pounds that have clung to our formerly slight freshman frames? What brilliance created a place for Brown students to go when we seek to soak up alcohol with greasy food or alleviate our sorrow by looting Uncrustables? Who/What is Josiah Carberry?

Josiah Stinkney Carberry is a traveler. He is a professor.  He is you. He is me.  He is Brown University’s residential house elf (?).  As swiftly as a genie is released from a bottle or Mary Poppins emerges from the sky, Josiah Carberry popped on the scene at Brown University.  His existence can be marked back to 1929, when he was scheduled to give a lecture on “Archaic Greek Architectural Revetments in Connection with Ionian Philology.” People interested in the lecture were told to contact Professor John Spaeth, who when prodded for more information on the mysterious new professor, mentioned other members of Carberry’s family, including a puffinhuntingdaughter and Carberry’s assistant Truman Grayson, who had a knack for being bitten by things beginning with the letter, “A.”

After arriving on the scene in Providence, the Carberries maintained a relatively cordial relationship with the city of Providence.  Shortly after arriving, Carberry began corresponding with the Projo until he and his family were ultimately banned, held weekly columns with Classical Weekly, and settled into his position as Professor of Psychoceramics.  He continued to support the community as a member of the cast in a Trinity Square Playhouse production and attended Brown’s Bicentennial celebration as a delegate of Burleigh College.  Professor Carberry pioneered the study of “cracked pots,” and thus crackpot theories including faux-everything and pseudo-tout.

In addition to being a beloved (well, he might be if he ever showed up to class) professor, JSCarb has been a major benefactor of the University’s library, beginning with his $101.01 contribution to the Josiah S. Carberry Fund in honor of his “future late wife.”  This act created a legacy at Brown – every Friday the 13th is Carberry Day – as a friend of the university, you are supposed to empty your pockets of loose change (yes, even those quarters you were saving for laundry) into large brown jugs.  The money will go toward books that “Professor Carberry might or might not approve of.”  To date, books include “An encyclopedia of swearing: the social history of oaths, profanity, foul language and ethnic slurs” and “Gallimaufry: a hodgepodge of our vanishing vocabulary.” As a symbol of Brown, Josiah Carberry teaches us that you can be iconic and lazy at the same time.  You don’t even have to be a real human being.  All it takes is a little bit of flair, wit, and a hint of bullshit.


  1. Tom Bale '63

    Hurrah for Carberry Day! I’m relieved to be reminded of what I forgot long ago. During a brief meeting with Professor Carberry, although I’m not sure he was actually present, before graduation he convinced me that I didn’t need to show up to graduate. So I didn’t, but my parents did , wondering if I ever did graduate. This confusion was finally cleared up, I think, this past May at my 50th reunion. I think I saw Professor Carberry dancing by himself on the wet grass of the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle. I dashed over to ask him about my graduation, but he disappeared in the crush of 2013 graduates wildly dancing to “It’s been a hard days night.” I saw a piece of paper slip out of his pocket. By the time I picked it up twenty-five dancers had stepped on it while doing the twist (yes, the band played Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again” just for the old timers). Despite all the muddy footprints I could make out the Latin text next to my name. It just might have been my coveted diploma I never received. Mom and Dad, wherever you are, I may have finally graduated. You can stop sending in the annual tuition check. And, thank you Professor Josiah Carberry for reminding me of business that you helped me never finish until now. Maybe.

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