Ra Ra Brunonia: The Seal

Remember senior year of high school? Tearing through envelopes upon envelopes, closely reading  looking at pictures of different schools and their unique offerings. Beyond each distinct campus and student body, each college displayed one image that I am sure resonated with you throughout the process — the seal.

Though we have all become familiar with the Brown seal with the sun peaking its creepy face over four illegible books, the design of the seal has come a long way since the University’s establishment in Warren, RI in 1764. As Brown was founded prior to the American Revolution, the initial seal of the college, commissioned in 1765 at the second meeting of the Corporation, depicted the profiles of King George III and Queen Charlotte, an image often seen by students venturing into the Sharpe Refectory in 2012. Though ideas were developed and discussed, a new design was not formally instituted until 1833, almost thirty years after the change of name from Rhode Island College to Brown University. The present day Rhode Island College was not too creative in their choice of name #thatsso1803 (Get on our level). Brown: always the cool kid on the block.

The design commissioned by President Wayland closely resembles the seal that we know and love. Wayland called for the Brown University crest to include a red cross between four open books with a demi-sun shining through silver clouds. Additionally, the motto ‘In Deo Speramus’ (supposedly translated as “In God we hope”) was to be on a scroll below the seal. It is has been said that the phrase ‘In God We Trust,’ which marks all US currency, derives from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase’s visit to Providence during the Civil War. Three words: MAKE IT RAIN. Additionally, some speculate that the four books within the crest represent Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale. Never heard of any of those schools.

The Brown seal has become a part of our culture and represents the essence of the University, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. While we may not be so bold as to choose a one-word motto, the seal distinguishes our school and contributes to our unique identity. I truly hope the current design holds for years to come… unless it’s superseded by this idea.

Ra Ra Brunonia!


  1. Robert Solomon

    Wasn’t In Deo Speramus surreptitiously removed from the seal a few years ago?

  2. Jenny Bloom

    Kinda seems that way…Maybe it’s for streamlining purposes. Maybe it’s not.

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