Margarett Root Brown College is currently the third largest of the eleven residential colleges at Rice, behind both McMurtry College and Duncan College. Founded in 1965 as an all-women's college, Brown became co-ed in 1987.
The history of Brown dates back to the early sixties, when Jones College was the only all women's college on campus. This caused such a severe housing shortage that some Rice women were housed in the dorms of nearby Texas Women's University. 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. 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.
In the beginning, Brown College was filled primarily with women who had volunteered to leave Jones in order to start a new college. Brown had a housemother who lived in the resident associate’s 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. In 1966 he resigned from Brown because of a “scandal” – the members of Brown voted 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.
Brown was the last single-sex female college after Jones went co-ed in 1980. Male members were accepted into Brown in 1987. 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. The new 4-story wing at Brown opened in 2002. The new wing houses 56 additional students, making Brown the largest residential college on campus (it was previously the smallest) until the opening of McMurtry and Duncan. Unlike the tower, which consists of double and single rooms with community bathrooms, the new wing is made up of four-person suites. Each suite has four small single rooms, a large common room, and a private bathroom.