Visionary leader Robert S. Brookings remembered

Lecture, star on St. Louis Walk of Fame will honor man instrumental in shaping Danforth Campus

How did a St. Louis salesman for woodenware become a major influence on the world stage during World War I and create the first private think tank in the United States?


The story of Robert Somers Brookings’ meteoric rise as a civic leader, educational pioneer and philanthropist is a fascinating one. Brookings played a pivotal role in the development of what now is WUSTL’s Danforth Campus. He also founded the Brookings Institution, which now enjoys an academic partnership with WUSTL.

Considering Brookings’ contributions, it is fitting that he soon will receive two well-deserved accolades: a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame and an address by noted architect and alumnus Eugene Mackey.

Mackey will talk about the ways in which Brookings influenced Washington University, St. Louis, the United States and the world at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, in College Hall, located on the South 40, WUSTL’s residential housing area. A reception will follow.

Brookings stands in front of a fireplace in his home on Forsyth Boulevard, which would later be donated to WUSTL and now is the university’s Alumni House.

The following day, Thursday, June 23, Brookings will receive his own star on the Walk of Fame along Delmar Boulevard in the University City, Mo., Loop. Brookings’ star will be at the northeast corner of Delmar and Skinker Boulevard.

Mackey’s address, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Clayton Century Foundation and WUSTL. It is part of the foundation’s ongoing history lecture series.

Brookings’ leadership at WUSTL began at a pivotal time in the university’s history. In 1895, a year after the Washington University Board of Trustees selected the hilly site west of Forest Park for the university’s new campus, Brookings was named president of the board.

Through his leadership, business acumen and foresight, Brookings marshaled the resources to create the original buildings that would create the Brookings Quadrangle just in time to lease them to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company to use as headquarters for the 1904 World’s Fair. With the profit from this lucrative transaction, Washington University was able to continue building its campus.

For more information on Mackey’s talk or to receive directions to College Hall, contact Jane Miller at (314) 935-5752.