Quinn Brown ’24 carved a distinct path for himself at Hamilton — from outdoor leadership positions to a deep dedication to his educational experiences. His contributions to campus did not go unnoticed. The faculty selected him as winner of this year’s James Soper Merrill Prize, awarded to the senior “who, in character and influence, has typified the highest ideals of the College.”

In his speech at Commencement, Brown spoke of how Hamilton gave him the opportunity to challenge himself academically while pursuing his interests outside of the classroom. “While we tend to separate academics from the more experiential aspects of Hamilton, I think it’s important to look at them together,” he said.

Here, Brown talks of how he discovered his passions in history and outdoor leadership, and how he found a common thread that ran through his Hamilton experience: the importance of community.

First Year

  • Fall 2021

    Admission Tour Guide

    Brown began tour guiding in the fall of his sophomore year. “My most fulfilling experience as a tour guide actually came during orientation when I realized I had given a campus tour to one of my trip participants when she was a prospective student!”

  • Fall 2021

    Adirondack Adventure Leader

    Brown led three orientation trips through Adirondack Adventure (AA) and was hired as the student assistant director of AA in 2022. “There are two major reasons why I come back; first it’s getting to know the new students and seeing them learn and grow throughout the trip as they get ready for life on campus. The second is the community of leaders … [they] are an incredibly kind and talented group of people and being part of that community is a special experience.”

Sophomore Year

  • Fall 2022

    Marathon Canoe Racing Team

    “I definitely learned how to push myself physically — paddling 90 miles in three days is no joke. But I also learned [that] few communities are more welcoming than the racers and staff that make the Adirondack Classic 90-mile canoe race possible.”

Junior Year

  • Spring 2023

    Study Abroad in Tel Aviv, Israel

    After spending a lot of time studying the wider Israeli-Arab conflict, Brown felt he could not offer a fully sympathetic view without visiting the region himself so he decided to travel to Tel Aviv. “Interestingly the biggest lesson I learned over there has nothing to do with academics, but rather I learned how to be self-reliant and live way out of my comfort zone.”

Senior Year

  • Fall 2023

    Hamilton Historical

    Brown served as a reader, peer editor, and editor-in-chief of the Hamilton Historical journal. He worked to incorporate this vision: “Our past is best understood by interrogating the widest possible variety of experiences and ideas.”

  • Spring 2024

    Senior Thesis: “Deir Yassin, 1948: Memory and Forgetting in the Construction of Nationalism”

    “Studying abroad shaped my thesis quite a bit. It shed a lot of light on the nuance of the situation and history of the region and also showed me just how strong the memory of 1948 is in the communities residing in the region. It’s a bit hard to understand in the United States, where we’re in almost no direct danger of invasion or war close to our home. But for Palestinians and Israelis, the threat of violence against your national community by an outside actor is very real and present. This reality really helped me form a more nuanced understanding of how the memory or forgetting of violence in Israel-Palestine has shaped each national community.”

  • Spring 2024

    Himalayan Mountaineering Class Trip to Nepal

    “The chance to leave the patterns of everyday life and do what I love with an amazing group of people was probably more soothing for me than challenging. I’ve been lucky enough to do some hiking in different places around the world, but the Himalaya is the pinnacle of trekking and mountaineering in many ways, and I always had a desire to get there and see it for myself.” Photo: (from left) Quinn, Logan Tonra ’24, and John Sheetz ’24 in Nepal, with Dhaulagiri Peak in the background.

What’s Next? Combining Passions

In August, Brown will embark on a three-month road trip through the Western U.S. with William Rice ’24 before settling in Telluride, Colo., for the winter to work and ski. “After that I’ll come back east where I hope to spend a couple of years teaching high school history before heading to graduate school.”

What has made Hamilton truly special for me is not just the academic vigor or specific extracurricular activities. It’s this community…[the] community that I have had the privilege to share this campus with every day.

Quinn Brown ’24 Soper Merrill Prize recipient Quinn Brown speaking at commencement

Know Thyself

Meet people taking Hamilton’s motto to heart as they discover and explore their passions in an effort to make valuable contributions on College Hill and beyond.

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