For more than thirty years, John Carter Brown led the Commission of Fine Arts, guiding the organization as it helped shape the national capital at a time of rapid change in design taste, economic outlook, and sensitivity to the past. Brown, a descendent of the illustrious and socially prominent Brown family of Rhode Island, was trained in both art history and business administration: He earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1956, received an MBA from Harvard University in 1958, and completed coursework in art history at both New York University and the École du Louvre in Paris. He was appointed director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1969, a position he held until 1992. During his tenure at the gallery, Brown introduced the concept of large and lavish exhibitions that appealed to both connoisseurs and the general public. He wrote numerous articles on art and culture and helped found Ovation, a cable television arts station. Brown was the recipient of more than a dozen honorary degrees, a National Arts Society Gold Medal (1972), a National Medal of the Arts (1991), and the National Building Museum Honor Award (1993). He was also an honorary fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts and an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects.