Family of first URI/ CCE dean establishes
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- August 9, 2000 -- The first dean of the University
of Rhode Island's Division of University Extension, now known as the URI
Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education, had a passion to make
higher education available to older, nontraditional students. From 1950
until his death in 1967, Dean John R. Hackett worked to develop a college
that was highly student and community-oriented.
Now his son, John D. Hackett, and his wife Bernadette of Brookline,
Mass. are making helping students a family tradition. The Hacketts have
established a memorial endowment at the college. Half of the income from
the endowment will help underwrite the cost of testing for suspected learning
disabled students and the other half will support the work of the Academic
Skills Center, which provides academic assessment, referral, study skills
and strategies workshops, tutorial assistance and other forms of academic
support. The couple is also providing an additional gift each year until
the pledge is paid to begin offering a scholarship for testing.
"My father believed in empirical knowledge," says the younger
Hackett, noting that sophistication of testing has evolved over the past
three decades. "He would have been delighted to see proceeds from an
endowment in his name allocated this way."
The dean's widow, Margaret A. Hackett of North Providence, remembers
her husband as "very passionate, a kind man whose door was always open
to everyone who needed help." She said he worked day and night and
took a personal interest in the students.
It was under the dean's leadership that the Extension grew from a small
adjunct section of the University to become one of the largest university
extension divisions in the nation offering college credit courses. At the
time of his appointment, the division offered a few courses to about 500
students. By 1960, enrollment grew to 2,545.
One of the most successful programs he instituted was the former Continuing
Education of Women (CEW), an innovative program established in 1965 that
scheduled classes during morning hours so that housewives could go to college
while their children attended school. When the program was offered initially,
336 women were enrolled.
The late Dr. Gil Mongeau wrote about the program in his book 50 Years
of Continuing Education in 1992. He recalled how the women, at least
initially, lacked confidence in their abilities. During the interview process,
many expressed sincere doubts that they could succeed in the program, since
they had been away from school for many years. Within a year, these mild
mannered women were challenging Dean Hackett on matters they felt needed
improvement and in many cases getting those improvements. When a staff member
noted that the women were coming on very strong, Dean Hackett happily replied:
"They have lost their fear, our program is working, they're very confident
and that's great."
"Dean John Hackett was a trailblazer. All the greatness that we
have attained is due to his early leadership," comments Walter A. Crocker,
dean of URI's Alan Shawn Feinstein-CCE. "We owe him a great debt."
For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116
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