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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 02881
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Family of first URI/ CCE dean establishes
memorial endowment

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."

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For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116

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