URI to hold open house at Rodman Hall
Part of statewide 'Historic Armory Week' celebrations
KINGSTON, RI -- October 2, 2000 -- The University of Rhode Island's Alumni
Association will host an open house and lecture on Monday, November 6 in
the building that was home to Frank Keaney's athletes and birthplace of
Keaney's famed fast break. URI's Rodman Hall is one of the state's 18 historic
armories being celebrated during Armory Week, which runs from November 4
URI's open house begins at 7 p.m. with the post-marking and sale of first-day
covers. The US Postal Service has designed a special envelope with Rodman
Hall (in color) on the front and which will be stamped that evening by the
At 7:30 p.m., an informal coffee and dessert reception will be held in
Classroom One, located on the first floor. Dr. William Woodward, author
of the book Keaney, will discuss the history of Rodman Hall. The
lecture includes the showing of a Pathe news film made about Rhody's Rams
and Coach Keaney, made during World War II and shown around the world to
troops and in movie theaters. Following the presentation, Woodward will
conduct a short tour of the historic building for those interested.
Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Commander Papadopoulos and URI
ROTC Alumni president, Paul Helweg, have arranged for ROTC members, past
and present, to greet visitors to Rodman Hall during the open house.
The Bigelow, Kent, Willard and Company, designed Rodman Hall
as both an armory and a gymnasium. Built in 1928 the same year as
two other URI buildings (Edwards and Bliss halls) -- Rodman was the only
one of the three not on the Quadrangle. The last to be constructed, Rodman
didn't get granite sides like the other two buildings because the
campus quarry ran out of granite. Instead, the sides are made of brick.
The armory wasn't named until 1938, according to Roberta Mudge Humble
who earned her undergraduate degree from URI in 1968 and her master's degree
in 1971. Humble's newly-published book, The Historic Armories of Rhode
Island, co-authored with Col. Howard F. Brown (who earned a master's
degree from URI in 1971) can be purchased for $20 at CCRI bookstores, Twice-Told
Tales in Pawtuxet, and at various armories during Armory Week. The commemorative
book will be available during Rodman's open house.
At one time, the armory-gymnasium was called Hammond Hall, in honor of
Captain Hammond, commandant of the first Reserved Officers Training Corps
(ROTC) unit in Rodman Hall, 1928. However, it was the inspirational teaching
and college development of Thomas Rodman that won favor for the Rodman naming.
Hired in 1890 as an instructor of wood and ironwork, Rodman was also a professor
of mechanical engineering, physics, and building superintendent, overseeing
much of the campus construction.
Built partially with federal money, ROTC was compulsory for all land
grant colleges and many secondary schools throughout the country. Rodman
Hall served as ROTC's home. An article in the 1943 Grist, Rhode Island State
College (now URI) yearbook reads: "The rifle range in Rodman Hall is
equipped to offer instruction in the use of all type of army rifles including
the Garand and machine guns and light field pieces. This training will no
doubt be of use to many of the students upon their entry into the armed
forces." Rodman was also the site for numerous military balls, the
first one was on February 21, 1929.
The armory was the stomping ground of the legendary Coach Frank Keaney
and the Rhode Island Running Rams basketball team and the fast break that
changed the face of the game. Students and the members of the campus community
formed lines outside, often waiting for hours to get inside for games played
on the armory's hardwoods.
Keaney coached the URI Rams to a record of 401 victories and 124 losses
from 1920 to 1948. He was also a chemist. In fact, he kept a small lab in
his office at Rodman, its floor stained with chemicals from his creations.
There he developed solutions to cure athlete ailments such as athlete's
foot, jock itch, and soreness.
To prepare his teams for smoke-filled arenas such as Madison Square
Garden, he filled Rodman with smudge pots burning the foulest tobacco he
Others sports took place in Rodman including track, boxing, fencing,
target shooting, golf, archery, and wrestling.
Today Rodman is home to the Graduate School of Library and Information
Services and the Community Planning and Landscape Architecture Department.
For Information: Jesse Kenyon, 401- 874-4853, Jan Sawyer,