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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

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 to 12.

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 local postmaster.

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 could find.

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, 401-874-2116


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