KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 31, 2001 -- Stately, beautiful, inspiring, and magnificent are words that graduates of the 1940s and 1950s use to describe the University of Rhode Islands historic Green Hall.
And because the building, which was built in 1937 for the then-Rhode Island State College, is so important in the memories of hundreds of alumni, many wanted to contribute to the $1 million private fund drive to help restore the Kingston Campus landmark to its former beauty.
The $1 million "Campaign for Green Hall, Restoring the Heart of the Campus," is part of the $6 million project to completely renovate the granite structure. The University kicked off the project today ceremonies on the lawn of the south side of Green Hall.
In addition to the donations from alumni and friends, the URI Foundation contributed $100,000 to the drive, and the URI Parents Fund has pledged $100,000 over five years to the project. The Alumni Association also pledged $50,000.
"This has been a very broad-based campaign," said Alan Axelrod, the Green Hall Campaign manager. "We are grateful for a number of very generous leadership gifts and all of the hundreds of many smaller gifts made by hundreds of donors."
And one of the couples responsible for getting the campaign off to a fast start was Henry and Mary Frances "Boots" Nardone, who pledged $25,000 when Henry was named to chair the private fund drive.
"The campaign went quite well, particularly when you consider that there were other fund-raising projects being conducted concurrently," Nardone said. "The success of the campaign is a credit to the alumni who feel so strongly about the building. Green Hall was the heart of the campus for students in the 40s and 50s you could register there, get your grades, pay your fees, buy your books, see the president and the deans, study in the great room of the library, and even arrange a date for the Junior Prom in the stacks of the library. It was and once again will be the logo building of the University."
Nardone added that the leadership gifts from the URI Foundation and the Alumni Association got the campaign off to a very strong start.
The largest single personal donation came from Paul and Marguerite Lischio, of Saunderstown, who made a $30,000 donation,
When asked why she and her husband decided to take an active role in the campaign, Marguerite said: "First of all I love my University, and I really love Green Hall. My husband and I spent a lot of time studying in the library there.
"I love restoration of old buildings," said Marguerite Lischio, one of only three women in URIs business school in 1949.
She said the University has received major donations to the business and engineering colleges, "but I just thought I wanted to help the Green Hall effort. I just love it.
"I met my husband here," Lischio said. "I was walking across campus, and we met on the Quadrangle. We just talked, introduced ourselves and then he invited me to a dance. Thats how it all started."
Since then, Marguerite and Paul, who earned his URI degree in civil engineering, have raised their two daughters and run several businesses. They own Fiddlesticks, the amusement complex in North Kingstown. Paul and Marguerite are the president and vice president respectively of The Meadows Office Park in North Kingstown, and they are the former owners of Heritage Homes, which built more than 500 homes in North Kingstown and Narragansett.
"My husband loves old buildings, and Green was such a focal point when we were in school. Everyone just gravitated to that building; it was just so beautiful," Marguerite said.
Stephen Campanella, a 1943 graduate, and now a resident of Verona, Pa., made a $25,000 donation because he said he could not let down his former college roommate, Henry Nardone.
A mechanical engineering alumnus, Campanella worked at Westinghouse and Emerson Electric Co. before retiring. Like others of his era, Campanella spent a great deal of time in the library at Green Hall, and the bookstore and other offices. "It was just a place where we congregated to do the things we had to do," Campanella said.
"I felt that I had to give back to the University. It wasnt until I had recent a tour of the campus that I had seen what was happening here."
Campanella said he donated to the Green Hall campaign and previously to a fund that established the Campanella Rowing Center on Narrow River, which serves the mens and womens crew squads, because so many good things happened to him as a result of his time at URI.
"I remember Dean (John) Weldin, during freshman orientation, he gave a lecture on table manners, so that we were prepared to act as young gentlemen and ladies," Campanella said. "Coming from a family of nine children who grew up during the depression, table manners werent a priority for us. Dean Weldin was a gentleman all the way, and it rubbed off on us."
W. Donald Wilson, of Bristol, and Venice, Fla., graduated from Rhode Island State College in 1950 with a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering. In the 1960s, he earned his masters in business administration from what was then the URI extension.
After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Wilson became part of the largest graduating class in the history of Rhode Island State625 students.
For Wilson, who married while he was in school, it wasnt so much the memories that prompted him to make a $25,000 donated to Green Hall, but what Rhode Island State did for him in his career.
But he does chuckle when he talks about staying in Dr. Peases chicken coup his first year of school.
"This was and is still a great school, and in my view its underrated," Wilson said. "It did great by me, I was able to have a great career in industrial and mechanical engineering, and later in management. This was a college that helped you think, not just memorize information."
Wilson eventually wound up in business for himself, owning and operating Huestis Machine Corp. for 17 years. He sold the company in 1990, and settled into a "nice, comfortable retirement."
David Wilkes, the former owner of Eclipse Food Industries, which made famous Rhode Island coffee syrup and which operated five U.S. plants until 1989, estimates he has made about $400,000 in donations to URI over the years. But the 1943 chemistry graduate, who was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1988, also knew the importance of Green Hall, and made a $15,000 donation.
"I remember when I first started in Kingston," Wilkes said. "I was at Green Hall every day studying. It was a gorgeous building, and the library was quite magnificent. I am glad the project is focused on restoring that beauty."
Wilkes, who splits time between homes in Great Neck, N.Y., Palm Springs, Calif. and Miami Beach, Fla., said he is extremely happy that so much is happening to the facilities and the academic enterprise at URI.
For Information: Linda Acciardo 401-874-2116, Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116