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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI engineering students to benefit from $1.7 million scholarship endowment from late Rhode Island businessman

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 18, 2004 -- Jerry M. Rhoads only visited the University of Rhode Island campus once during his lifetime. He never attended school there, never had a family member attend, and seemingly had no connection to the University. Yet in his estate plans he left $1.7 million for student scholarships in the URI College of Engineering.

"Jerry hired a number of our engineering students, and he was always impressed with them," said Tom Kim, professor of mechanical engineering and the former dean of the college who had lunch with Rhoads once or twice a year. "He had a high regard for the education we provide to our engineering students, and he told me many times that he was going to reward us for it."

Rhoads, an engineer, entrepreneur and businessman from Illinois who died in February 2003, moved to Rhode Island in 1973. He purchased and operated Emtech Corp. in Coventry, a manufacturer of specialty papers, and later started Comtech Corp. in Warwick. He also owned Rohner Inc. and Symettrix Corp., which he operated out of his home office in West Warwick.

In addition to hiring many URI engineering graduates, he hired at least one URI MBA student and sought technical assistance from Mechanical Engineering Professor Philip Datseris, which led to a research contract between Datseris and Symettrix.

"Jerry was a great guy, very friendly, but he was very busy and preoccupied with his businesses," explained Jack Buckley, a retired URI fundraiser who spoke with Rhoads regularly. "For him to want to make a contribution to an institution that he never really had a connection with, that’s pretty special. It shows how respectful he was of URI’s engineering grads."

The Jerry M. and Evelyn L. Rhoads Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships each year to full-time undergraduate or graduate students studying engineering at URI. Selection will be based on academic performance and financial need, with preference given to students who graduated from Rhode Island high schools and reside in the state. While the principal of Rhoads’ donation will be continually invested, the income from the endowment will fund the scholarships.

"Over the years more and more alumni and friends of the University have made provisions for URI in their estate plans, just as Jerry Rhoads did," said Wade Wilks, URI director of planned giving. "These gifts may ultimately represent the largest charitable contribution these individuals will make to the University. The Rhoads gift to fund a memorial endowment establishes a legacy in Jerry’s and Evelyn’s names that will enable the College of Engineering to attract students that might otherwise have been unable to attend.

"It also provides a significant boost to the University’s upcoming capital campaign, which is in its early planning stages and will focus predominantly on building the endowment," he added.