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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Robert L. Carothers receives national award in D.C.

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URI President named outstanding mentor


KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 24, 2005 -- More than 1,000 people rose to give University of Rhode Island President Robert L. Carothers a standing ovation at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education, held Feb. 13 in Washington, D.C.

The applause was prompted by the presentation of the first Council of Fellows Outstanding Mentor Award to Carothers. The URI President shared the honor with University of Delaware President David Roselle. This was not the first time the two men were honored jointly. Last spring, each administrator received the President’s Leadership Group Award for establishing some of the country’s most comprehensive alcohol abuse programs on their campuses.

Established in 1965, the ACE Fellows Program condenses years of on-the-job experience and skills development for academics seeking leadership positions in higher education into a single year. More than 1,450 higher education leaders have participated in the ACE Fellows Program. Of those, more than 250 Fellows have become chief executives and more than 1,000 have served as provosts, vice presidents, and deans.

Since joining URI in 1991 as its tenth president, Carothers has mentored nine Fellows, tying a long-held record for the most Fellows during the four decades of the program.

He comments: “Watching these folks grow into creative and confident leaders has been more than enough reward for the work. I've always felt that I learned as much from each of them as they did from me.”

Harvey Jassem, senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the School of Communication, Technology, and Public Service at Loyola University, Chicago nominated his former mentor for the award.

“This man is loved by those he has blessed with his time and attention, both because of the quality of the man, and for the significant and life-changing/affirming lessons he has taught us,” Jassem said in his nomination letter.

Jassem had no intention of doing a fellowship at URI. Then he talked with former Fellows who not only spoke of the president’s inclusive and change-agent style of leadership, but of his values, trust, and help.

When he asked other Fellows who had positive experiences with other mentors for the “best” mentor of the class, the name Robert Carothers came up repeatedly.

“I was fortunate indeed to have Bob Carothers as my mentor,” wrote Michael Field in his supporting letter. Field’s fellowship help move him from a faculty member to his current position as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio. “He seemed to know when to offer help, and when to let me find my own way.”

“There are very few people in my life who have had a bigger impact on me than Robert Carothers,” wrote another ACE Fellow, Suman Singha, now professor and vice provost for academic programs at the University of Connecticut. Singha calls the URI president a deep thinker, one who listens carefully. “He did not focus on telling me what to do, but in guiding me, and letting me start the process of formulating a meaningful plan of action.”

Another former ACE Fellow, Lynn Epstein, who just completed her term as the 86th President of the American Medical Women’s Association, recalls her mentorship at a time of intensive activities and intense debate centered on diversity at URI. In the midst of the discussions, a cartoon printed in the student newspaper, The Good Five ¢ Cigar that was deemed racially offensive led to campus demonstrations and first amendment issues that attracted media attention.

Carothers, Epstein says, “turned the furor into a teachable moment.” He met with the student demonstrators, held a public forum on first amendment rights, and extended public conversation with a diversity task force.

“Suffice it to say, he continues to be a trusted friend and mentor, one who can be counted on for sage guidance,” wrote Epstein who is now a professor emerita at Brown University.

ACE Fellow Dorothy Escribano is currently being mentored by Carothers. She comments: “I knew from the moment that I was selected as an ACE Fellows that I wanted to work with President Carothers. His generosity as a mentor and his remarkable leadership skills are legend in higher education circles. He demonstrates through his own actions that empathy and decisiveness aren’t mutually exclusive, but rather both are paramount to being a good leader. I know that I will look back on this experience as a cornerstone of my professional career.”