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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Scholarship helps cement URI student’s engineering career

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 4, 2005 -- As a student at North Smithfield High School, Meghan Leclerc debated a career in dance and music. But along the way, she fell in love with math and physics and chose instead to study engineering at the University of Rhode Island.

That decision is already paying off.

Leclerc was recently awarded the Ronald Jalbert Scholarship for academic excellence in URI’s Department of Civil Engineering.

“When I took physics in high school, I fell in love with it because it gave me a reason to learn and care about math,” said the URI junior. “And this year as I’ve begun to get into the specifics of civil engineering, I found geotechnical engineering to be really interesting. That’s the field I want to work in.”

Geotechnical engineers study soils and rock and apply that knowledge to the construction of such things as foundations, bridges, tunnels, earthquake-proof buildings and natural hazard mitigation.

“I’m really interested in foundations and geosynthetics, where they use synthetic materials to reinforce the earth around bridges and other construction projects,” said Leclerc, who intends to pursue a master’s degree after graduating from URI in 2006. “I want to be a geotechnical design engineer, so hopefully with a graduate degree I’ll be on my way.”

The $1,000 scholarship awarded to Leclerc was named in honor of a 1963 URI alumnus who died in 1996 after a successful civil engineering career at The Maguire Group, where he was the project manager for Providence’s Waterplace Park and the Providence River relocation, among many others.

Every year since Ronald Jalbert’s death, friends and engineering colleagues have held a golf tournament to raise money for the scholarship fund.

“Ron golfed every Sunday for 20 years with a group of men from Coventry, Warwick and West Warwick, so we all thought a golf tournament would be an appropriate way to remember him,” said his widow, Rosalie Jalbert of West Warwick. The next tournament is April 24 at Richmond Country Club.

Jalbert met Leclerc during a Feb. 18 luncheon for URI donors and scholarship recipients, at which Leclerc spoke on behalf of other engineering students who had been awarded scholarships this year.

“ I feel most fortunate to have received this scholarship, and I know the other students here today feel the same way,” Leclerc said at the luncheon. “When you’re working toward a goal and someone recognizes your hard work and offers to pick up some of the burden, suddenly it makes all your effort worthwhile. Receiving a private scholarship is more than a boost to my pocketbook. It’s a confidence builder.”