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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI graduating senior to set sail for next Olympics

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 17, 2005 -- Tim Pitts will walk through the graduation ceremonies next week at the University of Rhode Island knowing that he's only steps away from setting sail for his next big race.

The soon-to-be chemical engineering graduate will pack away his books and hit the docks to prepare for the 2008 Olympic games.

After having competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, topping his personal best at the U.S. Laser National races in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., last month, the 23-year-old student sailor says he's ready.

"Now that I'm graduating, I'll be working on my next Olympics campaign. I know I'll find a way to make it happen," said Pitts who took a leave from URI in 2003 to pursue his dream to compete in the Olympics.

Pitts, who lives in Newport, was born and raised on St. Croix. He was the first Virgin Islander and the youngest to earn a sailing spot in the '04 Olympic games. He was also the only sailor from the Caribbean in the laser sailboat event.

To qualify for the challenge, he competed in numerous events around the world during his leave from URI. Pitts said the University was a strong source of support helping him to accomplish both of his goals: the Olympics and the degree.

"I wouldn't have been able to do half of the things that I did if I hadn't gone to URI. The faculty and everyone in the chemical engineering department were so supportive of my efforts. I ended up with a better degree from URI than I would have received anywhere else.

"Professor [Vincent] Rose was by far been my biggest supporter. He has helped in so many ways. When I came back from Greece, he had collected and gave to me all the news clippings from around the world about the Olympic races. He has been incredible, both as a teacher, but also just as a person."

When asked why he pursued a degree in chemical engineering, Pitts said he was always good in math and liked the first chemistry class he took. He also knew chemical engineering graduates would earn top salaries -- something he'd need to help him navigate his future endeavors.