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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Couple shells out scholarship for quahogging URI student

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 8, 2006 -- University of Rhode Island student Jeffrey Grant often can be seen, bull rake in hand, traveling Narragansett Bay in his 21-foot skiff looking for the bivalve that has become Rhode Island’s official shellfish, the quahog. The 20-year-old has been a commercial shell fisherman since he was 13.

It’s a family legacy. “My father was a commercial fisherman for 32 years,” says Grant who grew up on the water’s edge in the Oakland Beach section of Warwick. “My father’s retired now, but not before getting his son addicted to the water.”

On this day, the URI student is sitting on a stonewall showing his improved design stainless steel bull rake to his benefactors, Wayne and Bernice Durfee of Narragansett. “In my day, they never had anything as good as this,” Wayne says.

After earning his doctorate at Rutgers, Wayne taught poultry science at URI for 26 years, becoming known far and wide as the Rhode Island Red expert. During the 1970s, however, with interest in poultry waning in the state, Wayne switched from chickens to teaching and researching shellfish. “You could see the future was in aquaculture,” he says.

When Wayne retired in 1989, he and Bernice established an endowed scholarship for bright students studying aquaculture.

“We’re happy to support education,” explains Bernice who met her future husband on the URI campus while she was earning a degree in botany and he was earning a degree in poultry science on the GI Bill. She graduated from the University in 1949, Wayne the following year. The couple married in 1951. Bernice was the assistant to the director of graduate studies until 1961. The couple has two children, URI 1984 alumna Bonita Durfee Lambert and URI 1988 alumnus William K. Durfee whose daughter Heather will enter the University this fall. “URI is close to our hearts,” Bernice says.

“I like the idea of an endowment because it continues to grow,” notes the professor emeritus. “We add a bit of money every year and I’m surprised and pleased just how much it has grown over the years.”

When he enrolled at URI, Grant expected to major in marine affairs. However when he volunteered for the Rhode Island Shellfishermen Association’s seeding projects, which involved the care of a million seed quahogs, his interest turned to shellfish aquaculture studies.

Grant is one of two students who received $500 from the endowed scholarship this year. “I had a budget all worked out, but with tuition increases, I wasn’t sure I could do it,” the URI student tells the Durfees. “But then I got the notice of the scholarship, which covered the difference. I can’t thank you enough.”

“The future is in aquaculture,” says Wayne. “It took 100 years to perfect poultry science and it may take another 100 years to accomplish similar progress in aquaculture.”

The Durfees encourage their recipient who will graduate in December to go to graduate school.

“I plan to work for a few years, hopefully on a Rhode Island shellfish project and then do advanced studies,” says Grant.
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URI News Bureau photo by Nora Lewis.