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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Donors give $3 million to support URI’s College of Engineering

Media Contact: Tracey Manni, 401-874-2145

Three $1 million gifts propel URI capital campaign to more than $126 million

KINGSTON, R.I. -- December 22, 2010 -- University of Rhode Island fundraising officials today announced that three separate gifts of $1 million or more have been received recently that will support the University’s College of Engineering. These gifts have helped bring the total raised during the current Making a Difference capital campaign to more than $126 million, significantly above the campaign’s $100 million goal. The campaign officially ends December 31, 2010.

The gifts specifically support College of Engineering undergraduate and graduate students and faculty. Two come from URI College of Engineering alumni. The third gift was received from Toray Plastics (America), located in North Kingstown, a large manufacturer and key member of the Rhode Island business community with very strong ties to URI.

“Given the deep affinity our alumni and friends have with this institution, on some levels we are not surprised by these most generous charitable gifts. We do, however, continue to be greatly impressed by the universal expressions of our donors’ loyalty, and their desire to make a real and transformational impact here at URI,” said Glen R. Kerkian, president of the URI Foundation.

Walter Schmid graduated from URI’s College of Engineering in 1950 and founded his own company, Chemical Design, located in Lockport, NY. He spent five decades growing his company, always mindful of the impact of his days at URI. His recent gift of just over $1 million was split to fund two endowments in his name, created to benefit both undergraduate and graduate students in any discipline of engineering.

“I am pleased to be able to provide financial support to students in need who are pursuing an education in engineering at the University of Rhode Island. I am hopeful that my gift will make a difference to students and will result in their successful graduation from the outstanding program URI offers,” said Schmid.

The second alumni donor, a 1968 alumnus who wishes to remain anonymous, has also realized his career aspirations and attributes a margin of his success to the education he received at URI and, in particular, to the dedication of the engineering faculty. His recent gift of more than $1.1 million will fund the Robert S. Haas Endowed Professorship in Electrical Engineering, named in honor of the retired electrical engineering professor who taught at URI between 1948 and 1988.

Haas had a great impact on many of his students, according to College of Engineering Dean Ray Wright. “He was a model and mentor to generations of engineering students and personified integrity and excellence in teaching. Scores of students, spanning many years, were inspired by him, and this recent gift is a clear representation of the positive impact he had.”

Rick Schloesser, president and CEO of Toray, which produces polypropylene and polyester films and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Toray Industries, Inc., presented his company’s check for $1 million at a recent engineering scholarship breakfast held on campus. The gift will fund an endowment to provide graduate fellowship support, a key priority of the College, which set a $1 million fundraising goal specifically for this purpose in 2007. To date, more than $3 million has been raised for the initiative.

Schloesser commented: “We at Toray have truly enjoyed the benefits of our partnership with URI that began over 20 years ago. We remain committed to promoting higher learning and excellence in education, believing that it will make all the difference in creating the highly skilled workforce of tomorrow.”

Dean Wright noted that the engineering college is committed to continuing its strong relationship with Toray, which has been mutually beneficial. He said, “Scores of students each year are afforded the opportunity to work at Toray, earning a stipend while putting their engineering skills to the test. These hands-on work experiences provide a critical edge to our graduates and provide Toray with a pool of talented engineering students in its North Kingstown and Lyon, France plants.”

The dean added: “Our ultimate goal is to attract the most talented engineering students and faculty members to our program and to do that we need to have resources. These generous gifts will make a great impact on our efforts and our desired outcomes. The bottom line is the more we can offer both prospective students and faculty members, the more successfully we can compete and the stronger our reputation becomes.”

The URI College of Engineering has nearly 1,100 undergraduate students, 200 graduate students and 60 faculty members. It offers dynamic engineering programs in a collaborative learning environment that fosters personal growth and professional development.

The College has seven accredited undergraduate degree programs, and confers graduate degrees at the masters and doctoral levels. It is an acclaimed global leader in international engineering education with its International Engineering Program, a five-year program that offers dual degrees, one in engineering and the other in one of several foreign languages.

The Making a Difference campaign was launched publicly in October of 2007. URI’s second major capital campaign, it was undertaken to raise important funding to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance the student-centered experience, provide student scholarships and fellowships and fund cutting-edge academic and research initiatives. The campaign also enhanced the construction of several new, world class facilities including the Kingston campus’ new Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences building and its new pharmacy building, currently under construction.

In addition to the success of the campaign to date, according to Kerkian, fiscal 2010 was the biggest year on URI’s fundraising books. Fiscal 2009 set historical benchmarks for the amount of gifts raised despite a downturn in the economy which affected fundraising nationally.

For more information, please visit www.urifoundation.org.