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Creating the Future: The Role of the University in Transforming the World

Inaugural Poem

For the inauguration of David M. Dooley, eleventh President of the University of Rhode Island
   by Peter Covino

shepherd   shaman   wizard

Can you bring the big sky, an abundant
ethereal firmament; unite the big sky
to our deepening ocean? Can you bring
California dreaming and your dreams—

blessings of molecular change from your
farms and forest walks, inclusive prayers?
Shepherd him wisdom-minister alongside
the old good updated all-loving books.

Gods of miracle and wonder, shaman
of collective light. Science teaches us to
hypothesize and prove to particularize
and understand; consider then each

linkable atom as a letter of the alphabet,
an unfettered procession of possibilities.
Some conjure war or unchecked wealth.
They believe fear’s acceptable. Each day

I get better at teaching and learning,
unalienable rights you help safeguard,
I know fear and war rot us thoroughly.
Poetry provides radical insight—

it teaches us to worship at the beauty
of every syllable, word, and silence.
I hold the wide-eyed opportunities today
of students and colleagues in the treble

of this voice. Today I am grateful for
promises that channel peaceful auguries
of thoughtful action; the reverberations
are so loud we feel souls commingling

with ours—we cannot hear ourselves think!
In 1919 our still prepubescent university
suspended classes because of the decimation
of WWI, yet President Edwards acknowledged

“it has here, evidence of wealth, of capable
service […] that must forever be preserved.”*
The innovations of more than a century
bring the breath of ancestral rites, of second

and third jobs to afford tuition, of the Quonset
huts of rapid progress and the green green sea
of turf fields, even the perfect Rhode Island
red hen! Undifferentiated souls of the Niles

Farmstead Cemetery: Native Americans,
African Americans, and white settlers alike
proffer hope, our state’s motto, with vision
ahead of an affirmative future. Can you

preserve the majesty amidst untold dejection?
We are near Galilee, its saving bounties
less than ten miles away a new Jerusalem’s
not far off either, just down route 108.

You know the challenges and the work.
You have our abiding prayers.

*From URI Web site, "URI History and Timeline," for this and related factual inspiration

Transforming the World

"It's a simple fact that the kinds of skills that the students are going to need for the future are the kinds of skills and experiences that are going to be hard to come by in the formal classroom. The goal of the modern university is to prepare students for things we don't yet know exist." -- David M. Dooley


Download President Dooley's biographical information (PDF) and a high resolution image below:

President David M. Dooley

Click to download high resolution image. Credit: "University of Rhode Island, Nora Lewis"

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Biography
  • Brief Biography
  • Download a copy of the President's Address.

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