Howard Edwards was the University’s longest-serving president. During his 24-year tenure, he fostered URI’s growth from a tiny agricultural school into a full-fledged College. In 1909, the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts changed its name to Rhode Island State College in recognition of the college’s impact on Rhode Island’s communities. Edwards promoted advancements in curriculum and opened educational opportunities for women.
Growth stalled in 1918, however, during World War I when 301 male students, many of whom were trained in the Student Army Training Corps, entered the war. With few students on campus, classes were suspended between April 28, 1918 and January 2, 1919. President Edwards wrote of the student sacrifice:
The college is poor, in physical wealth, and resources; it numbers among its friends, few of high position, large possessions, or powerful influence, but it has here, evidence of a wealth, of capable service, of high sense of duty, of heroic sacrifice, that must forever be preserved, as its most cherished tradition…