With the sweet smell of wood smoke in the air and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves evoking memories of its agrarian roots, the University of Rhode Island launched the 125th anniversary of its founding in 1892 on Wednesday evening, January 25.
URI students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends cheered as URI President David M. Dooley and a URI drumline led a countdown to the illumination of 122-year-old Davis Hall and adjacent trees in hundreds of blue lights.
A DJ played upbeat tunes that got the crowd dancing along with the Ramettes while others clambered onto horse-drawn wagons for rides around the quadrangle. One group definitely stood out for its attire. Members of the Department of Theatre dressed in clothing appropriate for the era of URI’s founding and danced to the Village People’s hit, “YMCA.”
From a roster of 46 undergraduate students in 1894 to its current enrollment of 14,680 undergraduate and 2,003 graduate students, the University has grown from a small local college that educated Rhode Islanders in agricultural and mechanical arts to a renowned teaching and research institution that has influence around the world in health and wellness, biological, ocean and natural sciences, engineering and chemical and forensic sciences, business, and the liberal arts.
“What we are really here to celebrate are the great people of the University of Rhode Island–all of you,” said President Dooley. “Because it’s the faculty, it’s the staff, it’s the students and even occasionally in a small way, the administration that make the University what it is and have actually made the history we are celebrating here today happen.”
Dooley said URI’s founders came together with a vision, one that began with Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Congress in 1862, and a vision that still propels “us forward today, and that is of a public university dedicated to educating all of the people and intended always to be affordable to all the people. That’s why we exist and that’s what we celebrate.
Student Senate president Cody Anderson, a senior pharmaceutical sciences major, said when he came to URI four years ago, he was sold on its undeniable New England charm, incredible affordability, and most importantly, the beach.
“This is really an incredible place,” he said. “It’s welcoming, it’s accomplished, it’s academically strong, and most importantly, it’s home. Since being here it’s been my great privilege to be involved in a wide variety of activities, but what I have been most proud of is to represent student opinion in the past year as president of the Student Senate.”
Ramettes Alexendra Martinez, a senior biological sciences major, and Hannah Ritchie, a third-year pharmacy student from Santa Clarita, Calif., grooved to the tunes while talking about URI.“I am so excited to be part of the entire program here at URI,” Martinez said. “I have gained a great background here, and I will always be a Rhody girl.”
“When I came to visit here from California, it absolutely drew me in,” said Ritchie. “It was the best decision I ever made.”