From the President


On the threshold of a new decade, our University is poised for greatness.

Nathan Ankomah-Mensah working with a robotic arm
Nathan Ankomah-Mensah ’19 graduated with two majors, computer and electrical engineering, and two minors, computer science and math. Here, he works with a robotic arm in engineering professor Kunal Mankodiya’s biosensing lab. Ankomah-Mensah was awarded a highly competitive GEM Fellowship, which will pay for his first year of graduate school.

How fortunate I feel to be president at a time of such incredible growth and change! Working together with the state, we have made more than $1 billion in capital investments in our campuses since 2010. We’ve hired 350 new faculty and dramatically increased opportunities for internships and research for our students–all across the world–so that now more than 8,000 students are involved every year. This would not be possible without the increases we’ve made in financial aid. Today, we award more than $100 million in undergraduate merit- and need-based assistance. To stay competitive, keep URI affordable, and attract the most talented students, we are determined to grow that pool of aid.

During the past 10 years, the leadership and vision of extraordinary alumni like Thomas M. Ryan ’75, Hon. ’99, and Michael D. Fascitelli ’78, Hon. ’08, to name just two, have helped catalyze exceptional growth, transforming the built environment of our campus while bolstering our scholarship, research, and teaching capabilities, and elevating the student experience to levels we could only imagine when this decade began.

Tom shares his story with us in this final 2019 issue of URI Magazine, explaining why he and his wife, Cathy Ryan, have so generously supported URI. Their most recent gift of $35 million is the largest private contribution in our history, and brings their cumulative giving to more than $56 million. The gift will strengthen the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience with $24 million to explore new treatments, therapies, and strategies for addressing disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. Another $1 million establishes a challenge to inspire community support for a men’s and women’s basketball training facility. And $10 million establishes an endowment for the Thomas M. Ryan Scholars program, providing full scholarships and fees for four years for exceptional students, as well as access to URI’s Honors Program, Leadership Institute, and global Winter J-Term. The first Ryan Scholars will be enrolled next fall.

Undergraduate students, Mackenzie Fraser and Zach with Communications staff, Dave Lavallee (orange helmet) and Josh Araujo
A new 2-mile bike path spur connects the Kingston Campus directly to the William C. O’Neill Bike Path, which runs from Kingston to Narragansett. The new section opened this fall, giving students, faculty, and staff a new way to get to and from campus. The bike path connector is a key part of URI’s Transportation and Parking Master Plan, which aims to improve walking and cycling accessibility.

URI also celebrated other amazing gifts this year, including $4 million from Richard J. Harrington ’73, Hon. ’02, and Jean Harrington to the Harrington School of Communication and Media, bringing their cumulative support for the school to more than $12 million. Their support and engagement assures our communications students will benefit from a 21st-century curriculum and learn in facilities furnished with state-of-the-art equipment, like the new Broadcast Center we unveiled this fall.

Speaking of state-of-the-art facilities, our cover story is the stunning new Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering, which opened this fall to great acclaim. We’re proud that Rhode Islanders supported the project with $150 million in bond issues. And we are grateful to Michael and Elizabeth Fascitelli for their $10 million gift, which will fund lab and research equipment and establish an endowed fund for the dean’s priorities.

Not only is The Fascitelli Center our largest academic building, it is also our most innovative and forward-thinking, organized around interdisciplinary research themes to stimulate the kinds of collaboration that will lead to discoveries today’s engineers can only dream of.

Even as we focus on science and engineering, we also recognize the intrinsic value and essential role of the arts. Our Fine Arts Center is undergoing a renovation as I write. And we are proud to share that music therapy is another new academic offering at URI. I hope you will read the story of VOICES 21C in these pages. A choir with a cause that includes four URI alumni, they are raising their voices, combining song, dance, and poetry to bring to life messages touting the transformational power of social justice.

Transformation is the word that best describes the past decade at URI. Momentum from that transformation will carry us forward into 2020. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

David M. Dooley
President, University of Rhode Island