Big Ideas. Bold Plans.

The Campaign for URI

We Are Not Done Yet

Like any journey worth taking, the campaign has brought URI to new places and inspired new ideas. We have come so far over the last several years thanks to the generosity and Rhody pride exhibited by alumni, parents, friends, and corporate and foundation partners. By working together, we have helped students achieve ambitious goals, we have ventured to new parts of the world, and we have expanded our programs and facilities. At the start of the spring semester we were 97% of the way to our $300 million goal…but we are not done yet.

As we think about the campaign reaching its end this summer, we realize that so many of the gifts and initiatives during this effort are only the beginning—scholarships that set students on a lifelong path, research funding that will make future discoveries possible, program staff to bring critical training to a national scale. This has been a truly comprehensive effort, building on our strengths in the blue economy, bridging the arts with the sciences, and giving our student-athletes the best chance to succeed.

Thanks to visionary gifts across five strategic areas, URI as a whole has reached a new level and earned global recognition. Those five areas are Student Access, The URI Learning Experience, Transformative Faculty Leadership, Innovative and Distinctive Programs, and Strategic Opportunities. Building on these pillars, we are truly excited to think about the possibilities ahead, and we know that our University will only continue upward from here.

Lil Breul O’Rourke
President, URI Foundation and Alumni Engagement

Al Verrechia'a signature

Alfred J. Verrecchia ’67 M.B.A.’72 Hon.’04
Chairman of the Board, URI Foundation and Alumni Engagement

Sarah Nickford '23 in winter gear, leaning over the side of a boat holding a rope with a Saildrone in the background

Alumni Couple Propels Ocean Research

Photo: Sarah Nickford ’23

Lauren Baker-Hart ’81, P ’18 and Jay C. Hart ’82 M.B.A. ’85, P ’18 have made a gift that will significantly advance ocean research at URI. The Hart Family Faculty Fund in Ocean Engineering provides wide-ranging benefits that will help the University to attract and retain top-tier faculty, support graduate students, and facilitate new research. The Harts are designating $1,000,000 for these purposes to the College of Engineering, while they are also providing funding for immediate needs to RhodyNow: College of Business and RhodyNow: College of Engineering, in the amount of $125,000 each.

This significant gift reflects their commitment to ocean health, and it underscores URI’s strengths as a driver of the blue economy, where multiple fields intersect to support environmental interests and economic growth in marine affairs. The Harts’ gift also supports each of their colleges, with Lauren as an engineering alumna and Jay having earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in the College of Business.

“We saw this as a way to contribute to a topic that matters to individuals and communities around the world,” said Lauren. “We are confident in our University’s track record and in its potential to continue making important breakthroughs.”

“We wanted to give a boost to URI’s impressive research in an area that we believe in,” said Jay, “and at the same time, we know how important it is for the colleges to have flexibility with immediate-use funds. The University’s advances in ocean science are truly impressive, and I look forward to seeing how far they can go.”

The Harts have been actively involved alumni. Lauren is a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Circle and the URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement Development Committee, and Jay is a member of the URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement Investment Committee and Board of Directors.

Fara Warner standing at a podium addressing a crowd.

New Executive Director at Metcalf Institute

Photo: Isabelle Epstein

The Metcalf Institute has recently welcomed as its new executive director Fara Warner, a veteran journalist, editorial director, and educator with expertise in climate and environmental communications. Succeeding Sunshine Menezes, Ph.D. ’05, Warner seeks to build on the Institute’s well established leadership in providing professional development for journalists, scientists, and science communicators.

Warner’s experience with internationally recognized publications as well as climate-focused organizations clearly aligns with the work of the institute, and her belief in the essential public role of journalism matches the mission as well.

“I see this role as a natural evolution of my belief in the power of journalism as a civic system,” said Warner. “It’s critical to engage with communities in ways that give them insight, knowledge, and wisdom about the world around them. Journalists need training to fulfill that civic duty.” She added that training in climate and environmental science is a particularly acute need.

“I see this role as a natural evolution of my belief in the power of journalism as a civic system. It’s critical to engage with communities in ways that give them insight, knowledge, and wisdom about the world around them. Journalists need training to fulfill that civic duty.”
Fara Warner, Executive Director, Metcalf Institute

In its 25-year history, the Metcalf Institute has earned global recognition in training more than 3,500 communicators and developing programs to bring leaders in journalism and climate and environmental science together. Warner sees opportunities to scale up and expand that reach. In addition to educating individuals, developing new strategic partnerships could allow the Institute’s knowledge to benefit institutions and larger systems.

“If we can change the way that whole organizations cover what’s happening with our climate,” Warner said, “they can offer better and more inclusive coverage that gives the public a sense of agency and a sense of urgency.” Along with its significant external reach, the work of the Institute is true to the core of URI’s identity as a land and sea-grant public institution. It ties together the arts and sciences, with a view to understanding our world and helping our community.

“I’ve never found a place with such harmony between journalism and science,” said Warner, “which are two of the most important systems that need to work together and bring people together for collaboration.”

The Metcalf Institute relies on philanthropy to advance its vital work. Warner’s appointment was made possible by a generous gift from Charlotte Metcalf, which is being matched by the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences.

A Scholarship for Home-Grown Engineers

Five students this year have benefited from a unique scholarship focused on engineering students from Rhode Island. The Jonathan K. Farnum Scholarship benefits applicants from the Blackstone Valley area, which includes Central Falls, Pawtucket, Cumberland, and Lincoln. The scholarship assists students with costs of attendance, including tuition, fees, and room and board.

“I am tremendously grateful for receiving the Farnum Scholarship,” said Victoria DeLaCruz, one of this year’s recipients. “It lifted the weight from my parents’ and my shoulders and allowed me to focus on my education without constantly worrying about the financial burden.”

The scholarship bears the name of the first president of the Simon W. Wardwell Foundation. The foundation supports organizations and activities involved with studying, planning, designing, developing, and improving the operations of Rhode Island nonprofits, including educational institutions. It is named for industrialist and inventor Simon W. Wardwell who founded the Wardwell Braiding Machine Company, which is still in operation today, in Central Falls in 1911.

Alumnus Gives Athletics Initiative Major Boost

URI Athletics is picking up momentum in an initiative to raise $20 million for facilities upgrades that will span multiple sports. One of the early lead gifts comes from Thomas J. ’74 and Catherine F. Drury, totaling $1 million.

“We saw this as an opportunity to be part of something big,” said Thomas (Tom) Drury. “We want to help URI studentathletes get ahead, and this moment of support from the state and focused attention from other alumni seemed like just the right time. We need to show the world of college athletics what URI can do.”

“We saw this as an opportunity to be part of something big. We want to help URI student athletes get ahead, and this moment of support from the state and focused attention from other alumni seemed like just the right time.”
Thomas J. Drury ’74

Drury was an accounting major at URI and went on to earn an M.B.A. at the University of Wisconsin. He was a founder and CEO of Hydrofera, LLC, a company that develops and sells advanced wound dressings that stimulate the healing process.

His long-term success at the company is rooted in a deeply personal story. A desperate father called the company offices one day—his young daughter had a condition that doctors had agreed would result in leg amputation, and the family was scrambling for other treatment options. Drury and his colleagues jumped into action, orchestrating product delivery and an expert clinical team to quickly treat the girl. It worked. Drury remains close with the family to this day. The experience stuck with Drury as “a testament to the human spirit” and an example of what people can do when they use whatever resources they have to help others. The product is known as “Hydrofera Blue” and it is used to successfully treat the wounds of millions of patients worldwide today.

Monica Garnes '94 on the URI basketball court with President Parlange and Rhodey Ram. Monica is holding a URI branded basketball.

Basketball Player, Business Leader, Benefactor

Monica Garnes ’94 found herself back on a URI basketball court, this time not as a student-athlete, but as a benefactor unveiling a renovated space. She had on a pair of URI-branded Nikes customized for the occasion.

The Monica Garnes ’94 Locker Room in the Ryan Center has been completely renovated and named in honor of Garnes for her support of the program. Her gift of $125,000 to the locker room renovation is part of a committed effort to provide a dedicated area for the team to prepare for practice and games, as well as a players’ lounge to unwind and build team camaraderie. For Garnes, this is an opportunity to be part of the program’s past and future.

“My time playing for URI was where I learned about teamwork, grit, and dedication. It’s helped me in all aspects of my life and I’m grateful to be able to support today’s athletes who lead with heart and integrity.”
Monica Garnes ’94

“Playing for URI was such an important part of my experience here,” said Garnes, “and it continues to be something I channel today in my career as an executive at a Fortune 100 company. My time playing for URI was where I learned about teamwork, grit, and dedication. It’s helped me in all aspects of my life and I’m grateful to be able to support today’s athletes who lead with heart and integrity.”

Throughout her career, Garnes has demonstrated expertise in business management and leadership, rising to the role of president of Fry’s Food Stores in Arizona. Along with several volunteer roles at the University of Rhode Island, she is a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Circle, was the former chair of the College of Business Advisory Council, and was recently named to the University Board of Trustees, an honor reserved for exceptionally successful and dedicated alumni.

A male and female student smiling and walking together on the URI campus.

Alumni with a Long View

The campaign has driven alumni participation to new heights and has raised awareness about new ways to get involved. The Oliver Watson Society (OWS), a group of alumni who have chosen to give to URI through their wills, retirement funds, or other financial assets, established a new ambassador role in 2022 that has helped volunteers forge new connections.

The inaugural ambassador was Jim Hopkins ’62. Hopkins, who has devoted his talent and resources to his alma mater for decades, worked with staff in this role, met alumni at events, and shared his own experience of giving and remaining actively connected to the University.

“I like the idea of leaving an ongoing legacy for something I believe in,” said Hopkins. “I have included specific URI endowments to receive funds from my estate so that projects and programs that matter to me will continue to be funded after I’m gone.”

After a two-year term, Hopkins is passing the torch to Tony Braz ’83, a political science major at URI who went on to earn a J.D. at Duke University.

“I’d like to see more alumni add URI to their estates so that we can create an even stronger, more vibrant University for students to attend.”
Tony Braz ’83, Ambassador, Oliver Watson Society

“I’d like to see more alumni add URI to their estates so that we can create an even stronger, more vibrant University for students to attend,” said Braz. “I am very proud of this University and grateful for what it has done for me. Being the OWS Ambassador is another way to give back.”

The ambassador shares their experience with fellow alumni, speaks at events, and can show those who are interested in unique giving options how to take the right steps. As with so many alumni groups, the OWS helps to raise visibility and strengthen the sense of community among Rhody Rams.

Fund Fuels Growth in the Political Science Department

The Dr. Alfred G. Killilea Endowment in Political Science was established by former students in honor of former URI professor Al Killilea. The fund recruits quality, highly accomplished faculty to the political science department. In the last five years, thanks in part to new contributions from alumni, the College of Arts and Sciences has hired five additional faculty members. Faculty members receive $5,000 a year for three years to jump-start their research.

Support from the fund has been vital to recruiting and retaining top faculty and has allowed them to pursue innovative research. In recent years, the political science department has seen an impressive period of growth with increased enrollment. Hiring will be even more critical over the next three to four years as the master’s in international relations continues to grow and the college expands the work of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies.

“Professor Killilea inspired, encouraged, and challenged his students during his time at URI,” said Bruce Wolpert ’75. “As someone who directly benefited from his teaching, I am proud and honored that this endowment continues his legacy of excellence at URI and benefits so many students.”

Big Ideas. Bold Plans.

Big Ideas. Bold Plans. The Campaign for URI has made all of these things and more possible, advancing URI and creating new opportunities across five strategic areas:

  • Student Access
  • The URI Learning Experience
  • Transformative Faculty Leadership
  • Innovative and Distinctive Programs
  • Strategic Opportunities

But the work is not yet done! It will take everyone across the URI community working together to bring the University to the next level of educational and academic success.

97%toward new $300M goal
$69Mraised during the campaign to date for scholarships and fellowships to help students cover the costs of attendance

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