Rhody Traditions

The Mayor of Kingston

Dave Lavallee ’79, M.P.A. ’87, and his family unearthed a bit of URI history when they found his dad’s typewritten 1938 speech and photo from his run for the mayor of Kingston.

Roger Lavallee ’48 posing for a picture with his fists clenched, smiling, for a spirited run for 'Mayor of Kingston'
Roger Lavallee campaigning for Mayor of Kingston in 1938

Not to be confused with the Paramount crime drama Mayor of Kingstown, URI’s mayor of Kingston was all about fun and was elected through an annual “mayorality campaign.”

We spoke with Betty Cugini ’52, who recalls that the whole campus voted to elect a mayor, who had various honorary responsibilities. She says each candidate had a theme and would campaign at the student union (a Quonset hut, at the time) in the evenings.

Cugini says the whole thing was about fun and community. “The college,” she says, “was a real community then.”

Roger Lavallee ’48 clearly had that spirit of fun. He arrived at URI in 1938. He left for several years, served in World War II, and returned to URI on the GI Bill, graduating in 1948.

On the typewritten page the Lavallee family found, the speech, which was apparently broadcast on the radio, is preceded by a tongue-in-cheek introduction making fun of Lavallee’s slight stature: “The next speaker is a member of the freshman class. We have just lifted him on a stool so he is within range of the microphone. A resident of Riverside, he entered college from East Providence High School.”

Lavallee’s speech began:

“Friends of the Radio Audience – Today I come to you as the candidate of the Modernistic Party, whose slogan is ’Go modern with the Little Giant.’ I am the Little Giant, although I am only five feet two inches tall. I may assert, however, with all modesty, that through the endowment of mental capabilities, I am literally a giant in intellect.

… [One of our planks] is – Paved Roads Throughout Kingston. Last fall on the way to a football game, I found two students going in opposite directions, both thinking they were on their way to the game; but in reality they were lost in the dust. The ruts in Fortin Road are now being used by the military department as trenches for sham battles. We promise cement roads with plush carpet sidewalks.

We also advocate Modernization of all faculty, transportation of all students to and from classes; an eight-day week; comfortable lounging chairs in every class room with a radio at each desk; … Go Modern with the Little Giant, and live happily ever after.”

Lavallee’s political career may have been short, but his platform sure was sweet.

—Barbara Caron

Many thanks to the Lavallee family for sharing this piece of history with URI Magazine. Please email us at if you would like to share your memories about this piece of URI history.