URI’s history captured in new book

URI’s history captured in new Images of America book KINGSTON, R.I. — November 4, 1999 — If every picture tells a story, then a collection of pictures must tell a history. The tale of the University of Rhode Island from its rural beginnings as an agricultural college to its place as a world class institution today has recently been captured in a pictorial history book, called Images of America: The University of Rhode Island. The book is co-authored by James Wheaton of Exeter, a URI alumnus, and Richard Vangermeersch of Narragansett, a URI alumnus and accounting professor. Images of America: The University of Rhode Island, published last month by Arcadia Publishing, is now on sale at stores and bookstores across the state, including the URI bookstore, and through the URI Alumni Association. The book’s price is $18.99, with all royalties of the book being donated to the URI Alumni Association. This yearbook of all yearbooks showcases the many faces, locations, and events that have helped to shape the University into what it is today. And, Wheaton believes, it offers a glimpse into what will be in the future. “The most interesting part of it to me is that history repeats itself. If you read it, you will be able to predict the future of the University,” said Wheaton. There were many remarkable events and people who were part of the University in its early years, but because of limited media resources and communications, they went relatively unnoticed, explained Vangermeersch. “Every era had its heroes,” he noted. These heroes include Thelma Adams ’49, recipient of the first bachelor of arts degree from URI and Henry Dreyer ’37, a hammer thrower who represented the United States in the 1936 and the 1948 Olympics. Photos of both are included in the book. “Anyone who has had anything to do with the University will want to have this book. It brings back those fond memories from so many different times. It’s nostalgia,” said Wheaton. Wheaton and Vangermeersch spent over 1,200 hours each working on the book. During this time they poured over old school newspapers and yearbooks, news clippings, photos from collections and archives, and histories of the University. “We went through everything that is out there relating to the history of URI,” said Wheaton. The photos selected for the 127-page book were chosen because of their clarity and their ability to represent important and diverse events through the ages. Included are such events as the construction of the first classroom building on the Kingston Campus, called the Experiment Station, in 1890; excited students tolling the college bell in Davis Hall confirming the end of World War II; and students boycotting classes in protest of the Vietnam War. Other photos display the many notables who have visited URI, such as President Dwight Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou. “We selected photos that were particularly depictive of the campus and of significant events. We wanted whatever would give an inkling into the different eras,” explained Wheaton. However, they also had to be interesting, Vangermeersch added. “You’re like a sleuth, a detective, and you develop an instinct. You decide the reader will like this or will like that. You become very reader-conscious,” explained Vangermeersch. Although gathering and selecting photos for this book was no easy task, many helped to ease the burden. Almost all of the photos were provided by the University, alumni, and the public. One of the greatest resources was the University Special Collections Department at the URI Library, which has preserved 1,200 glass slides taken by Lorenzo Kinney, Sr., one of the first professors at URI. Kinney took numerous, beautiful pictures of the campus during its earliest years. Although the project was overwhelming at times, Wheaton and Vangermeersch are no strangers to tracing history. Wheaton had previously worked on two Image of America series books chronicling the history of Pawtucket, and Vangermeersch has published various “friendly” history books, including the history of URI’s College of Business. Vangermeersch used his sabbatical to do most of his research. A book like this had been in the works for URI’s centennial celebration, but it was never undertaken because of the enormous commitment required. Wheaton and Vangermeersch felt the time was more than ripe for a pictorial history book of URI. “We are proud of the alumni and we wanted to let the public know what great things have happened at this university,” said Vangermeersch. -x-x-x- For More Information: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-2116