Narragansett couple knows the value of a ‘piece of paper’ – Establishes an endowment

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Narragansett couple knows the value of a
‘piece of paper’
Establishes an endowment for URI
continuing education students

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 8, 2002 — Sitting in the living room of their Narragansett retirement condominium, Dorothy and Tom Verrecchia discuss their 60 years of marriage, their education, and the endowment they just established at the University of Rhode Island for continuing education students at URI’s Providence Campus.

“We’re opposites, you know,” says Dorothy, noting that a co-worker fixed her up with Tom because he needed a date for his college dance at URI.

“He’s quiet, I’m noisy.” Her 84 year-old husband smiles and nods in agreement.

The couple has identical feelings, however, about the value of a college education, especially a URI degree. “We wouldn’t be here today if I had not gone to URI,” says Tom who earned an electrical engineering degree from URI in 1941. Within months, Tom was in uniform fighting for his country in the south pacific as America entered World War II. Returning from the war in 1945, he earned a master’s degree from Northeastern University. After a lengthy teaching career, Tom retired from the Community College of Rhode Island’s Math Department.

His wife’s degree came five decades later. Since Dorothy was orphaned as a child, attending college was out of the question. However, she embraced her three children’s enrollment in college. In fact, two of them were graduated from URI, daughter Mary-Lois Galloway in 1967 and son Stephen Verrecchia in 1977.

With Tom by her side and butterflies in her stomach, Dorothy attended an Open House sponsored by the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education in 1993 and began to take classes. Dorothy notes that it was an exciting challenge, always returning home from class exhilarated. She graduated with a bachelor of general studies degree in 1998 with high distinction, a proud member of the Golden Key and Alpha Sigma Lambda honor societies.

She wasn’t looking for a career but for enrichment, she says. Unexpectedly the University played a key role in her life, however, by helping her to cope with the illness of one of her three granddaughters.

“The doctors discovered the leukemia when she was 3. I was taking a psychology class with Paul deMesquita,” Dorothy recalls. “The class was just what I needed. It helped me help my granddaughter. She’s 8 now and in remission.”

Dorothy’s degree was bittersweet. Capable as she was, she recalls working at jobs without recognition because she lacked a college degree. She once designed a training program for a bank. Her plan so impressed her superiors that the bank adopted the program and then hired a college graduate to teach it. “It was all about a piece of paper,” sighs Dorothy.

Lately, the Verrecchias have been thinking about giving an endowment to the University, helping current students earn their piece of paper.

Wade Wilks, director of planned giving at URI, was instrumental in helping them come to a decision. “He motivated me,” says Tom. “We talked about leaving something to the University after we’re gone, but we decided to do it now.”

Dorothy credits her husband with the idea of establishing an endowed scholarship to benefit continuing education students. “The minute Tom suggested it, I knew he was right,” she says. “Some of the students took one course each semester because that’s all they could afford. So many of my classmates were really bright people. Tom and I want to help make sure that others experience the excitement of a college education at the University of Rhode Island.”