Big Chill Weekend helps fuel URI student scholarships

Providence chamber chief serving as honorary chairwoman

KINGSTON, R.I. — December 22, 2011 — As president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Laurie White works to help the economy grow and businesses to thrive. She knows that it takes more than money to make the world go ’round.

It takes talented employees, brilliant entrepreneurs and a well-educated workforce that produces quality products and services. She sees her alma mater, the University of Rhode Island, as a place that can help reinvigorate the state’s economy.

“One of the things I’m involved with here at the chamber is the Knowledge Economy Initiative. The University of Rhode Island plays a big role in developing the next generation of entrepreneurs and workers,” she said. “I’m interested in the power of the University as an economic engine.”

But that engine needs fuel — bright, talented students who can take the skills and knowledge they gain at the University of Rhode Island and put them to use within the state’s borders. As education costs continue to rise, bringing those students to the University and keeping them enrolled through graduation is always a challenge.

Scholarships are a key way to make sure students who deserve the chance to cultivate and expand their talents are able to do so. But with state funding always dwindling, it falls to the University to raise money to attract and retain the best students in the state and around the nation.

The University of Rhode Island Alumni Association will hold its Big Chill Weekend, the biggest scholarship fundraiser of the year, from Feb. 10 through Feb. 12 in Providence, Newport and South County.

Last year’s event raised more than $60,000 and it has raised more than $1.3 million for need- and merit-based scholarships since its inception.

“There’s nothing more important than making sure students going to the University of Rhode Island get an excellent education and come out of their experience at URI without facing overwhelming debt,” said White, who is the honorary chairwoman of this year’s event.

“It will help attract the best and brightest students to the University of Rhode Island regardless of their financial status,” she continued. “When you think of the staggering costs of education, it’s important to provide opportunities to everybody. This is a good way to raise money and have fun doing it.”

The weekend begins with three events in Providence, Newport and Narragansett from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10. An array of food and beverages will be served at Aspire Restaurant, 22 Bowen’s Wine Bar & Grille and The Narragansett Grill. Prizes will also be raffled off.

The University will then host National Girls and Women in Sports Day before the URI women’s basketball game against La Salle at 2 p.m. at the Ryan Center. The event on the Kingston Campus will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11. A sports clinic for boys and girls will begin at 11 a.m. in Mackal Field House and the Rev. Lynn Baker-Dooley will host a pre-game luncheon from noon to 2 p.m. at the Ryan Center.

The Blue Tie Wine Pairing will cap the weekend in style with a five-course dinner and silent auction Saturday at 6 p.m. at Rosecliff Mansion in Newport. The dinner will include lobster, salmon, steak and lamb, as well as a selection of wines and dessert.

To register for any of the Big Chill Weekend events, log on to The deadline for registration is Jan. 27.

For more information, call Gina Simonelli at (401) 874-5808 or email her at For more information about the silent auction, contact Chris DiSano at (401) 874-4536 or email him at