URI inducts 12 retirees into Lifetime Service Society

All inductees served the University for at least 40 years

KINGSTON, R.I. – Dec. 21, 2022 – The University of Rhode Island inducted 12 former employees into its Lifetime Service Society during ceremonies Dec. 2 that celebrated at least 40 years of each individual’s dedicated work at the University.

Eight of the 12 inductees attended the ceremony at the Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center. A commemorative brick, engraved with their name and years of service, will be placed at the entrance to the Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons. Retirees are inducted into the society if they have completed 40 years of service to the University.

Each recipient received certificates of appreciation from the University, Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman James Langievin, Gov. Dan McKee, Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives Joseph Sherkarchi, and President of the Rhode Island Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio.

During the ceremony, each honoree was introduced by a colleague from the University. Those honored at the ceremony were:

John Burkett, of Kingston, professor emeritus of economics, who dedicated 40 years to the University. Leonard Lardaro, professor of economics, offered the tribute to Burkett.

“John was a major force in both the Economics Department and at Environmental and Natural Resources Economics,” Lardaro said.

Lardaro said Burkett is a scholar of the highest caliber who possesses an amazing work ethic. Throughout his career, Burkett taught in many important areas, created classes in cutting-edge areas like network economics, and tutored students in both places he worked, frequently guiding undergraduate and graduate students with their research. Within the Economics Department, Burkett served on numerous committees, Lardaro said.

“Throughout his entire time at URI, John was always a major asset to our department and to URI, where he frequently worked and interacted with others throughout the University on many different levels. For John, his commitment, professional excellence, and service were the norm — with great consistency. Colleagues like John don’t come around all that often.” 

Larry Englander, of Kingston, professor emeritus of Plant Pathology, Plant Sciences and Entomology, who dedicated 49 years to URI. Nathaniel Mitkowski, professor of Plant Pathology, Plant Sciences and Entomology, in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, delivered the tribute. 

Mitkowski said Englander is one of URI’s most dedicated faculty members because of his compassion for his students, desire for them to excel, and his concern for how their education will shape them. They are just a few of the things that make him one of URI’s finest.

“For two decades I have personally witnessed his dedication and enthusiasm for teaching science,” Mitkowski said.  “He has been an inspiration to generations of plant pathologists and years later, students of all disciplines remember his courses as some of the most interesting and useful they’ve ever taken.”

Englander worked with his wife, Carol, on the SMILE program, helping to train URI students to teach science through experiential learning with 4-12th graders. Mitkowski said their efforts have had an incredibly lasting impact.

“He is well known throughout the University and the community as a valuable resource diagnosing plant diseases, serving as an important link to the nursery industry and as one of the most knowledgeable ‘plant people’ in the state,” Mitkowski said.  “In addition, his protection of and advocacy for the University arboretum has enabled many future generations to enjoy the unique beauty of our campus.  Even in retirement he continues to lecture and support his colleagues and our university.”

Alan Haskins, of Wakefield, retired maintenance supervisor of the Memorial Union, who served the University for 45 years. Maureen McDermott, assistant director Student Involvement, delivered the tribute.

“It is my honor and privilege to be here today to talk about Al Haskins and contributions he made to the Memorial Union,” McDermott said. “Al started and ended his illustrious 45-year career in the Memorial Union, arriving August 1976 as senior maintenance repairman eventually evolving to senior maintenance technician. In July 1988, Al was promoted to maintenance supervisor until his retirement in April of 2021.

“Al was a valuable member of the MU team. He knew the ins and outs of the building like no other. If an issue arose with the inner workings of the Union, Al was the person to figure it out. His institutional knowledge of the Union was nothing I have ever seen and don’t believe will ever be repeated. Al’s retirement is a loss for the MU and the University. Without his work ethic, knowledge, and skill set, the 68-year-old Memorial Union, with all its quirks, would not be where it is today.”

Ron Onorato, of Newport, professor emeritus of art and art history, who dedicated 44 years of service to URI. Annu Matthew, professor of art, delivered the tribute

Matthew said faculty with retirement on the horizon are assumed to spend their free time eating bonbons while checking their retirement accounts. She said that was not true of Onorato, her colleague and former department chair, who won the first Winnie Award from the Center for the Humanities five years ago.

“His innovative project using 3D print technology recreated a 17th-century neighborhood in Newport, razed to make way for urban development. Ron was a founding member of that same Center for the Humanities nearly 30 years ago. His wealth of experience, history, and encouragement was a resource when I was director,” Matthew said. “As chair of the Department of Art & Art History for the last six years, he tirelessly shepherded us while arguing for a more equitable workload. He invested time, expertise, and dreams into the new Fine Arts Center, in which he will never teach.”

She said Onorato really hasn’t retired, as he continues to research, consult, and volunteer for preservation work, including preserving historical buildings in Rhode Island, leading to his being awarded the Frederick Williamson Professional Award by Preserve Rhode Island in October. “I have appreciated his support as a colleague and at the Center over the decades. Ciao and mille grazie, Ron.”

Donna Schwartz-Barcott, of West Greenwich, professor emerita of nursing, who dedicated 46 years of service. Jean Miller, dean emeritus of the College of Nursing, delivered the tribute.

Miller said one word defines Schwartz-Barcott – integrity. Through her many contributions as a professor and director of the Graduate Program in the College of Nursing, she reflected integrity and passion for excellence. “She was dependable, loyal, and honest. She embodied good judgment and respect for others. As director of the Graduate Program, she mentored colleagues by freely sharing her knowledge and assigning courses based on faculty strengths. Her passion for excellence was reflected in curriculum and course development, teaching, and research.”

Schwartz-Barcott was widely respected for her expertise in qualitative analysis, and she dedicated many hours to doctoral students working on their dissertations so they could graduate with a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their work.

“Dr. Schwartz-Barcott’s commitment to improving the quality of nursing care through research will continue through the students and faculty members she mentored,” Miller said. “Her vision for excellence will come through future doctoral students who will benefit from the newly established Barcott-Kim Fellowship. The recipients of the fellowships also will carry on Dr. Schwartz-Barcott’s passion for developing new knowledge that will impact the quality of nursing care at many levels.”

James F. Vincent Jr., of Cranston, tech support specialist, College of Engineering, who dedicated 49 years of service. Richard J. Vaccaro, professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer & Biomedical Engineering, delivered the tribute.

“When Jim came to URI to work as a technician in the Electrical Engineering Department, the state of electronics was not what it is today,” Vaccaro said. 

He said Vincent supported the circuits and electronics labs at URI for nearly 50 years, and he kept up with advances in technology. When single-chip microprocessors were developed in the 1970s, “URI was one of the first universities to develop an undergraduate microprocessor course. Jim maintained a large number of Motorola D2 kits that were used in the lab and could also be signed out by students for home use.”

Vincent supported the use of microprocessor technology in the computer and biomedical engineering programs that were added as electrical engineering became the Department of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering.

Vaccaro said Vincent’s great attitude was captured by these quotes from faculty and staff: “He was easy to work with. He was proactive. He was always willing to help out. We gave him independence to organize things as he wished and he was always prepared. He never said no to a request.” 

Karen Wishner, of Narragansett, emerita professor of oceanography in the Graduate School of Oceanography, who dedicated 41 years of service. Candace Oviatt, professor of oceanography at the Graduate School of Oceanography, delivered the tribute.

“Karen Wishner worked as an ocean-going oceanographer. She was a strong proponent for ships and ocean observation science. She consistently obtained funding for herself and her students to visit remote ocean regions on big ships using large complex net systems called MOCNESS,” which stands for Multiple Opening/Closing Net and Environmental Sensing System.”

Oviatt said Wishner brought back samples from areas and depths rarely visited. She was one of the first to describe the gradients of life and unusual life forms in deep ocean hypoxic zones from oxic surface waters to anoxic waters at the deeper depths on seamounts. She is recognized for her work as a pioneer in oceanography.

“Karen was also an early pioneer in other ways,” Oviatt said. “She was fearlessly outspoken in promoting equal opportunities for women in oceanography. She never failed to speak up on behalf of equal rights and pay for all. She was tireless in efforts to attract, mentor and support young women faculty in science university-wide. As a result of her efforts, GSO has an excellent record of attracting outstanding women scientists and the number of women equals the number of men on the GSO faculty.”

Raymond Wright, of Wakefield, dean emeritus of the College of Engineering, who dedicated 40 years of service. Daniel W. Urish, professor emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering, delivered the tribute.

Urish called Wright a man of great vision and major accomplishments, a man of rare talent, who has served the University of Rhode Island and the international community of his fellow educators, engineers, and scientists with dedication for over 40 years.

“Through his dedicated teaching, research, and leadership he has inspired many hundreds of students and engineers who now contribute to the betterment of the world,” Urish said. “He greatly enhanced international engineering, which now encompasses programs integrated into the educational systems of leading universities from Germany to China.” 

Urish said Wright made the College of Engineering into a premier college for the 21st century. 

“His talents and accomplishments in engineering, education and leadership are exemplified in the beautiful state-of-the-art Fascitelli (Center for Advanced Engineering) building that stands today on our campus,” Urish said. “This building, and the integrated faculty-student relationships that it fosters, promotes interdisciplinary connections and discovery. Ray Wright had great visions and made them real with his extraordinary talent.”

Those inductees unable to attend the ceremony were: Linda A. Barrett, director of budget and planning, 48 years of service; Cheryl A. Burrell, of Wakefield, fiscal clerk, URI Bookstore, 42 years; Dennis W. Nixon, of Jamestown, director of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program, Graduate School of Oceanography, 44 years; and Jerry Walmsley, of West Warwick, housekeeper, 45 years.