John Parker '34 David Parker '40








Pictured: John Parker (’40), left, and his brother David (’34), right, left $2.5 million to the University of Rhode Island.

College receives $2.5M

Two brothers recently left $2.5 million to the University of Rhode Island College of Engineering. The bequest from John (’40) and David (’34) Parker marked one of the largest planned gifts to the University and will support the college as it embarks on a building campaign.

“A great number of students will benefit both directly and indirectly from this gift for many generations,” University President David M. Dooley said.

The gift continues a long relationship the alumni brothers held with the University.

Younger brother John graduated from the College of Engineering in 1940. In 1951 he returned to his alma mater as a member of the mechanical engineering faculty and spent 25 years teaching aspiring engineers. After his retirement, John became treasurer of the URI Alumni Association and otherwise stayed active with the University. He passed away in June 2011.

“John was a valued member of the college faculty in his day,” Dean Raymond M. Wright says. “He was well respected and passionately committed to teaching students about engineering.”

Parker Boats
In this 1961 photo, John and David Parker race their red-hulled Herreshoff 15, Thistle, in a duel with the white-hulled Falcon, sailed by Sandy Ogilby.

John is also remembered for his involvement in another building campaign many decades ago: the construction of Wales Hall, home to mechanical engineering. In the late 1950s the provost told John and his colleagues they had $300,000 and were to spearhead the effort to build the facility. Wales Hall opened in the 1960s and has since hosted thousands of students.

Like his brother, David also attended the University. He graduated in 1934 with a degree in chemistry and built a career at the Naval Underwater Systems Center in New London, retiring in 1972. He passed away in 2001.

The gift from the brothers will primarily support a college building campaign. A portion of the funds was earmarked for two endowments. The first, the Dr. Malcolm L. & Nicole Spaulding Scholarship, is an existing endowment that provides scholarships to undergraduate students studying ocean engineering. The other endowment, the John Parker and David E. Parker Library Endowment, created by the brothers, provides library resources to support the engineering curriculum.

Sons of a granite quarry worker and his wife, the brothers grew up in Rhode Island. After college, they shared a home and lived modestly on the banks of the Pawcatuck River for many decades. Skilled sailors, they spent much of their free time racing and building skiffs, which they donated to the University’s Graduate School of Oceanography.

Lightening the load

Weight matters. Shaving even a few pounds off an airliner can save significant money in way of reduced fuel costs. Making a tablet computer just a little lighter could differentiate between a record year for sales and an average year. Now an algorithm recently patented by two mechanical engineering professors will help product designers find ways to reduce weight from the start. By integrating the algorithm into computer design software, engineers can find the best shape or topology for a set of loads. The algorithm was developed by Professor David Taggart, Professor Emeritus Peter Dewhurst and Arun Nair (‘05), a former URI mechanical engineering doctoral student and now an engineer at medical technology company BD Worldwide.

Controlling seizures

Walt Besio
Biomedical engineering Associate Professor Walter Besio

Doctors may soon have a new tool to prevent seizures. Biomedical engineering Associate Professor Walt Besio recently patented innovative electrodes that monitor brain activity and can send an electrical stimulation to control seizures. Known as tripolar concentric electrodes, the sensors about the size of a dime sit on the scalp and monitor brainwaves. The concentric design allows pinpointed monitoring of the brain by filtering out extraneous brainwave information.

Anchoring knowledge

Looking for a better way to anchor ships and coastal structures, the U.S. Navy called on University of Rhode Island graduate student Joseph Giampa. The civil engineering master’s student is spending January through May at Port Hueneme, Calif. assisting the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. There he is conducting model testing of helical anchors, which resemble giant screws that are twisted into the seabed. The Navy will fund Giampa’s project through a grant awarded to URI civil engineering Assistant Professor Aaron Bradshaw.

Better bridges

Aaron Bradshaw
Civil engineering Assistant Professor Aaron Bradshaw

New Rhode Island bridges will benefit from work under way by Aaron Bradshaw. The assistant professor of civil engineering is spending the year writing a manual outlining seismic analysis techniques used while designing large bridges. R.I. Department of Transportation officials will use the manual as a reference tool while reviewing the work of contractors. The agency is paying for the project.

Teaching really small, nano small

The nanotechnology market could reach $1 trillion by 2020. Every day, engineers leverage tiny materials to improve drug delivery, airliners, computer memory, energy systems and more. Now a new course at the University of Rhode Island will train engineers to use instrumentation tools that characterize physical and chemical properties of nanomaterials. Supported through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the interdisciplinary hands-on class will launch in spring 2014 and be taught by engineering Professors Geoffrey Bothun, Vinka Oyanedel-Craver and Keunhan Park.