The University of Rhode Island is ushering in the new year from a position of great strength and with enormous optimism.

Top: Tom and Cathy Ryan. Below: Elizabeth and Michael Fascitelli at the Anna Fascitelli Fitness and Wellness Center, dedicated on October 8, 2013.

By now you undoubtedly have heard the wonderful news that Tom ’75 and Cathy Ryan presented the University with an extraordinary transformational gift of $15 million to establish the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience. You can learn much more about the Institute in these pages. The significance of the Ryans’ gift stretches beyond the study of neuroscience and the possibilities of finding cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS.

The Ryans’ gift to URI represents a new kind of philanthropy. Like Bill and Melinda Gates, who have devoted themselves to eradicating diseases like AIDS and malaria in the world’s poorest countries, and to improving high school and postsecondary education in the U.S., Tom and Cathy are in the forefront of a generation of philanthropists who are strategic, focused, results-oriented, and savvy. Their decision to invest in neuroscience came after many conversations not only with faculty and administrative leaders at URI, but also with influential leaders in higher education and health care throughout Rhode Island. This is a gift of the heart, tied closely to the story of Tom’s parents as they faced the ravages of disease and decline. But it is also a gift of the mind: intentional and with clear goals.

Another recent gift of the heart and mind is designed to benefit the body. The brand new Anna Fascitelli Fitness & Wellness Center, dedicated on October 8, 2013, was made possible by a gift from Michael Fascitelli ’78 and his wife, Beth, and is named for Michael’s late mother, who will continue to inspire URI students for generations to come as they enjoy this state-of-the-art facility, complementing their rigorous studies with rigorous workouts.

We understand that the tremendous opportunities created by both of these gifts, as well as the previous gift from Richard Harrington to create the Harrington School of Communication and Media, come with great responsibility. We are deeply grateful to the Ryans, the Fascitellis, and Dick Harrington for their unprecedented generosity and vision, and for their belief in URI.

Their belief in us—along with yours—drives us to be a better university today than we were yesterday, and to become a better university tomorrow than we are today. With your support and encouragement, we have made significant strides toward reaching the “transformational goals” we set out in our strategic plan. Top-notch faculty like Cheryl Foster, recently named 2013 Professor of the Year for Rhode Island by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and Alan Rothman, URI’s own “20 Million Dollar Man,” are just two examples of this progress. Others abound in this issue of QuadAngles.

It is a wonderful time to be associated with this great institution. Lynn and I wish you a 2014 filled with renewed Rhody pride.

— David M. Dooley