After voters said ‘Yes on 2,’ URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography earns private support

One year ago, Rhode Islanders supported the URI Graduate School of Oceanography by voting “yes” on Question 2. The bond issue, which was supported by 60 percent of the voters, provided $45 million to upgrade URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus. Construction expected to begin in 2020.

Since the bond’s approval, GSO has secured a number of private gifts to build on public funding and further revitalize the facilities at one of the world’s top oceanographic institutions.

With $1 million gift in late 2018, GSO alumnus Stephen M. Greenlee M.S. ’82 and Donna Church Greenlee established the Greenlee Family GSO Campus Redevelopment Fund. The fund supports construction on the Narragansett Bay Campus, and is intended to inspire interest in and support of oceanographic research.

In July 2019, James Austin, senior research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin and member of the GSO Dean’s Advisory Council, established a James Austin Campus Fund with a $500,000 matching gift—a 1:1 challenge for new gifts over the next five years. The fund supports construction of facilities on the Narragansett Bay Campus. In addition, GSO received three separate $100,000 gifts from alumni and friends for campus renewal. In all, nearly $2 million has been raised to date.

“GSO greatly appreciates the support that Rhode Island voters have given over the years, and in particular, support for the 2018 educational bond,” says GSO Dean Bruce Corliss. “We also appreciate the financial support from friends and alumni to help us enhance the Narragansett Bay Campus renovation that will begin in 2020. They recognize the importance of GSO’s research that will improve our understanding of the basic processes and health of the ocean, as well as the Blue Economy in Rhode Island.”

The 2018 bond issue will fund a 20,000-square-foot Ocean Technology Center to support evolving educational and research needs in marine biology, oceanography, oceanic technology and other marine disciplines at GSO as well as the University’s College of Engineering, and College of the Environment and Life Sciences. The center will be a “maker space,” where oceanography and ocean engineering merge to bring applied technology to ocean sciences, including the development of advanced remotely operated vehicles.

The bond will also fund a 12,000-square-foot marine operations facility and a new pier. The work is necessary to accommodate R/V Resolution, the recently awarded National Science Foundation oceanographic research vessel that will be operated by GSO, valued at approximately $125 million and one of only three in the nation.

“Rhode Islanders are proud of GSO as a worldwide leader in ocean science, and public support has been critical to the renewal of the Narragansett Bay Campus,” says James Patti, GSO director of administration. “Since the bond referendum passed in 2018, we have been working diligently to attract private support. The Greenlee, Austin and other gifts will have an immediate impact as we construct new research facilities and related enhancements to the campus. We are grateful for their generosity and confidence in Dean Corliss’ vision for the school.”