Robert L. Carothers, 1991 – 2009

Known for his inspirational leadership, during his 18-year tenure President Carothers initiated and made a series of progressive changes to the university’s structure, infrastructure and curriculum. The University became known as a preeminent public institution for higher education, and a comprehensive branding initiative clearly defined the University’s distinctiveness in the marketplace.

During his tenure, the University invested about $700 million in buildings and improvements at all four of its campuses; increased undergraduate enrollment, and increased the diversity among students, faculty and staff; enhanced alumni and private support; and increased the University’s endowment funds by almost 800 percent — from $12 million to about $95 million in 2008. President Carothers was vocal, visible, and visionary in his efforts to curb alcohol use at URI, in the state, and in the nation. In 1995 he strengthened the alcohol policy and substance abuse prevention programs, steps that led URI to shed its moniker as “a party school.” He is renowned for his leadership on this issue that affects the health and safety of students at colleges nationwide.

President Carothers’ vision for student education shifted students from being passive listeners to active learners and developed their concern for their neighbors, whether across the street or across an ocean. As a result of this and other improvements, in 2005, the same college guide that had earlier labeled URI as the top party school, instead named it a “college with a conscience.”

Prior to his arrival at URI, Carothers was chancellor of the Minnesota State University System, which included seven universities and 64,000 students. Before becoming chancellor, he had served as president of Southwest State University. He has the unique distinction of being a poet, lawyer, scholar, and administrator.

By the end of his tenure, President Carothers had awarded more than 44,500 degrees, representing over 38 percent of all degrees conferred since 1892. President Carothers received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Edinboro University; his doctorate from Kent State University; and his Juris Doctor from the McDowell School of Law, University of Akron. More informaton is available at President Carother’s tribute web site.