Feed Back

Dear Readers,

Sometimes it’s our mistakes that lead to inspiration—thanks to you, our readers, who wrote to tell us that we’d made an error in our Winter 2016 In Memoriam listings. In doing so, we had missed the incredible story of Captain Elwood Joseph Euart ’39.

Euart, an Army field artillery captain, was aboard the troop ship SS President Coolidge—carrying more than 5,000 soldiers—when she struck mines off the Republic of Vanuatu in 1942.

The vessel grounded on a reef, and nearly all the soldiers and crew were able to escape—including Captain Euart. But when he realized some soldiers remained trapped below decks, he led a rescue party. He saved every last one, only to perish when the Coolidge slipped off the reef and sank.

Back home, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor, as well as the Purple Heart and the Rhode Island Cross, and was made a member of the URI ROTC Hall of Fame. But his body remained entombed undersea for more than 70 years.

One of his nephews, namesake Elwood J. “Woody” Euart ’73 of Texas, says that when he was a child, tales of Captain Euart’s heroism were family lore; later, as a URI student, he would notice his uncle’s name every time he passed the memorial on Upper College Road for fallen veterans. The captain’s obituary describes a true son of Rhode Island: an Eagle Scout, Rhode Island National Guardsman, and graduate of Rhode Island State College (now URI), where Euart was a member of the track team and Scabbard and Blade, vice president of Rho Iota Kappa fraternity, president of Alpha Zeta, and treasurer of his senior class.

Woody remembers how disconsolate his grandfather, Pawtucket schoolteacher Elwood Francis Aloysius Euart, was that his son’s remains didn’t come home. He and his wife erected a gravestone for their lost child, and when they passed, they were laid next to it.

Then, in 2014, a professional diver exploring the palatial wreck of the Coolidge—it was a luxury cruise liner, Woody says, before the Army retrofitted it—saw what he thought were human remains. It took two years for word to pass from the remote island to Australia, and then to the U.S. Army, which deployed a dive team from Hawaii and conducted DNA testing in 2015. Last summer, Captain Euart came home.

The family chose to forego burial at Arlington National Cemetery in favor of laying him to rest next to his parents at St. Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket. The Army flew Euart’s remains to Atlanta, where family members greeted the plane, then on to T.F. Green, where there was a planeside ceremony. Woody came to Rhode Island to pay his respects to the uncle he’d never met, and found the wake and burial were a whirlwind of pomp and circumstance and attendant dignitaries. “It was hard to believe,” Woody remembers, “and very emotional. All those people coming to the visitation and the funeral, honoring his name and heroic actions—it really brought so much more meaning to his sacrifice, and that of everyone who has lost their lives serving this great country.”

Woody now has Captain Euart’s dog tags. “The Army says no one gets left behind,” he reflects. “They delivered.”

Thanks to the ever-astute Arline Fleming ’74 and Navy Commander Charlie Ake, M.M.A. ’74, for leading us to this inspiring story, and especially to Woody for sharing his memories.

More inspiration arrived in our inbox from Lois Spirlet, M.S. ’87, whose 16-year-old grandson was struck by a short story in the Winter issue about pageant-winning student Kelsey B. Swanson (“The Road to Miss Rhode Island”). Spirlet’s grandson was recently diagnosed—like Swanson, purely by chance—with a noncancerous but dangerous brain tumor; like her, he underwent surgery to remove the growth. He asked to talk to Swanson, and Swanson was happy to oblige. We’re glad that they found each other and that both came through their ordeals safely.

We hope you find more inspiration in this issue, from the big questions evolutionary biologists are grappling with, to a man who chanced upon a unique career in comedy; and from a space probe winging its way across the solar system, to a mom inspired by her daughter’s battle with cancer to spearhead a remarkable decade of blood drives.

Wishing you all a warm spring. Thanks for reading.

Pippa Jack
Editor in Chief

Captain Elwood Joseph Euart ’39
Captain Elwood Joseph Euart ’39

Captain Euart was returned to Pawtucket for burial with full military honors on August 31, 2016, an event that I had the honor to attend. With over 5,000 men aboard his ship, only two lost their lives: a member of the ship’s crew who was killed instantly when the ship struck a mine; and Captain Euart.

As a fellow URI alumnus, I thought it appropriate to set the record straight. Our heroes deserve accolades, especially when they are from Rhode Island!

Charlie Ake, M.M.A. ’74, Commander, U. S. Navy (Ret)
Altamonte Springs, Fla.

I was moved to write this letter to thank you, and to donate to the University of Rhode Island for the first time, after reading your Winter 2016 issue cover to cover. I must be honest, I pick and choose what I read in QuadAngles and rarely read everything. But not this time.

With all that is going on in the country and worldwide, I was immediately drawn to the cover line, “Life in Black and White.” All the pieces inside, including “The Joy of Song,” “Brave New (Gender) World” and “Once Upon a Shop Floor,” as well as the smaller articles, captivated me. Seeing the University addressing such meaningful and important issues in this widely distributed magazine gave me great insight on the values of URI, and gave me pride and hope.

I am neither a person of color nor LGBT, but the issues of racism and inequality are still evident in the recent wave of expressions of hate and fear in our country and others. It is totally unacceptable and we need change. You are doing this. I feel that I need to do my part to further this work, and education plays a key role in changing our society’s actions and overall environment.

I was lucky enough to be included in the December 2014 issue of QuadAngles, which focused on alumni giving back worldwide, and continue to be impressed with your coverage of philanthropic activities on campus and beyond. While my full-time work is in environmental engineering, I also run the Guatemala Aid Fund, which supports health and education for abandoned children in Guatemala.

I am currently out of work on unpaid medical leave, but was deeply compelled to donate to URI and therefore gave $250 online to the general fund.

Keep up the great work.

Bethany Eisenberg, M.S. ’87
Arlington, Mass.

I enjoyed the article on Ward Abusamra’s 100th birthday. I remember him from my days at Kingston Congregational Church in the late 1950s. He was the choir director and Barbara played the organ. My parents thought quite highly of his work.

I am very interested in the history of URI because my grandfather, Harry Page Wilson, graduated in 1898. He majored in mechanic arts and was one of about 20 graduates that year. He was also captain of both the baseball and football teams.

I grew up in Wickford, R.I., only about 10 miles from URI, and I remember my grandfather showing me around the campus back in the early and mid 1940s. We also went down to the Kingston Railroad Station to see the New Haven steam engines, which being a little kid, I found very impressive.

Alden “Denny” Wilson ’65
Boothbay, Maine

How wonderful that you chose to celebrate the 100th birthday of Professor Ward Abusamra. I was one of those many students who were fortunate enough to study voice with Ward and to sing with his choral groups. I first met Ward through my high school choral director, Michael Kroian ’61, who also studied with Ward. Ward became more than my professor; he is a mentor and friend.

First of all, no one called him Professor Abusamra; he was Ward to one and all. But the use of his first name was a term of endearment and never a sign of disrespect. It was not unusual for students to seek out Ward’s advice. Sometimes, this advice was dispensed over a wonderful home-cooked meal at his home with his delightful wife, Barbara. No matter the location, this advice and caring was dispensed with a dose of fatherly love.

As I started my own career as a music teacher and singer, Ward was there checking in on my progress with a note in the mail or a phone call of congratulations.

Twenty-five years ago, at the age of 75, Ward decided to drive all by himself over an hour to hear a concert I was giving in Massachusetts. It was a thrill to look up and see him in the audience listening, and an even bigger thrill to be able to introduce this wonderful man to the audience. His presence was also with me every time I taught someone else to sing; as I quoted some aphorism or life lesson; or used a method of teaching that was coming directly from my time spent with Ward.

May I ask all of those alums who worked with Ward to remember his 100th birthday by making a donation to the Ward Abusamra Scholarship in Music & Voice? I can’t think of a better way to honor this most honorable man. Thank you, Ward. Here’s to another 100 years!

Dr. Carl Swanson ’78
Wareham, Mass.

Let me say how much I enjoyed the article featuring Ward Abusamra. I was a member of the URI Choir and University Chorus. As a sociology major graduating in January 1973, my music time at URI was absolutely my favorite. I returned to URI from Virginia to participate in Ward’s retirement concert.

Jeanie Moyer Odenthal ’73
Fairfax, Va.

QuadAngles is a great way of connecting URI graduates together. I joined URI in the fall of 1986 to study food science and nutrition as a graduate student, and got my masters in January 1990. It was a good experience for me, I had fun and remember many memorable events, and many friendships with URI students, faculty members and neighbors whom I miss. I also miss the lovely Rhode Island weather in summer time, especially at Narragansett Beach and Bonnet Shores.

I work as the head of the Technical Advisory Team for Standards and Laboratories at a governmental agency, Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization, in Saudi Arabia. I returned and visited the Kingston Campus in July 2012, and noted many new buildings—in fact I couldn’t identify the old buildings and got lost!

Abdullah M. Alyabis M.S. ’90
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia