Our current campus community is only one part of a much larger tapestry that weaves together generations of alumni and a legacy of teaching, research, and scholarship.
Director of the University of Rhode Island Cancer Prevention Research Center and Professor of Psychology Jim Prochaska has honed a perfect strategy for getting students to pay attention in his class.
“I tell them, ‘This class is about life and death, about how we die from the way we live,” he shares. “And boom, the phones get turned off.” The story of Jim’s fascinating personal and professional journey—and the profound influence his revolutionary work has had on helping people to change their self-destructive behaviors—is just one reason I invite you to turn off your phones and settle in with this issue of QuadAngles.
Would it surprise you to know that we had so many wonderful stories to tell about URI alumni and faculty stars that we added four pages to the magazine to fit it all in?
After nearly a decade as president, I’m not at all surprised. Our current campus community is only one part of a much larger tapestry that weaves together generations of alumni and a legacy of teaching, research, and scholarship; its colorful threads represent stories both close to home and on the global stage. They are stories that will fill countless issues of QuadAngles to come.
Laurie Sharma ’92, who grew up in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, knows something about that global stage. Her wildly successful equestrian clothing and gear company, JPC Equestrian, employs thousands of workers in its Indian factories. To change the future prospects of the children of these workers, Laurie and her husband, Varun “Timmy” Sharma, founded Salvation Tree, a school that has grown from 40 to 400 students; its new building will have the capacity for 2,000. Overcoming some truly heartbreaking circumstances in her own childhood and coming of age, Laurie saw a way to turn despair into hope.
Despair might have overtaken Paul DePace ’68, M.B.A. ’75, our director of Capital Projects, when a car accident paralyzed him during his junior year at URI. Instead, he began competing as a wheelchair athlete. We salute Paul in these pages for his recent induction into the Paralympic Order at the Paralympic Awards Gala in Abu Dhabi, and for a lifetime spent helping others.
I like to think that Paul’s remarkable resiliency was at least in part instilled at URI, where, beyond rigorous study of their academic subjects, our students learn invaluable life skills. Just check out the Close Up of Patrick Brown ’14, founder and CEO of niche business Rentsons, with the clever tagline, “Rent young adults to do the work you wish your kids would do.” This young man launched Rentsons out of expediency during his senior year, when he was faced with the reality of needing to earn his URI tuition after his family suffered a financial setback. An entrepreneur and author, Brown is committed to giving back to his community—and inspiring his employees to give back to theirs.
By now I hope your interest is piqued and you are ready to dive into the magazine. So, just one more preview. Like sushi? Then you’ll love the story of the so-called odd-couple of tuna farming, Professor Terry Bradley, M.S. ’79 and serial entrepreneur Peter Mottur ’91, who have partnered to build the only research facility in North America attempting to breed yellowfin tuna in captivity.
I’ll save my commentary on the rest of this eclectic collection of amazing tales—and wait to hear what you think. Happy reading.
David M. Dooley
President, University of Rhode Island