Thank you for your support, your confidence, and your belief in our vision.

Above, engineering Dean Ray Wright helps Rhody and students celebrate the 2016 Bond Kickoff on October 5.
Above, engineering Dean Ray Wright helps Rhody and students celebrate the 2016 Bond Kickoff on October 5. (Photo: Joe Giblin)

As 2016 draws to a close, there’s a great spirit of optimism and gratitude on campus. Gratitude because, on November 8, voters approved Question 4—the $45.5 million bond I wrote to you about in the last issue. And optimism because so many wonderful programs and activities are underway at the University of Rhode Island—more on those in a minute.

For years we’ve talked about reversing the brain drain here in Rhode Island. How can we keep our students from leaving the state? We’ve talked about how to attract the businesses and the high-paying jobs with potential for growth that are critical to future economic success, and about how to prepare our students for them. Rhode Islanders answered the call. Voters—including alumni, families, friends, and community partners—understood the value of making critical capital investments in higher education-related projects that foster innovation and economic growth.

As a reminder, $20 million of the bond will fund the University of Rhode Island Affiliated Innovation Campus, a center where universities and businesses will collaborate on cutting-edge research that can be applied to develop new products, services and jobs. The remaining $25.5 million in the bond will fund phase two of the College of Engineering renovation. I’m proud and delighted that URI has taken the lead on turning talk into action for Rhode Island. Thank you for your support, your confidence, and your belief in our vision.

As we look ahead, the campus community is preparing to celebrate a milestone birthday. 2017 marks our quasquicentennial: the 125th anniversary of our founding in 1892. We have plans to kick off the yearlong celebration in style on January 25, and there will be many occasions throughout the year—from academic symposia to magic shows to road races to WaterFire—to join together in honor of our rich history and great promise.

Consider what a remarkable 125 years it has been. Since we were established as a land-grant institution by the Morrill Act of 1862, we’ve branched out considerably from our agricultural beginnings. Our Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy, Business, and Engineering, and our Graduate School of Oceanography, have all become signature centers of scholarship and research. In more recent history, our Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, and the new Academic Health Collaborative have furthered our reputation as a premier public research institution. Our annual honors colloquium focuses on a universal topic of interest and attracts standing-room-only crowds, as do our superb theatrical productions. Our programs in diversity and inclusion serve as national models, and as you will read in this issue, we were the first American university to build a freestanding Gender and Sexuality Center. Our size and location are tremendous assets. We can think big and execute nimbly.

As a community, we can be proud of all we have achieved in just over a century.

But even as we celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni, students, and faculty, and reflect on our rich history and traditions, we will also look at where we are heading for the next 125 years . . . and beyond. Our goal is to foster a broader and deeper understanding throughout the state and the region of our unique qualities and many advantages. We’re excited to share our plans for even greater impact locally, nationally, and globally, as an academic powerhouse, an engine of economic development and a center of civic engagement.

As a public institution we have made a deliberate decision to keep the celebration public. We plan to involve and engage current and prospective students, alumni, generous donors, faculty and staff, industry partners, global partners, community partners, government leaders, and friends of the University near and far.

The University of Rhode Island has served the ideals of public education, diversity, and innovation for 125 years. We can’t wait to take all that we have learned as an institution and leap into the next century, always thinking big. Join us on the journey.

David M. Dooley

President, University of Rhode Island