Alumna’s bequest is largest gift ever made in support of URI journalism scholarships

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Lincoln resident was reporter, marketing director


KINGSTON, R.I. – December 11, 2014 – To many, she was known as, “Chris the Amazing.” And for many years to come, University of Rhode Island journalism students will benefit from the late Christine Nowak’s amazing generosity.


Nowak died March 13, 2011 after a long battle with breast cancer, but her love and admiration for URI inspired a bequest of $92,797 to benefit URI’s Department of Journalism and its students. It is the largest gift ever made to support scholarships for URI journalism students.


A resident of Lincoln, the 50-year-old Nowak was a 1983 honors graduate from URI, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and history. Her journalism career began as a reporter for The Woonsocket Call, where she worked for 15 years, covering Lincoln, Cumberland, and North Smithfield. While at The Call, Nowak won several awards from the Rhode Island Press Association. In 1997, she became the director of marketing for the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.


“From her first day at the Chamber she was a huge factor in our success,” said John Gregory, president and chief executive officer of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. “In addition to her journalism skills, which helped us with our communications, her reputation in the community enhanced our reputation. Chris was the consummate team player and helped in any area where she was needed,”


After leaving The Call, Nowak kept in touch with her friend and colleague, Joseph Nadeau, a reporter at the paper. After Nowak’s death, Nadeau wrote in the paper that her interest in journalism never faded. Nadeau said, “I was always surprised to learn things from Chris that I hadn’t heard first in the newsroom. She just couldn’t give up that old role as a reporter and would pass along a good tip, whether it was a news item or a business development that was still in the works.”


Nowak had always been active in her community. She was a member of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society. She was a communicant and publicity coordinator of St. Jude Church where she was a lector. She was a member of multiple committees in Lincoln and she was a secretary for the Ocean State Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists.


Nowak never forgot her time at the University, her journalism classes and Journalism Professor Wilbur Doctor, who brought her ice cream after she had had her tonsils removed. Her love for URI over the years remained constant.


Per Nowak’s wishes, the Christine Anne Nowak Scholarship was created through her bequest. It will be awarded each year to promising journalism students with financial need. The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and journalism faculty will select the recipients. The inaugural scholarships awards were recently made for the current academic year.


This year’s recipients are Jessi Minneci, a junior from Nutley, N.J.; Lilli Paknis, a senior from Marion, Mass.; and Julia Cabrera, a junior from Cranston. Each student was awarded $1,751.


“Any scholarship we’re able to attract for students is a big help. Like any other scholarship, it relieves the financial burden for students. I don’t think there is any student without some kind of financial burden anymore. In terms of the department, if a student is in or interested in studying in the field of journalism here, they will see that it has scholarships provided within it, and helps attract students to the department,” said John Pantalone, chair of URI’s Department of Journalism.


“We are deeply grateful for this gift from a successful alumna, who valued her URI journalism education throughout her career,” Pantalone said. “Her gift will help numerous journalism students in the future.”


This release was written by, Rachel Smith, a graduate assistant for the Marketing & Communications Department.