Anonymous URI alumnus donates $1 million to honor retired engineering professor

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Challenge grant encourages former students of Robert Haas

to support endowed professorship

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 31, 2007 – An anonymous donor to the University of Rhode Island has provided a $1 million challenge grant to the University that will match gifts of $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000 and above to establish the Robert S. Haas Endowed Professorship in Electrical Engineering.

The gift, which is part of the URI “Making a Difference” capital campaign, honors the professor emeritus of electrical engineering who taught at URI from 1948 to 1988.

“When you’re teaching, you never know which students you’re really having an impact on,” said Haas, a resident of Kingston. “It was a complete surprise to hear that one of my former students was making such a generous gift in my honor. I am especially pleased that the gift doesn’t just honor me, it helps URI and the electrical engineering program.”

The professorship will help to improve efforts by the URI College of Engineering to attract and retain prominent faculty in electrical engineering.

“Gifts to the Haas Endowed Professorship will help us recruit the best faculty and maintain our commitment to academic excellence and professional preparation – a tradition exemplified by Professor Haas,” said Faye Boudreaux-Bartels, professor and chair of the URI Department of Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering.

“I was fortunate to be Professor Haas’ student, and later to be his colleague,” said William Ferrante, URI professor emeritus of mechanical engineering. “His methodical, precise and crystal clear classroom presentations showed me how to learn – and how to teach. As a colleague, Bob Haas was a model and mentor to faculty and administrators. He personified integrity, competence and excellence in teaching. This endowed professorship is a wonderful tribute to an extraordinary and inspiring teacher.”

Originally from Milwaukee, Haas earned degrees from Marquette and Northeastern universities, and he taught courses in electrical engineering and ocean engineering at URI. He earned an award for teaching excellence at URI in 1970, was cited for his teaching in Outstanding Educators of America in 1971 and 1974, and won the Western Electric Fund Award for excellence in engineering teaching in 1974. He was elected the University’s first ombudsman in 1972.

The University of Rhode Island’s “Making a Difference” campaign seeks $100 million to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, enhance the student-centered campus experience, provide undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, and fund cutting-edge academic and research initiatives.

The anonymous donor who established the Haas Endowed Professorship is a graduate of URI’s College of Engineering and a long-time supporter of the University who previously made major gifts to the Ryan Center campaign and the Fund for URI.

“We are greatly appreciative of the selfless act by this donor to establish a professorship in honor of Bob Haas, and we hope that many alumni who remember Professor Haas will join in this effort,” said Robert Beagle, URI vice president for university advancement, who is leading the University’s effort to secure campaign leadership gifts. “The donor has consistently demonstrated an unselfish desire to give in order to make good things happen.”

Individuals interested in contributing to the endowment and doubling their gift through this challenge grant should contact Robert Clough, senior development officer for the URI College of Engineering at 401-874-2162 or