Historic Davis Hall bell rings in 125th anniversary of URI

Hundreds gather for music, hayrides and lighting of iconic URI building

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Photo courtesy of Mark Plugovoy

KINGSTON, R.I. – January 25, 2017 – With the sweet smell of wood smoke in the air and the clip-clop of horses’ hooves evoking memories of its agrarian roots, the University of Rhode Island launched the 125th anniversary of its founding in 1892 Wednesday evening.

URI students, alumni, faculty staff and friends cheered as URI President David M. Dooley and a URI drumline led a countdown to the illumination of 122-year-old Davis Hall and a few adjacent trees in hundreds of blue lights.

Throughout the event, a DJ played upbeat tunes that got the crowd dancing along with the Ramettes while others clambered onto horse-drawn wagons for rides around the quadrangle.

From a roster of 46 undergraduate students in 1894 to its current enrollment of 14,680 undergraduate and 2,003 graduate students, the University has grown from a small local college that educated Rhode Islanders in agricultural and mechanical arts to a renowned teaching and research institution that has influence around the world in health and wellness, biological, ocean and natural sciences, engineering and chemical and forensic sciences, business and the liberal arts.

URI President David M. Dooley greeted and thanked the spirited crowd for marking the anniversary.

Members of the Department of Theatre pose with Rhody the Ram dressed in clothing appropriate for the era of URI’s founding. URI photo by Nora Lewis.

“What we are really here to celebrate are the great people of the University of Rhode Island–all of you. Because it’s the faculty, it’s the staff, it’s the students and even occasionally in a small way, the administration that make the University what it is and have actually made the history we are celebrating here today happen.”

Dooley said URI’s founders came together with a vision, one that began with Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Congress in 1862, and a vision that still propels “us forward today, and that is of a public university dedicated to educating all of the people and intended always to be affordable to all the people. That’s why we exist and that’s what we celebrate.

“I know we face a time in America and globally of significant uncertainty,” Dooley said. “It’s especially difficult to guess at what the future may hold for the University of Rhode Island and its people. We can be confident in the people we have here today, we can be confident in each other, our commitment to each other to learn, to discover and share and through all those activities to make the world a better place than we find it today.”

Cody Anderson. URI photo by Jessica Vescera.

Cody Anderson, a senior pharmaceutical sciences major and president of the Student Senate, said when he came to URI four years ago, he was sold on its undeniable New England charm, incredible affordability and most importantly, the beach.

“This is really an incredible place,” he said. “It’s welcoming, it’s accomplished, it’s academically strong, and most importantly it’s home. Since being here it’s been my great privilege to be involved in a wide variety of activities, but what I have been most proud of is to represent student opinion in the past year as president of the Student Senate.”

Lauren and Richard Santello, of Portsmouth.  URI photo by Jessica Vescera

As more and more people joined the celebration, one group stood out for its attire. Members of the Department of Theatre dressed in clothing appropriate for the era of URI’s founding and danced to the Village People’s hit, “YMCA.” Soloist Nicholas “Nick” Castro, class of 2017, delivered a stirring version of URI’s Alma Mater just before the countdown.

For Lauren and Richard Santello, of Portsmouth, the celebration on the quadrangle was special.  “We met here and are members of the Class of ‘85! And we got married here. So we decided to come back for the 125th anniversary of the University.”

Student Tim Legg, a civil engineering major from Attleboro, Mass., said, “I am very excited to be here. Orientation starts here, and it’s the center of campus. This is a celebration of tradition and students.”

Shannon McIsaac. URI photo by Jessica Vescera

Nursing major Shannon McIsaac of Avon, Mass. loved the celebration.  “It’s awesome and I am so proud of URI’s great history,” she said while dancing to the music.  “We have a great 125 years behind and great 125 years in front of us!”

Shawn Antoine II, , of Harlem, N.Y., a junior public relations and film studies major and member of the football team, said he loved the buzz on the quad during the event.

“This is a great school with so many opportunities in so many areas,” he said. “It is a special university. I love my teammates and I have been successful in film, with a few being selected for film festivals.

Ramettes Alexendra Martinez, a senior biological sciences major from Warwick, and Hannah Ritchie, a third-year pharmacy student from Santa Clarita, Calif., grooved to the tunes while talking about URI.

“I am so excited to be part of the entire program here at URI,” Martinez said. “I have gained a great background here, and I will always be a Rhody girl.”

“When I came to visit here from California, it absolutely drew me in,” said Ritchie. “It was the best decision I ever made.”

Sarah Saltiel-Ragot and Olivia Ross, interns in URI’s Department of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this story.