New University of Rhode Island Welcome Center named for Robert J. Higgins ’67

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862 |
Rendering of new welcome center
Welcome Center rendering courtesy DBVW Architects of Providence.

KINGSTON, R.I., June 26, 2018 — The University of Rhode Island’s new welcome center will be named in honor of the late Robert J. Higgins ’67, a leader in the banking industry and long-time supporter of the University. Governor Gina Raimondo signed House bill 8054 sponsored by Representative Kathleen Fogarty and Senate bill 2809 sponsored by Senator V. Susan Sosnowski into law on June 14, 2018 officially naming the Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center at the University.

The announcement comes after a $2 million gift to the URI Welcome Center Building Fund from Higgins’ widow, Mary Danielian Higgins ’67.

“The University of Rhode Island always remained such an important part of Bob’s life,” said Higgins. “I think it is very fitting to have his name provide a first impression for the University’s guests and visitors.”

The 11,000-square-foot Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center will serve as the gateway to the University for more than 50,000 annual visitors, from prospective students and their families to visiting scholars, guest lecturers, and community and business leaders. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

In addition to being the starting point for prospective students to meet with admission staff and tour the Kingston campus, the Higgins Welcome Center will host a variety of campus activities. In the reception area, digital screens will give visitors a dynamic display of events, academic programs, and University news.

“In its architecture and carefully planned interior design, the Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center will provide an essential first impression, one that conveys the University’s spirit of innovation and transformation,” said President David M. Dooley. “We are honored to have the Higgins name as such a central part of it.”

Higgins was president of his senior class and a member of URI’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. During his senior year, he was given the honor of driving Martin Luther King Jr. from Westerly Airport to Keaney Gymnasium, where King spoke before a record crowd. Higgins called the event his favorite memory of his time as a URI student.

Upon graduating, he served two years as an officer in the U.S. Army, including a year of active duty in Vietnam. He then began a 30-year banking career, joining Fleet Bank in 1971 and rising through the ranks to become president and COO at FleetBoston Financial.

Higgins was a civic leader, and served as a trustee of the URI Foundation. He also served on the boards of the Providence Foundation, Rhode Island School of Design, Trinity Square Repertory Company, Lincoln Center, and Rhode Island Hospital. He was instrumental in efforts to raise funds for scholarships and other University needs. He received an honorary doctorate from URI in 2000.