Pioneering engineer remembers URI in her estate

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KINGSTON, R.I. –September 10, 2007—Alexandra Dobrolet, one of four children of Russian immigrants not only liked math, she excelled at it. So it was only natural for her to pursue engineering at the University. Her brother Michael Dobrolet followed her footsteps to URI two years later.

Alexandra flourished academically, becoming one of the first women to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree. She earned her diploma in 1939, the same year as her future lifetime partner, Wilbur Nevin Murray graduated with a biology degree. Although the Pawtucket couple had no children, they doted on their nephews and nieces.

Wilbur, who died in 1976, was a member of the Rhode Island Hospital’s pioneering Cardiac Surgical Team. Alexandra was an engineer for Fulford Manufacturing Co. where she established manufacturing procedures for 45 years before retiring in 1993. She died in 2005.

“She was astute, pioneering, and proud of her URI education,” says John J. Finan Jr. of the Finan & Grourke law firm in Pawtucket who served as her personal attorney for 20 years and was co-executor of her estate.

She left a portion of her estate to the University “for a particular major project, and if possible, a building or a wing of a building” for the College of Engineering. The money is being held in trust for the life of her nephew Michael Dobrolet Jr. who will benefit from the trust’s interest. Upon his death, the principal will come to URI.

“She was very smart and worked hard,” says her nephew in a phone conversation from his home in Vancleave, Miss., recalling how he used to go fishing with his aunt when he was a child. “I spent 29 years in the Navy riding nuclear submarines and she was one of the few outsiders that knew what I was talking about when we talked about steam turbines and heat transfer through different mediums.”

“The College is proud of the successful careers of all of its alumni and grateful for the generous philanthropic consideration Alexandra Murray made in her estate plans,” comments Raymond Wright, interim dean of URI’s College of Engineering.

The Murray bequest is part of the URI’s Making A Difference Campaign which 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. For more information on the campaign, click on