Retired math teacher finds URI scholarship fund adds up

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KINGSTON, R.I. — May 25, 2006 — Cynthia Grinnell, a 1958 alumna of the University of Rhode Island, began donating to her alma mater after being approached to support the Green Hall renovation campaign.

“Alan Axelrod (URI assistant director of development) came to visit me and got me thinking. I don’t have kids. What was I going to do with my money? Buy a bigger car? Buy a bigger house? I’d rather do something useful with it,” she says.

So Grinnell established an endowed scholarship in 2002 for women students majoring in math or science based on financial need and academic merit.

This year, Sara Day was awarded a $1,600 Grinnell scholarship. “Oh, yeah!” Day recalled saying when she received the money. Her old computer had just died and she needed a new one for her classes.

Day has always enjoyed math. “It’s always been my best subject,” she says. She chose URI because she was awarded a Centennial Scholarship. The University was the “best choice for the money.”

The URI student has one semester to go before she finishes her studies. She already knows what she would eventually like to do: develop math curriculum for high schools. Her career path was inspired by her work as a math tutor in URI’s Academic Enhancement Center. With a different curriculum, she says, there would be fewer problems.

Day commutes to URI from Warwick in a car whose odometer reads 250,000. “It’s still running,” she says looking like she is ready to knock on the closest piece of wood.

Grinnell was also a commuter, carpooling to URI from Jamestown. “I received a $100 University scholarship per semester, based on my grades in high school,” she recalls. “It covered most everything.”

After she graduated from URI, Grinnell worked as an engineering aide and a computer programmer at United Aircraft in East Hartford, Conn. “It had a computer lab that was the largest in the country,” she says. She then served two years as tax collector for Hebron, Conn. where she still resides. She remains active in town affairs, serving on the Board of Selectmen for four years and on its conservation committee.

She taught math and computer classes at Hartford State Technical College for 14 years before retiring.

URI News Bureau photo by Nora Lewis