KINGSTON, R.I. – January 2, 2007 – Close friends of University of Rhode Island Professor Emeritus Richard Vangermeersch are well aware of his love of history, particularly all things University of Rhode Island.
Now he is sharing that love with others through a donation of 63 yearbooks and other historic texts to the University Club.
From an original report of the state Board of Agriculture in 1892 on the Rhode Island College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts to a 1946 tribute to Rhody basketball legend Ernie Calverley, the collection has something for the sports fan, alumna and faculty member. Appropriately enough, the yearbooks and other materials are housed in the Alumni Room at the University Club.
But how did Vangermeersch, who taught at the University for 34 years, develop a collection of yearbooks that dates back to 1902? “The books came from a variety of sources,” he said. “Mrs. Grace Woodard gave me Bill’s collection after he died. That was a very generous thing to do, because Bill had yearbooks from the great NIT years for the Rams in the 1940s.”
The Narragansett resident was of course referring to the men’s basketball teams coached by Frank Keaney. The late Bill Woodward chronicled the life of Keaney in his definitive biography, Keaney: If you don’t love to play, pivot and go home!
Vangermeersch’s collection also includes several alumni directories, vintage alumni magazines, and holiday greetings. Two interesting pieces from Providence Magazine, one from 1915 titled, “RISC, a Genuine Vocational Institution,” and one from 1917, titled “The Land-Grant College or a War Asset,” are also included.
Michaela Mooney, major gifts officer at URI, worked with Vangermeersch when he discussed donating his collection. “We knew the library had its own collection of yearbooks and other valuable documents, and the Alumni Center had its own library of yearbooks. So we had to find another home for these valuable items.”
After considering the president’s house, Mooney called University Club President Peter Kohlsaat about housing the books there. “I just thought since so many people visit the University Club for events, meetings or just for lunch that this would be the perfect place.” Kohlsaat agreed.
The only problem was the University Club did not have adequate bookshelves.
Enter Ed Stone, URI’s screening officer for federal surplus furniture and equipment, who makes regular trips to Washington, D.C. to pick up surplus furniture and equipment for the University. A URI employee for 48 years and in his current position since 1990, Stone obtained two, rich wood bookshelves with glass doors on a recent trip.
“It all came together thanks to Richard, Peter and Ed, and now we have this great collection at the University Club,” Mooney said.
IN THE BOOKS: Professor Emeritus Richard Vangermeersch, seated, thumbs through one of the yearbooks he donated to the University Club. Standing from left are Michaela Mooney, URI major gifts officer; Peter Kohlsaat, president of the University Club; Dennis Fonseca, University Club manager; and Ed Stone, URI’s screening officer for federal surplus furniture and equipment. URI News Bureau photo by Nora Lewis.