URI re-dedicates World War I Memorial Gateway

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Officials unveil new plaque marking original Alumni Association donation

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 19, 2008 – In 1917-1918, Rhode Island State College’s enrollment was 562, while the number of men from the college who served in World War I was 334.

“It’s important to remember the dramatic impact that the war had on the college community,” said University of Rhode Island President Robert L. Carothers as he participated Monday in the re-dedication of the Memorial Gateway on Upper College Road. “It’s also important to remember the financial commitment made by the Alumni Association to build these gates. It cost about $5,000 to establish the University, and 30 years later it cost the Alumni Association about $3,000 to build this wonderful gateway to our campus.

“Today, as a community that grew from a college into a university, we celebrate the 80th anniversary of this monument to those who sacrificed so much in World War I. We are committed to keeping these gates open for future generations of Rhode Islanders and those who come from beyond our state.”

About 50 members of the University community, including administrators, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, joined Carothers in marking the importance of the gates as a tribute to World War I and all veterans. Of the 334 Rhody men who served in World War I, 23 lost their lives.

“Eighty years ago today, the Alumni Association presented this gateway to Rhode Island State College’s President Howard Edwards as a symbol of their appreciation. Today we again recognize the university as a gateway to the world for those students who have passed through its halls” said Robert A. Weygand, vice president for administration.

After an invocation by the Rev. John Soares, Catholic chaplain at URI, in which he offered thanks for the profound sacrifices of veterans from URI, Alumni Association President Gary Kullberg, said the ceremony was a double pleasure for him.

“First, not only because of my appreciation of the military in general, but also because of the importance of URI’s ROTC program,” Kullberg said. “Many years ago, I was one of three cadet battalion commanders right here in Kingston.

“During that time, my best friend to this day, Tony D’Ambrosio, was president of the military honor society, Scabbard and Blade, before heading off to Vietnam. Another ROTC friend, Paul Croce, also went to Vietnam and today is chairman of the College of Engineering’s Advisory Board.

“My second pleasure as president of your Alumni Association is to continue carrying the torch, first lit 80 years ago today by the Alumni Association in honor of those who proudly served.”

Army Capt. Jim Poland, URI ROTC leadership captain, said in his 23 years as a soldier, he has never met one who serves because of the medals. “This is a tribute to the University’s support for the military and those it serves, and the ideal that no soldier will be left behind,” he said.

Former Army Lt. Walter Christoff “Chris” Heisler, a World War II veteran who was captured after parachuting into Normandy on D-Day, said it was wonderful to see so many people at the ceremonies to honor veterans.

Dressed in his World War II uniform, Heisler and his wife, Gloria, just returned from one of their annual trips to Normandy. “The French were under Hitler’s heel, and they are so grateful for our many sacrifices to liberate them. We take our freedoms too freely, but celebrations like this honor those people who came before us,” the URI professor emeritus said.

The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of a new plaque on the gateway. It replaced one that has been missing for several years. Along with the college seal, it reads: “Presented by the Alumni and Students of Rhode Island State College, Dedicated, June 16, 1928, Re-Dedicated June 16, 2008.”

As part of the Gateway, the plaque on the nearby Memorial Boulder lists those Rhode Island State College men who died in World War I. The names are: Robert Harris Barker, Henry Harold Barrows, Donald Ellsworth Carlton, Paul Edward Corriveau, Wallace Charles Craig, Edwin Baker Davis, Rowland Sever Dodge, John Henry Fernandez, Lloyd Harold Gledhill, Edwin Matteson Greene, William Frank Hanlin, Marchmont Hayward, John Theodore Karlson, Beverly Shepley Lake, Alexander Farnum Lippitt, Marcus George Mullins, Chester Arthur Olsen, David Adam Redford, George Searle Shepard, Harold Manning Spaulding, Preston Wayland Towne, David Lamson Wood, Jr., Fred Mansur Woods.

URI President Robert L. Carothers, former Army Lt. Walter Christoff “Chris” Heisler, a World War II veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion and URI professor emeritus; Army Capt. Jim Poland, URI ROTC leadership captain; and Gary Kullberg, president of the URI Alumni Association, stand before a new plaque at the Memorial Gateway. Monday’s ceremonies marked the 80th anniversary of the dedication of the Memorial Gateway. Dedicated June 16, 1928 and Re-Dedicated June 16, 2008.” URI Department of Communications and Marketing photo by Joe Giblin.