URI re-opens renovated Lippitt Hall home to popular Honors Program, math department

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KINGSTON, R.I.—October 8, 2008—With a snip of scissors through white and blue ribbons, Lippitt Hall, one of the University of Rhode Island’s oldest buildings, was re-opened today after an $8.9 million basement-to-roof renovation. The four-story building is fully equipped with wireless technology and the latest teaching tools in its seminar rooms and classrooms. All the utilities in the basement have been upgraded and a new slate roof has replaced the original. The rooms have all been painted in their original colors. The project was funded by $5 million in general obligation bonds and a $3.8 state appropriation. The remainder was funded by a portion of the $5.6 million state grant NOMAD (New Order, Multi-Modal, Advanced-Design Learning Spaces), designed to help education students and in-service teachers create a more engaging and interactive learning environment for their classrooms.

The University’s Honors Program has returned to the building’s third and fourth floors and the URI’s Department of Mathematics will make its new home on Lippitt’s first and second floors.

Robert Weygand, vice president for administration said: “The renovation of Lippitt Hall brings an 18th Century building into the 21st Century with new technology, full accessible classrooms and offices in an important historical building. This renovation is a reflection of our past with a view toward our future.”

About URI’s Honors Program.

The University’s Honors Program’s space on the third floor includes an office suite for faculty and staff, a small seminar room, and an Opportunity Zone, a student space funded by a Champlin Foundations grant, featuring computer labs, a conference room, office, kitchen, workroom for preparing students for prestigious scholarship competitions and graduate exams, and a small seminar room. The fourth floor contains a classroom that will be used for receptions, a large seminar room, and a 96-seat auditorium. Creative courses, dedicated faculty, and national scholarship advising make the program a popular hub of intellectual life for URI’s growing body of high performing undergraduates. This fall, nearly 600 students representing all of University’s colleges and nearly every discipline are enrolled in honors courses.

The honors student experience extends beyond the classroom, including honors housing in the new Garrahy apartments and social events organized by the Honors Student Advisory Board. This fall, three URI 101 Honors sections are visiting three high schools—Chariho, Central Falls, and Narragansett– to help the next generation of potential URI students understand the transition to college.

In addition, honors advisors, faculty and staff, many of whom are volunteers, prepare students for a number of prestigious national and international scholarship competitions.

A special aspect of the program gives honors students a chance to design and carry out research during their senior year under the guidance of one of the University’s stellar research faculty members.

The program also coordinates the popular fall honors colloquium, which is not only the University’s premier public lecture series, but also a sophomore course that gives honors students access to some of the most interesting and important people in the world. This fall’s ongoing series, “People and Planet: Global Environmental Change,” is exploring human-caused global change, its consequences, and potential human responses through a series of lectures, films, and panel discussions.

“This building, part of the remarkable physical transformation of the Kingston campus provides a welcoming and comfortable setting for our brightest undergraduates while providing them with state-of-the-art technology tools they need to succeed at the highest levels. It will further the development of a culture of excellence at URI, which is what the Honors Program is all about,” said Economics Professor Richard McIntyre who directs the program.

Mathematics Department

URI’s Department of Mathematics has 43 instructors who teach more than 5,000 students each year. The department plays a large and critical role in URI’s general education program and delivers calculus and linear algebra to science, engineering, and mathematics majors.

Today, graduates of the department’s three undergraduate programs have become teachers, analysts working in industry, and valued contributors to several other fields.

Mathematics alumni have gone on to earn advanced degrees at research institutions, including URI which offers a masters and doctorates in mathematics and applied mathematics. Many have received prestigious awards in recognition of their talents. Some have become professors at colleges across the country.

Researchers in the department work in pure and applied mathematics to develop computer based strategies for utilizing large data sets to solve complex problems in biology, discover chaos and stability in the long term behavior of endlessly repeated patterns, discover thresholds for the appearance of giant components in random structures, endeavor to describe every possible pattern imaginable for whist tournaments, and develop theoretical models for virtual online communities.

Mathematics faculty members are leaders in difference equations, who have achieved groundbreaking results. Other researchers with international reputations work in the popular areas of combinatorics, numerical analysis, and dynamical systems.

“I’m delighted that the Department of Mathematics is housed in a renovated building on the Quadrangle,” said Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This centrally located facility matches the centrality of mathematics in higher education. The leading edge technology, including Smart Boards and more, will support this vital department that serves thousands of students each year, conducts acclaimed programs of research addressing a complex array of problems, and which encourages mathematics education via outreach at all levels throughout the state. The College of Arts and Sciences remains a strong supporter of the Honors Program and I am pleased that two such vibrant and critical units are housed together that contribute in so many ways to the intellectual life of the university.”

Lippitt Hall History

Construction of Lippitt Hall was begun and halted three years before its completion in 1897 to address the need for a military drill hall and gymnasium facility, as well as, for a space to house the Rhode Island College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts’s growing collection of books. The third locally quarried granite structure to grace the College’s quadrangle, Lippitt Hall was named for the then governor, Charles W. Lippitt.

The building’s architecture is unique to the campus, primarily its Tudor style facing on the north and south side dormers. The renovation has restored the original dark brown framing of the gables, which is part of English Tudor architecture. Another distinctive design element is the massive end walls that extend above the roof plain. This is commonly found in masonry buildings in the Netherlands, according to Sandy Taylor, a retired University architect who provided much of the building’s history in a campus publication, URInformed.

In its early years, Lippitt served as a setting for recitations, as a chapel and as a central gathering place for the entire campus population. Dancing was a popular activity. The library began as one room, then two and was relocated to Edwards Hall in 1928. At that time sections of Lippitt were remodeled to accommodate the Departments of History, English, and Business Administration.

In keeping with the focus of Lippitt as a center of campus life, an extensive renovation of the building in 1935 created a Student Common in the building, including a cafeteria-style dining facility on the upper floor and a sandwich and soda shop in the basement. During World War II, student dining was moved to allow a mess hall to be set up for the military contingent then in training on the campus. Dining Services, however, maintained its headquarters in the building until 1993 when a new facility was built at the corner of Flagg and Plains roads. More recent occupants included divisions of the College of Engineering, the former Administrative Computer Center, Management Information Services, and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics.