URI to commemorate 50th anniversary of W. Alton Jones Campus

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Celebration to mark roles in research, environmental education, as safe house site for mob informant

WEST GREENWICH, R.I. – February 16. 2012 – The University of Rhode Island will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its W. Alton Jones Campus in 2012 with a yearlong series of events recognizing the people, programs and resources that have made the West Greenwich campus a vital asset to the University and the state.

Named for the oil executive whose wife donated the property to URI in 1962 following his death in a plane crash, the 2,309-acre forested campus is an award-winning site for youth camps, a popular destination for weddings, and a conference center that hosts hundreds of corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations each year. It is also an important natural environment for scientific research.

“For many people in New England, a visit to the W. Alton Jones Campus is the first experience they have with the University of Rhode Island, and it provides an excellent first impression,” said URI President David M. Dooley. “The campus provides tremendous value to the University, especially to our research scientists, and I’m pleased to join in celebrating its anniversary.”

“We’re a unique facility in New England,” said Thomas H. Mitchell, director of the campus. “Nowhere else can you go that combines a research forest with a retreat for adults and an environmental classroom for children. We’re excited to celebrate our anniversary and draw attention to the unique history and programs we provide to the region.”

A book about the history of the campus has been written and will be published in August. Included are details of visits to the campus by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 and 1960 and the King of Nepal in 1960, all of which took place when W. Alton Jones owned the property. It also highlights the campus’ use, under URI ownership, as a temporary “safe house” for an organized crime witness and as a site for a Hollywood movie production, as well as the day in 1976 when a helicopter carrying former Gov. Philip Noel crashed on campus while carrying him to a meeting there.

Among the events planned to celebrate the anniversary are a series of nature walks throughout the year, a dedication of the campus’ new telescope and observatory, and reunions of the staff of the Environmental Education Center and the alumni of the Executive MBA Program, which was held entirely on the campus. In addition, the anniversary will be recognized at a URI men’s basketball game on Feb. 25, a football game in October, and during a meeting of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, which will meet at the campus in August.

The highlight of the anniversary year will be a formal outdoor celebration on Sept. 23 adjacent to the campus’ Whispering Pines Conference Center and remarks by Dooley and Gov. Lincoln Chafee, whose father spoke at the dedication ceremony in 1964 when he was governor.

For more information about the anniversary celebration, contact Thomas H. Mitchell at 401-397-3302 ext. 6024 or mitchell@uri.edu.