It’s a big year for anniversaries at Rhode Island colleges, with the Community College of Rhode Island, Brown University and Johnson & Wales University all planning celebration events.
Celebrating a 50th anniversary from the end of August through May of 2015 is a way for CCRI to buff its image as well as revisit its roots.
That’s how Richard Coren, CCRI’s director of marketing communications, described the expected aftereffects of events that include everything from a special website to the tried and true commemorative souvenirs.
Coren described the student body of more than 18,000 as one that comprises adult, part-time students; students who earn credits but choose to transfer to another school; students taking courses to brush up on skills for a career change; and of course, the traditional student pursuing a two-year associate degree at New England’s largest community college.
“We want to let the general public know that we have over the last 50 years been woven into the fabric of Rhode Island and we’re a resource,” he said. “We want Rhode Island to know we’re there for them: we want to get our story out.”
At CCRI and Brown, steering committees have planned events designed to reinforce each school’s vision for moving from one milestone to the next.
Brown, whose 250th anniversary celebration runs from this month to commencement in May of 2015, also plans to get its story out. That includes everything from its recent renovation of the John Hays Library to President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan for the next decade.
Activities will reinvigorate Brown’s relationships with the campus community, Providence, the state, and the world, said Marisa A. Quinn, vice president of public affairs and university relations. Achieving the university’s greatest aspirations will require the support and involvement of alumni, faculty, students, staff and supporters of Brown, she said.
“While reflecting on that which has distinguished Brown throughout its history, we will also discuss Brown today and Brown’s future, including the goals and vision outlined in ‘Building on Distinction,’ Christina Paxson’s strategic plan for Brown,” Quinn said. “The 250th provides an extraordinary opportunity to reach these communities and share with them plans for advancing Brown’s mission of teaching, research and service for decades to come.”
Brown organizers are still shaping anniversary events that will follow the March kickoff.
On March 7-8, middle school students were scheduled to come to campus and explore everything from archaeological digs and modern dance to the aerodynamics of paper airplanes with faculty and graduate students.
An open house on Sept. 27-28 will feature keynote addresses, panels of alumni and parents, student programming, a 250th Anniversary Exhibit for the newly renovated John Hay Library and a football game with Harvard played at Brown’s Stadium on Elmgrove Avenue.
“There will also be very serious moments to reflect on the role of social justice and social change and enduring contributions by institutions of higher learning like at Brown,” Quinn said.
For instance, the steering committee has solicited grant proposals from the Brown campus, alumni and external community for funding ranging from $100 to $25,000. One result of that process is a conference scheduled for this fall made up of workshops on the topics of education policy, reform and equity, according to the university.
At CCRI, the 50th anniversary to be celebrated from Aug. 28 through the May 2015 commencement has been broadly mapped out, carrying the tagline, “Changing lives for 50 years.”
The two sons of the late William Flanagan, CCRI’s first president, will open and close, respectively, the college’s nine full months of celebrations, Coren said. Jim Flanagan will address the audience at opening day and Bill Flanagan will be the keynote speaker at commencement.
CCRI is having six major events, including a golf tournament with some as-yet unannounced celebrities on Sept. 15; rededication of the renovated Bobby Hackett Theater on Nov. 21; and a January sit-down dinner with an undisclosed “VIP” that will be able to speak about the importance nationally of community colleges to academics and workforce development, Coren said.
Combined, planned events call attention to the “good work that CCRI has been doing,” Coren said.
“We’re always cognizant of our mission, which is to remain affordable and accessible and to provide the opportunity for our students to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for intellectual, professional and personal growth through an array of academic, career and lifelong learning programs,” he said.
JWU, which will celebrate 100 years officially in September, declined last month to discuss its celebration plans. New England Institute of Technology, which will celebrate 75 years in 2015, also was not ready to discuss plans.
Last year, Bryant University’s 150th anniversary provided an opportunity “to really reflect on Bryant’s roots and core strengths,” said Elizabeth O’Neil, executive director of university relations and part of the school’s Sesquicentennial Steering Committee.
School officials discovered Bryant was one of approximately 176, or 4 percent, of the country’s higher education institutions to reach the 150-year milestone, she said. And this year, Bryant has found an increase of 50 percent in alumni giving to its Annual Fund year over year after the celebrations ended that is due, in part, to the attention gained at those events, she said.
Yet, milestone celebrations like these are not about fundraising, educators say, though a bonus like Bryant’s is never refused. Rather, the celebrations help schools move more nimbly from one milestone to the next.
“The past establishes a context for what the initiatives are going forward,” said O’Neil. “There was just a great sense of momentum.”
In the original version of this article, the last name of Richard Coren, the Community College of Rhode Island’s director of marketing communications, was misspelled.
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