Former R.I. higher ed commissioner tapped as RIC interim president

PROVIDENCE – Jack Warner, who served as commissioner of the R.I. Board of Governors for Higher Education during Donald L. Carcieri’s tenure as governor, will serve as interim president of Rhode Island College.

Warner’s appointment as interim president at the state-run school was unanimously approved Thursday by the R.I. Council of Postsecondary Education. The decision to select Warner came after council members spent more than an hour in executive session.

Warner will temporarily replace Frank D. Sánchez. Sánchez, who has served as RIC’s president since 2016, will leave the college on June 30 when his contract expires.

Council member Rachelle R. Green said Thursday that due to typical academic calendar cycles in presidential searches, an interim president needed to be appointed at RIC during  the search for Sánchez’s permanent successor.

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Warner served as the state’s higher education commissioner from 2002 through 2009, where he was responsible for governance and policy oversight for the state’s public college system, according to the nonprofit Education Strategy Group, where Warner has served as senior adviser since 2015.

Green said Warner’s educational background “made him the best choice” for the interim president’s role at RIC. She also said Warner expressed interest in temporarily leading RIC, and subsequently met with R.I. Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner officials – including R.I. Postsecondary Commissioner Shannon Gilkey – about the position.

Warner will now, on an interim basis, take over leading a college that has seen growth of fundraising over the last six years. The school also has dealt with lost revenue and layoffs throughout the pandemic.

Council Chair Dennis Duffy said he recently met with Warner and was “impressed with his credentials and experience,” including in Rhode Island’s higher education system.

“We’re very lucky that he came along,” Duffy said.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.