Remembrances of the Community College of Rhode Island

David PattenDavid Patten

Former student and current employee

1982 - "In the Spring of 1982, I was a full-time CCRI student. It was my first exposure to college level academics. One of the classes was a broadcast on television, which was high-tech at the time. This experience instilled a love of learning which continues to this day. I went on to URI, Providence College and Salve Regina University. Now I work at CCRI and enjoy seeing students achieve academic success nurtured by caring staff and faculty."

Chayenne Chin '09

Alumna

2008 - "Coming to CCRI changed my life and inspired me to continue my education at Bryant University. One of my favorite classes was Intro to Accounting with Professor Squizzero. He was an excellent professor which made topics clear and easy to understand. He encouraged me to transfer after finishing my studies here. My best memories were tutoring Accounting in the success center. It was a privilege to be able to tutor other students and help them along the way of their educational journey. One of my students said to me "I don't know what I would do without you." I felt I made a difference in his life. My time here will always be special to me. I am glad I got a chance to make new friends and learn from real world professors."

Anthony Spinella '66

Alumnus

1964 - "The summer of 1964 I was accepted to the first class of RIJC.  It saved me from being drafted.  Two years of college prep work and a continued liking to the field of chemistry saw the graduation from junior college in 1966 with an associates degree in science.

At that point, did not wait for the draft, enlisted into the Air Force (summer of 1966).  Basic training at Lackland AFB (San Antonio), tech school in Denver (Lowery AFB) and then stationed at McChord AFB (Tacoma, Washington) for two years.  In 1969 was reassigned to Comox Air Station on Vancouver Island in British Columbia (Canada) as part of NATO.  In June 1970, was discharged.

While in my last months of service, was accepted into the University of Denver's chemistry program. It was here I also started to play rugby for the school team. Graduated with a BS in Chemistry in 1973.  Just before graduation, was hired by Eastman Kodak as a chemist at their Colorado Division plant in Windsor.  Moved to Fort Collins and started my job.  Also played rugby with the Colorado State University (CSU) team.  Married Blossom Allen in 1975.  First knee injury in 1976.  Started to coach CSU rugby in 1976 also (as a hobby). Second knee injury in 1978. Laid off from Eastman Kodak in 1979. 

In 1979, was hired by Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC) as a chemist/reliability engineer.  Moved to Goleta, California.  Was divorced in 1979 but stayed in California to continue work at SBRC in the infrared detector field.  These detectors were used in satellites. While there also received an MS in Systems Management degree from USC.  Also coached UC Santa Barbara men (1981-1987) and women (1980) in rugby. In 1986 was laid off from SBRC. 

It took a while to find another job.  In 1987 was hired by Rockwell International's Rocketdyne Division as a chemist.  The plant was located in Canoga Park, California (San Fernando Valley area). Rocketdyne made rocket engines for the space shuttle as well as liquid fuel engines for most of the rockets for satellite launches. Worked in the chemistry lab at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.  This is the location where the rocket engines were tested before that function was moved to the Stennis facility (in Mississippi) in the late 1990s.  Did various chemical analysis on rocket fuels as well as testing water and soil for residual contaminants.  Also did material testing of the engine components.

Coached rugby  at UCLA (1987-1988) and at Eagle Rock Athletic Club (1989-2002). Became a USA Rugby Youth Development Officer in 2000 and helped develop the sport in youngsters in the Southern California, Arizona and southern Nevada region to 2010.  Married Brenda Ignarro in 1989. 

Retired from Rocketdyne in 2009.  Presently still living in Southern California (Santa Barbara now. Moved there August 2013 from the San Fernando Valley). Visit my brother who still lives in RI as often as I can."

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Gerry Anger '66

Alumnus

"I was in the first graduating class in 1966 when it was called RIJC, and I was an active member of "Shielders," which was the only organization on campus. After attending RIJC, I continued my education but never did receive my Bachelor's degree due to life and family getting in the way.

I have since gone onto starting two companies and two families. I have a son who is 45 years old and a daughter who is 19. My son is a college graduate from Fairley Dickinson in NJ and my daughter is a sophomore at Central Michigan University.

Although I would love to attend RICC functions, my location in Michigan makes that somewhat difficult. Please keep the updates coming.

Once again, thank you for a good start to my working career."

Maureen McGarryMaureen McGarry

Dean of Health & Rehabilitative Sciences

"In 1992 President Liston contacted me and suggested I attend a session offered by NEASC to become a site visitor. Being very interested in specialty accreditation I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to learn about the regional accreditation process. The week before my initial visit with a team assigned a Massachusetts College, I learned that President Liston had just been contacted to chair the team due to the illness of the original chair. What a wonderful experience to see Ed in a different role. He was a wonderful mentor! It was also a challenge as I wanted to be sure to do my best as he had nominated me to become a NEASC visitor."

Paul Blocklyn

Community member

"In the fall of 1975, I was completing a second Master's degree in English at Brown University and looking forward to what I hoped would be a long career in academia. I sent out resumes to all of the local colleges and universities in Rhode Island in hopes of picking up some part-time teaching experience to start me out on my career. The only person who responded to me was Professor Catherine Ott, who at that time was head of the English Department at what at that time was still know as Rhode Island Junior College. There were no openings in the department at that time, but Professor Ott graciously granted me a courtesy interview. She listened to my idealistic proclamations about teaching and tempered my enthusiasm with seasoned wisdom. I never taught at RIJC, but I did go on to teach part time at Providence College and later at The University of Connecticut and many other colleges and universities. I am grateful to Professor Ott for listening to me and taking me seriously at a very early stage of my career."

Mary Baker

Executive assistant

"I've been here for 15 years, the first two of which were at the Knight Campus in Warwick. There, I worked in business/purchasing, which was then on the third floor, back when there were no walls. I sat there and gave out paychecks to everyone, and that's how I met everyone. It has served me well; I got to know everyone's names and, since it was payday, everyone had a smile – usually! I met Mona Coppola, who said she had someone in mind for me to meet. That's when she introduced me to Don Baker. We went down to the cafeteria to have coffee together – our first date – and the rest is history. We've been together 12 years. When I moved to the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln, I met one of my closest friends, Pat Lambrou. When Don and I got married four years ago, we ended up getting married in her backyard on her beautiful piece of land she owned in Cumberland. Everything comes full circle with the people you meet. I never thought I'd marry anybody from work!"

Vin Cullen

Retired CCRI athletic director and basketball coach

"I started at the college as a math teacher in the second year of the Rhode Island Junior College. In the fall, a group of students approached the dean and asked if they could have a basketball team. I had played basketball at RIC and had been an assistant coach. The dean approached me to start the team. I said, 'I don't know enough to be a college basketball coach!' He told me to just get it started and see what would happen. So we did. We had a lot of difficulties starting it out: no basketballs, no opponents, no equipment, no facilities. It took a lot of dedication from the kids, but enough of them stuck it out. That first season, I remember we won more games than we lost.

Then they wanted to get a baseball team started. I talked to a guy teaching in the Business Department who had played for the Minnesota Twins minor league team, Harold 'Whitey' Fell. We didn't know where we'd be playing. We practiced at the Cranston stadium, and I'd bring the equipment in for practice in the trunk of my car. I'd bring the uniforms home at night for my wife to wash. We did that for seven years.

Then I met the chairman of the NCAA committee on new facilities, who was the athletic director for Brown University. He brought up the idea for us to build a multipurpose field house. Dr. Flanagan had an architect designing a gym, but it really wasn't going to be big enough. We opened our field house in 1972 and it's still functioning. We kept expanding, adding teams. When I retired in 2002, the state legislature named the field house for me."

Joe Pavone

Director of Athletics

"I was in the last graduating class from the Promenade building in 1972. In those days, parking was at a premium, so I remember in the morning I would park my car and put my four dimes into the meter, go to classes and then when I had classes in afternoon, I'd have to run a quarter of a mile downtown and put the dimes into the parking machines because there was no parking on campus. Four dimes would last about four hours. It's funny because over the years working on the Knight Campus and Flanagan Campus, I've heard students say, 'Oh I had to walk so far to get up here from the parking area.' They don't know the way it used to be!

It's wonderful to have student-athletes come back to CCRI with such fond memories. Rheal Cormier is one of those former students. He was a former pitcher with the Boston Red Sox and had a 17-year career in the MLB. Two years ago, we retired his jersey, No. 20. He came to the college from Canada after he attended a baseball camp up there in a fishing village that our baseball coach, Art Pontarelli, ran. Both he and his brother, Dom, came here to play baseball. Without CCRI, I don't know if they would have attained the position in life that they did.

Having attended the old RIJC and coming full circle, being involved with the college for 34 years and now becoming athletic director, I have such fond memories of this institution because of the way the faculty and staff nurture their students."

Deb Lilli

Associate professor, English Department

"I started out at Rhode Island Junior College at the Providence campus. My Roman holiday from high school continued and I only got a 1.7 GPA my first semester. But then, suddenly, the Knight Campus opened up. I was so excited. I loved the building. Walking up the ramp for the first day of the semester felt like a new start: I had new notebooks; I was ready. That first semester I had a math, sociology, psychology, music and English classes. One day, I remember sitting in math and the word 'mode' is on the board. I remembered that the other day I'd seen it in the book for sociology. Then I heard it again in psychology, in science and in music class. I understood it in music class, and all of the sudden I had this epiphany. The disciplines are all connected. If I do well in one, I should be able to bring that knowledge into all the others. I'll never forget that. That was the day I learned how to work. And I haven't stopped since."

Antonia McGuire '75

Alumna and President and CEO, Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center

"The year was 1973. Rhode Island Junior College gave a young girl a chance. A chance to blossom. A chance to gain life perspective. A chance to become something. First came the nursing degree. And then came the confidence. Confidence to grow. Confidence to learn. Confidence to lead. Today, I am the president and CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center. From humble educational beginnings to a career of social justice – because someone at CCRI believed that this young girl could learn – could be something – could change the world – and could make a difference!"

David Posman '14

Alumnus

"I don't usually bring up this matter, but I started at CCRI at the ACI in 1991, taking Readings in the Short Story with Professor William Hatfield. In 1993, I believe, I registered to come to CCRI full time while at Minimum Security, but things did not work out and, returning to old habits, I returned to the big boys' prison once again, this time until 2007. Released in February of that year, I went to work at the Providence VA Medical Center and, though I did not immediately return to college, I contemplated it, visited the Warwick campus a few times to investigate matters and was in touch with the school, so to speak, by tutoring a close friend in the math courses she struggled with so much. Then I was laid off from work, and I started full time at CCRI in the fall of 2012, but had no particular goals in mind except to enjoy school and to get the remainder of my Pell Grants and state aid at midterm. Then the Marine Corps came along and gave me an extra year of G.I. Bill benefits (mine ran out long ago) but only if I switched to a technical field. I chose computers, with great trepidation, not having "grown up" with them, but thinking I should catch up with the 21st century at some point. Much thanks to Mike Kelly, Maggie Burke, Paul Fontaine, Dawn Lewis and Kevin Crawford. I worked hard, joined Phi Theta Kappa and, almost by surprise, wound up graduating this summer. I didn't always show it, for which I apologize, but I love CCRI. Thank you. Now I'm off to RIC."

Steve Baxter '79

Alumnus

"In 1978, CCRI (RIJC back then) provided me with a definitive lifetime milestone. Leaving high school with little to no clearly defined direction in my life, CCRI presented me with an opportunity to weigh options, make choices and subsequently live with the outcomes. There was no definitive 'epiphany' involved; simply the experiences and framework provided by instructors and staff at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln had a positive and lasting impact on my life. I will always be thankful."

Michelle Sineiro

Student

"I was a retail store manager for many years living in Connecticut. I had been married for 15 years and I went through a divorce in 2011. That threw my life's plan through a loop! I never was content in retail but it paid the bills. I had always wanted to get into a career that was more rewarding and helping others but I was scared to go to college. I dropped out a great student, but a sophomore in high school. I went through a lot as a teen and school wasn't my top priority. I did get my GED® credential when I was 18 and but now I was pushing 40. I moved back home to Rhode Island and bit the bullet. I swallowed my fears and registered at CCRI. The close campus and smaller classes are exactly what I needed and that I was comfortable with. It has been a slow process since I worked full time, and I went through two abdominal surgeries in October 2012 and December 2013 and a back injury last May. Even with all these obstacles I am on my way to achieving my degree. The professors I have dealt with have been amazing and the advisers have helped guide me on a new path and temporarily change my goals. Since I am still dealing with my injury, I am not able to pursue exactly what I originally set out to do, but they have encouraged me and given me multiple options. Although I have a different goal now from when I started, I refuse to quit. I want to show my four children and two grandchildren that no matter what life throws you that there is no excuse not to follow and achieve your dreams. Anything is possible with enough work and willpower! CCRI has allowed me to prove it to them!"

Therese Miller '06

Alumna

"I first met my mentor when I attended Lincoln High School. She was an art teacher and I had always loved art. I always kept in touch and later in life I volunteered at several of Lincoln's elementary schools with her. She suggested that I take a college course and give it a try. I was 40 years old; how could I possibly pass or even be intelligent enough to go to college? Well, I signed up for one course, general psychology. I told her and later passed with an 'A.' I promised her that I would continue and graduate and she believed in me. She passed away at 62 years old from cancer. I graduated from CCRI. Thank you, Carolyn, for believing in me."

Michael Luis '13

Alumnus

"I graduated from high school in 2011 and performed very poorly. CCRI provided a second chance and after receiving my Associate in Arts in General Studies I transferred to a top 20 undergraduate business school, Northeastern University D'Amore-McKim School of Business. I am studying finance and continuing to succeed at a top tier university (finished this semester with a 3.85). I have now landed a six-month co-op at a very competitive bulge-bracket firm. None of these opportunities would have been possible without CCRI and I want to share my story with the hope of inspiring students."

Lynda Clancy '84

Alumna and Alumni Association board member

"I vividly remember going to the mailbox in front of my home on a warm spring day in 1984 and seeing that a package had been delivered. Upon opening it, I realized it was a green and white pin-striped CCRI student nurse's uniform! My dream was coming true! I would be going to college and becoming a nurse! Holding that uniform in my hands made it seem even more real than the letter announcing my acceptance. I have had several graduations since then including a master's degree/nurse practitioner from Boston College. I have never been more proud than I was when I wore that uniform for the first time."

Jan Wright '79

Alumna

"I am a single mom of three sons. They watched me work, parent and gain a nursing degree at CCRI. That was the start of teaching them that college was our family goal. Ten years later, they watched as I earned a bachelor's degree at Roger Williams College. They continued to learn. Finally, in 2008, they saw me graduate with a master's in education. Without words, they learned to go to college. CCRI made it possible for a single mom to afford the beginning of the lesson for my sons."

Paul N. Gagnon Sr. '66

Alumnus

"September 1964 was an exciting time for me. As a Mount St. Charles dropout, I enlisted in the Navy during World War II. After being married for 10 years and having four children, I decided to obtain my GED® credential and then enrolled in the first class of Rhode Island Junior College. I was 36 at the time and, to my knowledge, the oldest member of that graduating class.

After graduating from RIJC in 1966 with an associate degree, I taught in the parochial school system for five years while pursuing my bachelor's degree at night from Providence College. In 1971, that dream was reached and I began a 23-year teaching career in the Lincoln school system. Upon retiring in 1994, I substituted in Lincoln until I turned 80. (I am now 87.)

RIJC was the turning point in my life (along with my wife and four children). I fondly remember A. St. Clair Neild, Raymond Newbold, Robert Silvestre, James Verde, Walter Brownsword, A. Curtis Bessette and Geroges Bockstael. I will always be grateful to these professors at RIJC, as they instilled in me the love of learning and the gift of teaching."

Ken Hopkins '76

Alumnus

"I was here as a student the first year that the Knight Campus in Warwick opened. I was following in my brother's footsteps; he went to CCRI when it was on Promenade Street in Providence. I came out of high school and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I went to CCRI for a while and then left to try to make some money out on Cape Cod in the power plant. But after about eight months of doing that, I decided I'd go back to school and, after that, I never stopped.

The people in the Athletics Department really set me straight; it was almost like having another family. I remember the nurse, Mary O'Neill, was the trainer for the baseball team at the time, and her office became the central area for the players to hang out. She had Kool-Aid and cookies and a couple of beds and, during our free periods, we'd go down there and hang out with her and talk.

And there were a multitude of other people in the department – Charlie Wilks, Whitey Fell, Vin Cullen, Izzy Sipperstein – who had a tremendous impact on me going to school. Baseball was the hook that kept me in school, and I went on to get my associate degree from CCRI, my bachelor's from RIC and then my master's from University of New England. I'm now in my 15th year as the baseball coach, and I see a lot of kids come through here that are similar to the way I was in terms of being immature and not ready to step out into the big world and needing some guidance. I'm trying to do today what people were doing for me here 30 to 40 years ago."

Lloyd Kaplan

Music professor emeritus

"I really enjoyed registration time in the early days of CCRI. Back in 1966-67, members of the faculty served as counselors, and we would all sit at tables with signs on them during registration. I obviously sat behind the 'music' table. Students would wait until a given time and then come bursting through the doors and go to the tables they were interested in. A teacher who served as a counselor sat at the table with four or five different students and discussed the curriculums each should take. It was a wonderful, intimate time. You felt like you were contributing to the students' choices and it was very personal and pleasant.

A favorite memory was taking bus trips to Boston with the music classes. We'd go hear the opera and jazz. For the jazz classes, we'd go to a place called the Regatta Bar. It's still there. It was in a hotel and they'd have big-time jazz players there, like Benny Carter. It was always a good time.

I'll always remember the orations of the president, William Flanagan, especially during the first meeting of the faculty each year before classes would begin. He'd talk about what he hoped would be accomplished and introduce new faculty and quote Shakespeare and recite anecdotes. He was a brilliant orator."

Maureen McGarry

Dean of Health and Rehabilitative Sciences

"When I first joined the college, it was back in 1988, and I was hired to be assistant dean and was stationed at the Newport Hospital School of Nursing building, which was our satellite campus. It was a pretty interesting time because we found we had to reposition or re-create a lot of things, converting a dormitory into classrooms and office space. It was exciting, but also very challenging, and led to some funny things. The second week I was in the position, we had some deliveries of cats and other supplies for the biology lab, and there were no elevators at the time, so Jack Sousa and I were hoisting these cat specimens up to the biology lab. We did anything that needed to be done – from the cat-hoisting to overseeing the bookstore. We tried to be very responsive to the students and to the staff and faculty, and we all had a wonderful family-type relationship."

Ruth Sullivan

Dean of Learning Resources

"When they built the library at the Knight Campus in 1972, they were building it for the times, and back then I think it was state of the art. It had a gigantic circulation desk, which represented the way that library services were offered during that time. It was mainly about distributing books. That changed over time, of course. Five years ago, we had an opportunity through the capital campaign to renovate the library on the Warwick campus. So we completely gutted the fourth floor where the library was. We changed it around to reflect the new changing information services times. The circulation desk was moved and greatly reduced in size. We've allotted additional space for students to bring their own laptops and we have the necessary plugs. We took down all of the 6-foot stacks in front of the windows, which has brightened the library up a lot. We were living through the renovation; we managed to stay open throughout. So for us it wasn't an HGTV-type renovation reveal. But I think when the students showed up in the fall, they were amazed."

Bev Wiley

Compliance officer, Department of Athletics

"I'm a Warwick native, and so I attended the Warwick schools at a time when the Flanagans were very involved in the school system. Also, a lot of folks who started CCRI – then known as RIJC – were teachers and superintendents in the public schools that my family and I attended. I also remember the Knight Caampus when it was Knight Farm. Instead of having major highways, we used to come down Main Avenue and go onto East Avenue and then onto Bald Hill Road onto Route 3 or 2 to get to URI or the beaches. I remember driving by and seeing cows on what was now Knight Campus."

Ed Madonna

Chairman, Math Department

"I've been in the Math Department at CCRI for 48 years; I'm starting my 49th year this fall. Back when we were just the Providence campus – it was probably before 1970 – we had a smaller department and we'd always have little get-togethers around Christmas and at the end of the year. One of these little parties was at Camp Bosco, and it was an outing for the department members and their families. Everyone's spouses and kids were there. I guess you could say we were a young, rambunctious faculty. During the party, someone started screaming – a cabin had caught fire from someone's lit cigarette. Some of the faculty had military training and they just knew what to do: They started grabbing children and packing them into cars and had us reassemble at the other end of the road away from the fire to put the families back together. I think we did fundraisers for two or three years after that to try to rebuild it."

Mark Zellers

Chairman, Art Department

"9/11 happened during the first week of school, and it was my first week at CCRI. I was probably in the third class I was teaching, Ceramics 1. I slipped out for a moment to go into the art office. The secretary mentioned that something terrible had happened, but she didn't know what exactly. This was before smartphones, and nobody was getting instant access to the news in his or her pocket. It became clear that something did happen, so I walked down to the cafeteria because I heard someone had pushed some TVs down there. Sure enough, a whole lot of people were hanging around the TVs and watching the images that we all know so well. We tried to keep going in class, but we were so distracted. The students were learning how to roll coils, but there wasn't much room for focus. Nobody knew what was going on, if it was going to keep happening. But what was interesting was all the boundaries came down while we were in class. It wasn't about me being a professor and them being students. It's dreadful that it takes such a horrible thing, but in the moment we were showing more understanding to each other. It made for very fast engagement in the first classes I taught at CCRI. Normally, you have to build a class culture. We had one right off the bat."

Carol Panaccione

Professor, Foreign Languages and Cultures

"In 2011, we were honored to have the two directors of Project Have Hope, Grace Ayaa and Karen Sparacio, come to our college. Ayaa was born in Uganda and left in 1990, fleeing a civil war that had been waging in her region throughout the past decade. The Acholi people have been displaced 600 miles to their own section of Kampala called the Acholi Quarter, and Ayaa walked 80 of those miles that led to safety with her infant child on her back. She had to leave some of her older children in safe towns along the route and return for them later. She came to this country for the first time in 2011 and wanted to personally come to the college to thank us for the $1,352 that the French and German clubs had raised by selling jewelry made by the Acholi Tribe in order to benefit Project Have Hope's school in Kampala, Uganda. They also held a local food drive in Ayaa's name to help Rhode Islanders in poverty. I have a card in my office that states that out of the many colleges she visited, her visit to our college was the most memorable for her. We greeted her outside of the college with flowers and accompanied her up to the board room where she spoke to a gathered group of students, staff and faculty. My critical thinking class, The Learner's Journey, also assisted in this event."

Walter Crocker

Administrator, Liston Campus

"When Ed Liston was the college president, I used to work with him while I was at Rhode Island College as the dean of the School of Continuing Education. One of my units was the Urban Educational Center, which is on Somerset Street in South Providence. And I convinced Ed to take it over from RIC, because RIC was not as active in the inner city as I thought CCRI would be. They got it transferred. And as soon as the OIC building became available, he got the Board of Governors to buy the whole campus.

I felt like I really put the bug in his ear to get back to Providence. He thought it was a good idea to get back to the college's roots. Now, here I am, 20 years later, the director of that campus, which was named after him! That happened in 2006 when CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale called me out of retirement and said that he needed someone to run the Providence campus while they ran a search for a new director. A couple months later he told me he wasn't running a search, that I was 'stuck' here. And that's turned out very nicely for me. Everyone here has been so welcoming and appreciative from the very first day."

Kim Rouillier

Chairwoman, Rehabilitative Health Sciences Department

"After the Physical Therapy Assistant program graduated its first class, all of the faculty had left as well. I was working in private practice at the time and had been in touch with Maureen McGarry. I told her that if she was having problems finding people, I'd step in for a while until the program found someone. I had all of the people who worked in my office teaching different courses and had students come in to work in my office. I've always liked teaching, and I liked this so much that I stayed. At first, we were in a satellite office at Newport Hospital in what used to be the nursing dorm. My office was in a dorm room, and our labs were in the basement, which was dingy and would flood. We eventually opened the Newport County Campus in 2005, and we were allowed to move in over Labor Day weekend, but the elevators weren't there yet. We worked all weekend using painter's lifts to get huge boxes up over the second floor railing and then wheel them down the hall. But when we finished, it felt like we had died and gone to heaven."

Edna O'Neill Mattson

Coordinator, Facility Use

"One of the biggest milestones in my mind was renaming the college. I was always talking to Ed Liston about the fact that kids who were going here were being harassed and the school, Rhode Island Junior College, was being shortened to "REJECT" out in the world. Changing the name meant that they would no longer have to feel ashamed for something they were doing to better themselves. It let the world know it was something to be proud of."

Monica Lee

Coordinator/counselor, Access

"For me, CCRI meant the realization of my unbelievable wildest dream. In 1992, I was a forklift operator at the Health Tex factory until plant closed permanently. My unemployment benefits included my education costs. I took the opportunity to get my GED® credential and register for CCRI in the fall of 1993. I was very nervous; every time I saw a man with a necktie approach me, I thought he was going to tell me, 'We made a mistake with your paperwork and you need to leave.'

Also, English is my third language; I was comfortable with English at the factory and at China Inn, where I worked as a waitress. The academic setting has a whole new language in itself; I have no idea about GPA, full-time status, etc. My daily ritual was to go to Lincoln Woods State Park and cry.

There were many professors who saw something in me that I didn't even know I had, and so many generously offered time and help. The Writing Center became my second home. In two years, I graduated with more than 90 credits and transferred to Rhode Island College and Northeastern.

Today, I'm an Access coordinator/counselor, a licensed mental health therapist and the adviser for the International Club. This year, 10 students and I went to Georgia and completed two days of nonviolence training at Emory University with Dr. Bernard LaFayette and we visited most of footsteps of the civil rights movement cites. Past trips include France, Eastern Europe, Canada, Washington, D.C., and Asia.

This year I was appointed to the Korean Unification Advisory Board member. I went to Seoul, Korea, to attend the unification summit and visit the demilitarized zone. Twenty years ago I would never even imagine this could happen.

At CCRI, I try to return what I received. The CCRI community offers the support no other place would. There are so many names and faces who make the impossible possible."

Kathy Gazzola

Chairwoman, Dental Health Department

"Dental Health has had a presence at the college for all of its 50 years. We started with Dental Assisting, which was one of the initial programs that started when CCRI was in the Foundry building. So this is a program that brought new careers to the people of Rhode Island. We were then very fortunate to have the endorsement of the Board of Governors and pass Dental Hygiene in 1987, graduated our first class in 1990 and, as the college has its 50th anniversary this year, we will have celebrated 25 years of graduates in the Dental Hygiene program."

Jenn Salcido

Writer, Marketing and Communications

"When I first moved to Rhode Island after college, my first job was as a reporter for the Kent County Daily Times. I started out in news but then moved to become the features editor. Once there, I'd get press releases from Kristen Cyr about accomplishments of West Warwick and Coventry residents, and when we briefly opened up a Warwick edition of that paper, I would sometimes come over to the Knight Campus to write feature stories. I remember touring the Knight Farm house when it reopened for tours, and one of my favorite feature articles – something I still use in my portfolio of clips as a freelance writer – happened when Associate Professor Brendan Britton took me on a tour of the observatory. I'll never forget his passion for the subject of astronomy and his students as well as the community. He talked about what a great date night it would make to come up and get a guided tour of some of the stars on a clear night at CCRI."

Kim Hoak-Barsamian '84

Alumna

"I just want to say that Eunice Stoskopf was and still is my hero! She taught early childhood education classes at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln. She made class so enjoyable by having us do hands-on activities that were meaningful and supported our learning. Later, after I graduated and became a preschool teacher at Bright Horizons, she placed students with me for their internships, which I loved. She was so enthusiastic and loved her students and children without reservation. I always think of her and we write to each other each Christmas. She is wonderful."

Robert Armstrong

Retired professor, Business Administration Department

"In 1967, several students approached me and Professor Raymond Fontaine (now retired, Foreign Language and Social Sciences departments) to establish a track team. Ray and I volunteered to coach and the Knights Track Team was born.

Because the college did not have a track budget, we requested help from the Athletic Department. Vin Cullen, director, (now retired), supplied some equipment and produced a track schedule. Ray and I purchased additional equipment. We bought lumber and constructed track-hurdles in Ray's backyard in Lincoln. Practices were held at the Rhode Island College outdoor-track in Providence.

By 1968, the Knights advanced to the New England Junior College Championship meet in Franklin, Massachusetts. History was made when the team won, earning the first trophy for the college.

Congratulations, CCRI, on your 50th anniversary!"

Melissa Braun

Assistant registrar

"In 1995, the college was hosting a blood drive and I decided I had time in between classes to give, so I did. When I went to my next class, Western Civilization with Professor Kate Dunnigan, she noticed I seemed to not be myself. She asked what was wrong, I said I gave blood and didn't feel well. She immediately went into her bag, pulled out an orange and said, 'Eat this and you'll feel better.' I remember thinking how sweet that was of her to offer her orange and to even notice that I didn't seem like my usual self. Thank you, Professor Dunnigan. That is one college experience I will never forget and I think it exemplifies CCRI's best of the best."

Lisa Macaruso '00

Program coordinator, Disability Services for Students

"When I first met my husband, Paul, we seemed like a very unlikely match. He was an esteemed academic faculty, astute and professional. I was taking classes at CCRI en route to a special education teaching degree at RIC. We crossed paths in his General Psychology section, where I grade-grubbed, point-hogged, continuously attempted to ignite broader conversations in class on controversial topics. Yes, I was an overzealous over-achiever and he was tolerating (eh-hem, encouraging) me as best he could. After the course had completed, we had the opportunity to converse in a more relaxed manner and found that what was different about us was dwarfed by what we had in common. We discovered that we both had a family member with severe and profound special needs. More surprisingly, we found that we both had humorous, at times joyous, outlooks on the quirks our family members presented. Paul and I looked at our family members' disabilities as outright challenges but also amazing opportunities for a richer, funnier life. As I graduated from CCRI and went on to RIC we remained unlikely friends who shared similar perspectives with dramatically different personalities. Why would two people so different have so much in common? Love, of course! We have been married for 12 years and now both work for the Community College: Paul as a faculty member and I as the Liston Disability Services program coordinator. We have 8-year-old twin daughters who delight in visiting "mommy and daddy's college" and collecting smiles and treats from our colleagues and friends. Our little doppelgangers are always observed in the same way – 'my, they are so different for twins,' and 'Bella is just like Paul and Brie is just like you.' Not surprising, given they were conceived in love by the unlikeliest of friends!"

David Critchett

Retired faculty member

 "In the spring of 1978, faculty, staff and administrators together interviewed eight qualified candidates to succeed CCRI's (then RIJC's) founder, Bill Flanagan. At the last minute, a ninth was forced onto the interviewees' list, the soon-to-be Speaker of the Rhode Island House, Matt Smith, at the time an adjunct librarian at Providence College. He was granted an interview and the talk in downtown Providence was that he would be the college's next president. However, after CCRI's community rose up in arms – circulating petitions, writing criticism, giving interviews, contacting allies – his name was removed from the list of those under consideration for the position. The "blue-collar college" defeated a blatant attempt by the state's political establishment to place in the president's chair someone whose only qualification was his political connections. In the 40 years I spent at CCRI as a faculty member, I was never prouder of the college than at that time. The annals of CCRI should highlight this event for the following reason: The purpose of education is not only to encourage independent thought but also to act on it in the face of outrageous behavior by those whose chief concern is for themselves, no matter how they try to disguise it."

Nancy Stone

Faculty member and alumna

"There I was, a brand new LPN very much wanting to be an RN. My personal circumstances did not allow me to attend a four year program; fortunately there was CCRI! Though there was no evening/ weekend program at the time, the program still enabled me achieve my then dream of becoming an RN. My most poignant memory was that of Dr. Mary Flynn, my then second level med/surg clinical instructor. I remember thinking to myself, how could I ever "be her." She was a role model of what "I really" wanted to professionally become. I clearly remember her saying to me, "You are good at cardiac, you should consider doing this someday." My answer to her ... "Oh no, I could never do that!"  How ironical! Apparently she knew me better than I knew myself!  Today, I have the privilege of teaching second level nursing students in the evening weekend program. What do I teach? Cardiac of course! I also am a nurse practitioner whose specialty just happens to be ... cardiology! When I decided to complete my Ph.D., I was by then teaching at the CCRI.  My impetus at times to continue was my knowledge that Professors such as Dr. Flynn had in instilled in me, albeit a very long time ago, an attitude of "yes, it can be done!" And so it goes, the people that affect us most often do not realize the impact they have had in our lives. I thank CCRI for its existence and opening up a world of possibilities for me. I thank Dr. Mary Flynn for being my unofficial mentor. And I will hopefully pass on the hope of a new future to my students. So this fall, when a nursing student says, "I could never do "that", my answer will be, "Let me tell you my story ..."

Dulce Cruz '16

Student

"When I first started at CCRI I had the idea that it would be so easy. I thought: I flew by high school so a community college will be such a breeze. I was sadly mistaken.

In high school all I worried about was finishing my homework and memorizing a few facts before an exam. At CCRI I found that comprehension of the material was the only way to pass a class in college. Especially when it's a summer anatomy class. Four days a week, three hours a day, while working 30 hours a week was not the ideal situation for one of the hardest prerequisite courses for my aspired Nursing degree.

I was studying every day, all night, trying to memorize every part of that intricate human body and I barely passed. I ended the class with a C+. That would NOT get me into the nursing program. I re-registered for the class that fall and had the drive to get that A. When I started the class I realized something, I was studying a lot less but was receiving much higher grades. I was flourishing in the class and my classmates took notice. I was starting to run study groups, give people study tips, and best of all receive A's for all my tests.

The thing is though nothing had changed, the course wasn't somehow easier, the professor used the same teaching method, yet my grades showed otherwise. I then realized that what changed, was me. I learned how to study for comprehension not for memorization. That was the moment I really became a college student.

After my second time taking Anatomy, school became something to enjoy. I was actually learning interesting things that connected together in an awesome web. Physiology and Microbiology came so easy to me because I was able to reference what I had already learned. I am now starting the Nursing program this semester and can't wait to achieve my dreams of becoming a Nurse.

So in conclusion, thank you CCRI, for giving me a great gift I couldn't get anywhere else. You taught me how to learn."

Christie Cocklin '14

Alumna

"Attending college was something that I both anticipated and feared at the same time, for I had endured more than my fair share of being bullied by many people all throughout grade school. College Writing with Professor Julie Micks on Saturday afternoons quickly became my favorite class because of her friendliness and welcoming attitude to everybody. I owe my appreciation to her and Professor Sandra Sneesby for helping me boost my self-confidence and their indirect reminders that I have much potential in achieving my dreams when I put my mind to it. CCRI changed my life tremendously."

Kathy Suits '80

Alumna

"While a student at the Knight Campus, I worked as an aide in the library with Mr. Roger Proulx. One afternoon when I was tending the circulation desk, a paper airplane flew into my area. I looked up and saw my friend Mary studying on the mezzanine. She smiled down at me and motioned for me to open the airplane and when I did, I found the following message: 'You have friends in high places.' By the way, Mary is now Dr. Mary Anne Murray who has a PhD from the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London and is a researcher at UCL Institute of Archaeology, also in London. We are all very proud of our hometown girl!"

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