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Alumni Association honors six
April 11, 2013
The Community College of Rhode Island Alumni Association inducted four new members into the Society of the Knights and presented two Honorary Alumni Awards on April 5. This “Knight of Stars” event at Quidnesset Country Club in North Kingstown is a fundraiser that will help students pay for tuition and textbooks.
The Society of Knights inductees have had disparate careers but all exemplify a spirit of community service.
Francis Flynn '74, who worked for 34 years in special education for Cranston public schools and is involved with several local charities; Joshua Klemp '04, who helped restart CCRI student government during his time at the college and is the state association director for SkillsUSA, an organization that serves high school and college students employed in trade and technical programs; Antonia “Toni” Gilberto McGuire '75, a CCRI nursing graduate who has gone on to advocate for health care issues at the White House and on television, and RI State Police Major David Tikoian '88, a police officer involved in community outreach who thinks of CCRI as having given him a second chance. Watch a tribute video featuring the honorees.
Honorary Alumni Awards went to longtime CCRI Foundation President Mark Gim and Maureen McGarry, dean of Health and Rehabilitative Sciences at CCRI.
Special guests at the ceremony included Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Warwick Major Scott Avedisian, the CCRI Foundation’s 2012 Community Champion, North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi, R.I. State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell and Brendan Doherty, retired R.I. State Police colonel and former Republican congressional candidate.
The new Society of Knights inductees join 43 others out of 60,000 CCRI alumni.
“With their years of hard work and dedication to their communities, they have brought pride to the Community College of Rhode Island,” said CCRI Alumni Association President Louis Saccoccio ’68.
Most of the honorees came to the community college when they were unsure of what they wanted to do in life, an experience common to many students. Flynn, who has had a great career as an educator and teachers’ union leader, originally planned to become a priest.
“Forty years ago … I thought I was on the fast-track to being the first Pope Francis,” he joked, “but the diocese had other ideas.”
Flynn enrolled at CCRI in 1972 as one of the first students to attend classes at the Knight Campus in Warwick. He studied liberal arts and enjoyed the opportunity to experience a lot of different academic subjects.
He received Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees from Rhode Island College and became a teacher in 1977. He worked in Cranston public schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels for 34 years, serving as president of the Cranston Teachers’ Alliance Local 1704 for eight years.
He is involved with charities and organizations such as Amos House, the Special Olympics and the Boy Scouts of America.
“[Attending CCRI] was one of the best decisions I ever made,” he said.
Joshua Klemp ’04 works in education as well, though in a different capacity. As the state association director for SkillsUSA, he helps students gain vocational skills and professional placements.He is very proud of his work with this organization and several of his students attended the Knight of Stars event to support him.
“The most satisfying part of my job is to work with some of the best and brightest students in the state,” he said.
Klemp enrolled at CCRI unsure of what he wanted to do for a career. He said the faculty and staff at CCRI encouraged him to try new things and helped him succeed.
“Someone was always there who pushed me and believed in me,” he said.
David Tikoian ’88 also said he found direction at the college. He attended the University of Rhode Island right after high school, but it wasn’t a good fit for him. He dropped out after one semester, thinking he would never return to college.
Family and friends encouraged him to make another attempt, and he soon decided to try CCRI. Tikoian said he thrived in an environment of smaller class sizes and hands-on, caring professors.
“I stand here before you as proof positive that CCRI has succeeded in its mission,” he said.
Tikoian went on to Bryant University and attended the R.I. State Police Academy in 1992. Today he is in charge of Inspectional Services, reviewing the practices of the state police and making sure the division is in line with law enforcement standards. He works with many community organizations throughout the state as the division’s outreach liaison officer.
The fourth Society of Knights honoree, Toni McGuire ’75, began her CCRI career in 1973 as a nursing student. She originally intended to be a floor nurse, but became interested in public health and policy. She continued her education at Rhode Island College, Maryville University and St. Louis University and is now the CEO and President of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Worcester, Mass. This organization strives to be a low-cost “medical home,” providing primary care, dental services, medical specialties, and behavioral health and social services.
McGuire thanked her supportive teachers at CCRI and the college as a whole for helping her get started in health care.
“Without this humble beginning, I know I would not have been able to make a difference in the lives of so many,” she said. “… Thank you for allowing a young girl with dreams to flourish.”
This year’s honorary alumni, despite never having attended CCRI, have made a huge impact on the college.
Mark Gim, who works as the executive vice president and treasurer for the Washington Trust Co., has been volunteering with the CCRI Foundation and Alumni Association since 2002. He said he began working with CCRI because he “was struck by how much CCRI contributes to the life of Rhode Island.”
He added, “Thank you very much for this honor and your support.”
McGarry has been with the college for 25 years and has been a dean since 1999. She came to CCRI in 1988 as a nursing faculty member who worked out of an old hospital dormitory in Newport. Since then she has become instrumental to the college’s Health and Rehabilitative Sciences program and founded the nursing alumni chapter.
“We’re a team that helps students find their way,” she said about CCRI’s faculty and staff. “You never know the impact you make.”