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Kristen Cyr
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Governor Chafee proclaims Nov. 12
CCRI Day across Rhode Island

Nov. 13, 2014

Gov. Lincoln Chafee reads a proclamation declaring Nov. 14, 2014, CCRI Day in Rhode Island. Gov. Lincoln Chafee reads a proclamation declaring CCRI Day in Rhode Island.

The Community College of Rhode Island received a special birthday gift from Gov. Lincoln Chafee when he issued a proclamation naming Nov. 12, 2014, CCRI Day across the state.

There was an undeniable sense of symmetry to the afternoon's celebration, as 65 guests including elected officials as well as CCRI faculty, students and staff gathered in the State House, where Chafee's father, former Rhode Island Gov. and U.S Sen. John Chafee, oversaw the creation of the college 50 years ago.

"When I think about what made America great more than anything after World War II, it was our public institutions of higher education," said Chafee before reading the proclamation honoring the college and wishing the college a happy birthday.

President Ray Di Pasquale recognized the various CCRI staff members, union presidents and student government representatives gathered in the audience or the proceedings as well as representatives from the state Board of Education, including new Commissioner of Postsecondary Education Jim Purcell.

President Ray Di PasqualeHe also praised the governor for the support he has shown the college during his term. "Governor Chafee has been an incredible supporter of higher education," he said.

Di Pasquale said a substantial numbers of Rhode Islanders travel through the hallways of the college each day. "We're the largest community college in New England," he said. "We're truly Rhode Island's college."

To help mark the occasion, city and town managers across the state were asked to ring their city and town hall bells four times at noon in honor of the college's four main campuses. City and town officials also were well represented at the ceremony, with two-time CCRI alumnus and Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena speaking on behalf of leaders including Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, Bristol Town Administrator Tony Teixeira, Lincoln Town Administrator Joseph Almond and others.

"CCRI is one of those precious gems in our great state that does so much for so many," said Polisena, a graduate of both the Nursing and Fire Science programs who now teaches as an adjunct instructor. "This is more than just a celebration; it's a milestone of accomplishments and success stories for the thousands and thousands of people who have traveled through the doors of CCRI. And I happen to be one of those success stories. If it wasn't for CCRI, I wouldn't be standing where I am today."

Sondra Pitts '66Sondra Pitts, a member of the first graduating class of the college as well as honorary co-chair of the 50th anniversary celebration, represented not just her class, which, in 1964, was just 325 students strong, but the college's 64,000 alumni. She told the story of the college's nascent days, where under the leadership of its first president, William Flanagan, the students were able to organize the college's first clubs and structure its student government as they watched the facilities grow to accommodate the expanding academic offerings.

"Through the prism of CCRI today, those first few pioneering years may strike us as quaint," she said, noting that the college has an enrollment of more than 17,500 this semester. "CCRI's inspired beginnings have been followed by five decades of growth and success. ... With the support of the people of Rhode Island, we will extend this record of achievement for another 50 years and beyond."

"We have so much more to do," said Di Pasquale in closing. "We have so many students to help educate. We have so much more to do to help our state get stronger and better, and the CCRI wants to lead that way."

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Last Updated: 8/25/16