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Jim Flanagan, son of college's first president,
helps open 50th anniversary year

Sept. 2, 2014

Although the Opening Day Convocation always brings with it a chance to look forward to the new year ahead, Thursday's program, opening the 2014-15 academic year, was a special one: It marked the beginning of the Community College of Rhode Island's 50th anniversary.

"Think about this very carefully," said President Ray Di Pasquale as he opened the day's celebration and photographs from the college's history – spread across four campuses – played on the projectors in the Bobby Hackett Theater at the Knight Campus in Warwick. "We're celebrating 50 years of educating Rhode Islanders, helping them change their lives and achieve their dreams."

Before Di Pasquale, alongside members of his administration, began looking to the future, the crowd was welcomed to contemplate the college's past, particularly its roots. Jim Flanagan, one of the children of the college's first president, William Flanagan, for whom the Lincoln campus is named, was the day's first speaker.

Flanagan was 2 years old when his father took the helm of what was then Rhode Island Junior College, and over the next 14 years would grow up alongside the institution as it struck out on its mission, gained footing and expanded.

Jim Flanagan speaks at Opening Day.Quoting his father's first convocational address, Flanagan said, "Today, we realize the fulfillment of a dream, but the task has just begun," reminding the gathered faculty, staff, students, political leaders and invited guests to reflect on just how monumental that task – providing a life-changing opportunity to anyone who walks through the college's doors – continues to be. "My father would be so proud, and so amazed."

Di Pasquale, Vice President for Business Affairs David Patten and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Gregory Lamontagne, as well as the three staff, faculty and professional union presidents, addressed the full house with that same pride for the accomplishments they've helped to achieve so far.

With new banners hanging at all of the campuses, emblazoning each entrance with the reminder of the golden jubilee, the now-vast network of CCRI represents four full-service campuses and two satellite campuses, an alumni network of more than 62,000 graduates and graduating classes numbering more than 2,000 students, compared to the 125 who graduated during the college's first commencement in 1966.

"As we've grown substantially, we've served the state, the people and the economy of Rhode Island," said Di Pasquale. "But at the same time, we've stayed true to President Flanagan's mission as described in the 1969 Interiors magazine as he talked about the Knight Campus. ... It provides an environment for learning suited to the youth of today and the future."

Several of the kind of students whom Flanagan had imagined 50 years ago were present in the crowd, representing their colleagues as campus leaders and ambassadors. Two from the delegation of the Flanagan Campus Student Government were Jincey Phann, the group's public relations officer, and Samantha Meerbott, its secretary. They are both General Studies majors who said they felt "amazed" and "honored" to be there during the convocation.

"I really look forward to being involved in being a voice for the students," said Meerbott, with Phann adding that "it's great to see how much the alumni and the administration gathered here today care about us, as students."

For Professor Maria Corsetti of Nursing, who is celebrating 23 years on the faculty of the college, students such as Meerbott, Phann and those who have come before them are the inspiration and the reward that keeps her going. "I'm very proud today to know that I'm a part of this," she said. "This institution has a great reputation and the Nursing Department has a great reputation. And we as faculty do this because we are really committed to the students."

In addition to recognizing September's Employee of the Month, Professor Kathleen Beauchene of the English Department, Di Pasquale gave attendees an insight into the celebratory events ahead on the calendar. Listed in full on the college's 50th anniversary website, these events range from special occasions such as the rededication of the Hackett Theater and the burying of a time capsule (to be unearthed in the year 2064) to annual events including the Fall Golf Classic fundraiser. Faculty, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to use this site to submit their memories of the college throughout the years.

"Let's have an extraordinary year together," said Di Pasquale in closing.

View photos from the day's events.

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Last Updated: 8/25/16