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Celebrating the Presidency of
Robert L. Carothers, 1991-2009

Words through the Years

It's a great honor to be asked to serve as distinguished an institution as the University of Rhode Island. My chief goal at URI will be to empower an outstanding faculty, staff and student body to achieve the highest possible level of quality in everything we choose to do.” July 1991

One doesn't have to be in this state long to understand the need for a symbol here for a symbol of success and pride... I believe firmly that The University of Rhode Island is that symbol, one institution about which Rhode Islanders can feel immense pride..." September 1991

Like Martin Luther King, Jr., I too have a dream, a dream of a public university ... that stands for the proposition that quality is not reserved only for those who can afford to pay for it, a university that is committed to the highest quality education for the sons and daughters of factory workers and farmers, sailors and shopkeepers, the extraordinary, ordinary people of Rhode Island and America. I intend to realize that dream here at URI."

It is possible that in the climate of fear, of economic insecurity which exists in our state . . . this degree of change will be too much for the body politic to endure. But the alternatives to creative change are grim. We are universally agreed, I believe, that the downward spiral of the university . . . must be ended. To do so, we must break out, we must burst out of the past with a bold new plan that comprehends the future and makes the future ours." January 1992

We must engage every student in the life of the mind, which is our very reason to be. Each of our students should have the chance to be part of a working team with clear and meaningful purpose. "We must merge research and teaching in a way no one else in America has been able to do. That is the key to a compelling educational experience at this institution and the keystone of our future." September 1992

The first and most essential act of servant leadership is to listen to the others...Ask students what they want and listen carefully...Listen carefully and you will hear them say that they want to be what we want them to be -- active, aggressive learners, taking responsibility for their lives as human beings and citizens." September 1993

When we talk about quality at URI, when we talk about excellence, this is what we mean: serving, first by listening and learning, and then by acting with imagination and creativity to give people what they want and what they need."

This is what we said in our Vision Statement, that we are questers and that we are builders. This is the year to build at URI, to build that new culture for learning that will set us apart and allow us better to serve and through that service to prevail amidst the dangers about us." 1992

Confidence is the order of the day... After all, it is September, and a new class of students is on the Quad, and they are a precious treasure entrusted for a while to our care. We might heed President Lincoln's admonition to let them be touched by the better angels of our natures, touched by a decent and caring community of learners, questeres for a better vision for the future of Rhode Island and America and for each of them." September 1994

Within the green fields of their University, within the grey granite walls, lies much that is true and lovely, excellent and worthy of praise."

This is a major step forward for the University in approaching research from a position of strength. This approach recognizes the modern reality that the work of the world is accomplished in teams. It is a model that has now been developed at MIT, and one that will allow us to bring to bear the full strength of the University to provide the knowledge and services that will strengthen our communities and families and advance our understanding of the environment, health care, and other critical issues of our time." 1996

Our decision to forfeit the game against UConn, to suspend students from the football program, and to take additional judicial action, should send an absolutely clear message to all those involved and to the community as a whole that these acts of aggression and violence are totally unacceptable at the University of Rhode Island. This is a community of learners, and those who cannot learn from their mistakes are not welcome here." 1996

At the University of Rhode Island, this has been a year for learning about violence, about accountability for our actions, and about working for peace. Dr. Wiesel's presence and his participation in these ceremonies is timely for a community that has struggled with the violence which lies within us. I am certain that Dr. Wiesel will inspire us all to articulate, with greater clarity and with passion, what we stand for and what we won't stand for, as individual human beings, and as a community. We are deeply honored that Dr. Wiesel will join us at this year's commencement."

Some of you have heard the mythic story of the Ninth Wave, a unique combination of wind and sea, a force beyond any in nature. To catch that wave at its peak requires infinite skill and timing, but if we are successful, the wave can carry us all the way to that better shore. We are at such a time today. Never in my life have I seen any university as unified and motivated to do good works as is the University of Rhode Island. Such a moment should not be squandered."

The outpouring of support has been like a renewal -- with all who have come forward, those who have weighed in on the issue, and those whose passion for this wonderful institution has been just remarkable. We need to harness this energy. We need to put this energy into a place that will further strengthen the institution and its critical role in Rhode Island. It's an institution I believe is central to the future of our state. Together we can accomplish anything. Together we can move along on the path to making this one of America's great universities." Fall 1999

On the threshold of this new millennium, we have taken an aggressive approach to ensuring that the changes in our physical environment mirror the needs of those at the heart of this University -- a talented student body and faculty committed to being a part of a new culture for teaching and learning," said URI President Robert L. Carothers. "Our master planning process will help us to maintain our covenant to preserve and to improve this valuable resource for generations to come." Spring 1999

Presidents are asked to provide leadership for many policy agendas, but there are few more important than building the quality of teaching in our public schools. URI's role is both to graduate teachers prepared for the diverse and complex roles they will play and to help generate the body of research on teaching and learning that informs good practice."

I say to every new class of freshmen coming into the University that they will have to learn to lead, to manage, and even to inspire people who are in profound ways unlike themselves. Our long range goal here is to build the skills among our students, faculty, and staff that individuals will need to help our community, our multicultural state, and our multicultural nation succeed in our global economy. There is no issue more critical to our future."

The University of Rhode Island believes deeply in the value of celebrating differences. From its very beginning under Roger Williams, Rhode Islanders were different: independent in thought and action and tolerant of the beliefs of others. As a state, we are "a lively experiment"! Today, the University carries on that tradition with investments of time and energy toward creating a multicultural community of students, faculty and staff. We believe that quality and diversity are two sides of the same gold coin. Each year we reach out in more imaginative ways to help provide diverse populations with opportunities to be a part of our teaching, research and outreach work."

What I have learned is that all things are possible for men and women of good will and courage. That is why we have gathered here, not for small things but for great things. That is the vision with which we must leave this convention. Not with small minds but with great minds and with great hearts. Do not allow cynicism or despair to drag you down. Don't allow others without your courage of vision to drag you down. Keep your eye on the prize: a peaceful, loving, fair and just community of learners, growing in knowledge and in wisdom. Miracles are possible. They overcome reality."

The tragic events of September 11 have left many Americans both sad and angry. The very principles that make America a great nation have been attacked...In the face of those attacks, it is imperative that each of us does all we can to preserve the Constitution that embodies our liberties and the rule of law that protects them. Just as we will not tolerate attacks of terrorists on our nation, we will also not tolerate acts of violence or harassment against any persons because of where they or their ancestors came from, or because they look somehow different or because they speak with an accent. Thank you for standing up for what is right, for believing and acting as responsible members of the democracy we all seek to defend." 2001

This is a wonderful honor, but it has been an even greater honor and privilege to be part of URI, an institution which for the past 111 years has been creating opportunity for the extraordinary, ordinary people of Rhode Island," President Carothers said upon receiving the Robert F. Goodrich Distinguished Public Service Award. "At URI we say that we are building a new culture for learning, one where learning is active, not passive; collaborative, not isolated or competitive; with high expectations of all the members of our learning community. That building project, like so many others, has gone exceedingly well." 2003

Watching these folks grow into creative and confident leaders has been more than enough reward for the work. I've always felt that I learned as much from each of them as they did from me."2005

Make the URI learning experience compelling, challenging, learner-focused, diverse and inclusive In everything we will do and what we currently do - every person has to make a huge positive difference in the life of a student or many students, or a smaller positive impact on the lives of many students. It is often how we choose to use a moment of opportunity we have with a student. And so, the last thing that I'd like to say or leave you with is ... that you can make a real difference in your work with powerful and creative changes." September 2007

A university is many things, but one of them is a business. In order to make this a successful business -- albeit a nonprofit business -- you still have to have management practices and pricing strategies and so forth that allow it to be a viable entity." February 2008

Words, in Poetry

Winter Poems book cover    Winter Poems, 1992-2008

This booklet presents the poems from each of the cards President Carothers has sent to the University community every winter since 1992.