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Carolyn Rafaelian: 12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Alex and Ani Creator Carolyn Rafaelian leveraged her company's successes to support Rhode Island higher education in major ways in 2012.

You can go big or go home. Or, if you're Carolyn Rafaelian, you can go big, stay home, and do worlds of good with the great success you're generating as a business.

Rafaelian is the creator of Alex and Ani, the Postive Energy company headquartered in Cranston, Rhode Island, that has made artsy bangles and other jewelry a must-have item for customers all over the country. Growing a company in this economy, and growing it in Rhode Island, could be considered contribution enough. So could investing in local properties in Rhode Island in 2012, including purchasing Newport's Belcourt Castle and Sakonnet Vineyards. But Rafaelian's ultimate act of sharing the wealth in 2012 was two spectacular, million-dollar charitable contributions, both to local colleges.

First million: Bryant University

Two days before the end of 2011, Alex and Ani announced its intention to donate $1 million to Bryant University's International Business Program, which matches local companies in need of business consultants with seniors who are earning international business degrees at the Smithfield university.

The gift illustrates Alex and Ani’s “give as we grow” approach to philanthropy, said Alex and Ani CEO Giovanni Feroce. “With Carolyn’s support, we are coordinating major gifts to local institutions that are long-term partners in creating jobs in Rhode Island," he said. "Bryant was at the top of that list." Rafaelian’s father, Ralph, graduated from Bryant in 1955.

Second million: Rhode Island College

And then in September, lighting struck again--this time at Rhode Island College. Alex and Ani donated another $1 million--$100,000 a year over 10 years--in support of an ambitious, $17 million Art Center currently under construction (and which will now be named Alex and Ani Hall) at the Providence campus.

"It’s especially fitting that we have fostered and developed a relationship with Alex and Ani, a homegrown company that is deeply devoted to bolstering the economy, giving back to the community and promoting positive energy," said RIC President Nancy Carriuolo.

Carriuolo added that RIC is committed to building a "world-class art and jewelry making program" in coming years. "Alex and Ani's donation helps set the foundation for that to happen," she said. "We are fortunate to have business leaders like Carolyn and Giovanni, who care deeply about higher education, doing their part to to enhance the quality of life in Rhode Island."

Positive energy, indeed.


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