Whitcomb: Old Buildings Once New! Cowards in the White House Resistance; Car Drivers Should Pay More

Monday, September 10, 2018

 

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Robert Whitcomb, columnist

“…That last New York night, we sat in Astoria. Hope sparked. I took in

The darkening skyline, struggled against sleep, dared

Dream of a future again. …

Flying out of Manhattan that morning, 
I left behind something more beautiful than any scar

I’d ever unpeeled. It was as promising
A morning since our demise was first revealed.’’ 

From “Elegy for September 10,’’ by John Sarvay

 

“Outside the leaves on the trees constricted slightly; they were the deep done green of the beginning of autumn. It was a Sunday in September…. The clouds were high and the swallows would be here for another month or so before they left for the south before they returned again next summer.” 


-- Ali Smith, in The Whole Story and Other Stories

 

“Bourgeois society is boring. There is something about rational order that will always leave some people…deeply and perhaps rightly dissatisfied….Militant nationalist movements or conspiratorial radical ones provide excellent outlets for boredom. In combination, that attraction can prove irresistible.’’

 

-- Military historian Michael Howard, in The Invention of Peace

 

 

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NY's Twin Towers

Once It Was a New Building
 
GoLocal’s mock editorial last week headlined “Dateline 1924: Don’t Let Them Build That Horrible Industrial Bank Building — It Is Simply Too Tall’’ was an amusing reference to the controversy over Jason Fane’s proposed 46-story skyscraper for the Route 195 relocation area, and a useful reminder that all old buildings were once new (and all “old money’’ was once new, too) and that most buildings are eventually torn down as the economy, architecture and the broader society change.

To read the mock editorial, please hit this link: http://www.golocalprov.com/business/dateline-1924-dont-let-them-build-that-horrible-industrial-bank-building-it

As I’ve written, I used to work across the street from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan in the early and mid-‘70s. There was tremendous opposition to their stark (and to me boring) modernism. But as time went on, they became widely accepted and, by many, loved (though I never came to like them, except as the place where I cashed my paycheck) as a symbol of New York City’s dynamism. That was especially so after the city emerged from its fiscal funk of the ‘70s and became the “Bright Lights, Big City’’  of the ‘80s (as described mordantly by  Jay McInerney in the novel of that name). Sic transit gloria!

 

When Driving Was Fun

 

News of the imminent completion of Interstate Route 95 – after 61 years! – by finally filling a short New Jersey-Pennsylvania gap, brought back memories of the joy of being on the road in the early days of the Interstate Highway System. As a kid with a driver’s license minted in 1964, I drove all over the Northeast, at first using my father’s red Jeep and then a used VW bug that I bought. It was my favorite car of all time, although with the gas tank over the driver’s lap, it was a deathtrap.

 

It was all about freedom!

 

I’d happily take off in the middle of the night, when there was little traffic, to go skiing in New Hampshire or down to the Cape. For that matter, there was far less traffic during the day than there is now. That’s partly because there are many more people now, and partly because building more and wider roads draws more traffic, in a kind of Parkinson’s law (“expenditure rises to meet income’’). I was struck by how bad things had become when, a few years ago, my family and I, just off the plane at Logan Airport,  found ourselves in a massive traffic jam in downtown Boston – at 2 a.m.!

 

Back in the ‘60s, the roadside amenities, especially the Howard Johnson restaurants alongside the more important Interstates, were also delightful.

 

But because of crowding, texting and crumbling infrastructure, driving on the Interstates, especially in the crowded Northeast, now is often very unpleasant amidst the anger and aggression of so many drivers. How to make it less so: Spend more money on mass transit!

 

Boston University economist Barry Bluestone discussed this in a piece in The Boston Globe about the worsening nightmare of driving in Greater Boston. Traffic congestion isn’t as bad yet in Greater Providence – far fewer people -- but it is getting worse, in part because we have far thinner public transit than Massachusetts. Indeed, our best mass transit is Massachusetts-based: MBTA commuter trains.

 

Bluestone notes that traffic congestion in morning and afternoon/evening commutes in Greater Boston means that the average driving speed then is now just 18.4 miles an hour. “That means the typical commuter is now spending around 15 hours a week sitting in traffic — or 720 hours per year.’’ That’s time that could otherwise be spent making money, sleeping, sex and a plethora of other productive activities. Sitting trapped in traffic for hours a week is also bad for your health.

 

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Traffic

But, Bluestone writes, “if we were somehow to move just 13 percent of the daily commuters off the road onto public transit — about 195,000 — highway flow analysis suggests that the average speed during commuting hours could be doubled to more than 37 mph— still well below the highway speed limit. But even that improvement would save the typical commuter about 7.5 hours per week in commuting time or 360 hours per year.’’

 

“Yet there is an additional benefit. The typical commuter who drives 6,000 miles per year in commuting now spends around $821 a year in fuel. Doubling the average speed increases fuel efficiency so much that it cuts the fuel bill to just $552 a year — a savings of $269 a year.’’

 

“The question, of course, is how to pay for … tangible improvements in public transit. The answer lies in getting the true beneficiaries of improved public transit to pay for it. If drivers were to pay only $269 a year more in gasoline taxes, tolls, or a vehicle miles traveled fee to the MBTA, the Commonwealth would have an additional $3 billion over 10 years to make some of these improvements.’’

 

Most other major industrialized nations, including our neighbor Canada, understand the big economic and social benefits of dense public-transit in their metro areas. Check out Toronto, for example. The United States, as usual the laggard in infrastructure (though it didn’t used to be this way), will pass an ever-steeper price for not addressing this issue, which profoundly affects the way so many of us live.

 

To read Bluestone’s piece, please hit this link:

 

Bridge Tender Is a Great Job for a Big Reader
 

Patrick Skahill, of Connecticut Public Radio, has written a delightful piece about a guy who moves New Haven’s Grand Avenue Swing Bridge to let bigger boats in and out of the Quinnipiac River where it approaches Long Island Sound. The tender, Maurice Little, has a job, which he performs in a little house at the bridge, that, of course, requires occasional close attention but allows for a lot of relaxation, too. Boat operators must call him ahead to let him know they need to come through. There’s lots of waiting, especially, I imagine, from September to May, when there are relatively few pleasure boats coming through.

 

Mr. Little told the reporter that his wife says: “Oh your job is boring.’’ He responds: “No it’s not boring. I’m used to it. I enjoy my job,’’ which gives him plenty of time to read books and look at his computer. And he can enjoy the ever-changing light and weather and boat traffic. Indeed, he might get enough material for a novel or at least a lyric poem.

 

Sounds like a nice job, but maybe best for a reflective and ruminative person finishing up his/her working years after a more strenuous career.

 

To read and hear the piece, please hit this link:

 

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Later school start

Open Schools Later?

 

Rhode Island state Sen. Leonidas (sounds Shakespearean!) Raptakis has proposed having all Rhode Island public schools open after Labor Day because of late-summer heat in a state where few public schools are air-conditioned, and opening later in June, when, he says, the weather takes its time getting hot.

 

"Typically, the temperatures are much more bearable during June as opposed to late August and that is one reason why our kids should only be going back to school after Labor Day.  It is virtually impossible for our children to properly learn during these intense heat conditions," he told GoLocalProv.

 

We need a comparative analysis of temperatures in mid to late June compared to late August and early September to see if he’s right. Opening later (in my youth public schools opened a day or two after Labor Day) would also certainly be good news for high school kids with summer jobs at Rhode Island’s many summer-based businesses, mostly along the coasts.

 

Raptakis’s remarks are a reminder of the huge income-based inequities in education. While most private school classrooms and many affluent-town public schools have air conditioning in all their classrooms, few public schools do around here. It’s mighty hard to learn in a room where it’s a humid 90 degrees. As global warming continues, I hope this basic inequity will be addressed. To read about the senator’s remarks, please hit this link:

 

Beautiful Birches

 

Artists love New England’s white birches. (One of my favorite pictures is an encaustic painting (which uses a wax process) of a stand of birches by Nickerson Miles, of Barrington). Castle Freeman Jr. pays a Yankee Magazine tribute to these trees, often associated, along with maples and elms, with our region. The further north you go in New England the more you see them. The birch, Freeman writes, is “by no means a flamboyant, show-offy tree {unlike, say, the flaming sugar maples of fall} but by its unique coloration {including pale-yellow leaves in autumn} and habit of growth, it makes its pale, slender presence very welcome. It’s not for nothing that the white birch is New Hampshire’s officially designated state tree.’’ Birches are also fun to carve words on and, as Frost famously wrote, to swing on. And, Freeman notes, its medicinal qualities make it “the apothecary shop of  the  north woods.’’ I hope that global warming doesn’t kill them off.

 

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Gleaming towers are out

New Workspaces in Cities

 

One of the more interesting changes underway in cities is that much traditional corporate office space is being reused to serve a digital economy in which many employees work remotely. And consider that such companies as Virgin Pulse and GE Digital in downtown Providence may set up shop in an old building with a few dozen employees but then may leave town after a short time. Then there’s the proliferation of “shared workspaces’’ in old buildings, especially for Millennials and start-up businesses that come and go at a good clip. The commercial real estate business has to be much more flexible these days. Businesses are displaying less and less loyalty to localities.


 

The old expectation was that large companies would stay in the same buildings for many years, especially their headquarters buildings. Things are much more fluid now in the age of more intense competition in some industries, much of it global, and remote communication. That makes keeping these buildings filled much more difficult than 40 years ago.

 

What’s the best, most reliable use of old-city downtown office space in the Digital Age? Maybe somebody in Providence can organize a conference of commercial real estate developers and managers, economists and architects to discuss this question.

 

 

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Study says all alcohol is bad

Zero Booze is Best?
 

Well, for many people, yes. But the much-hyped study on drinking recently published in The Lancet, the British medical journal, shows how some scientific studies can go awry. Julia Belluz, writing in Vox, surveyed a bunch of scientists who shot big holes in The Lancet article, which basically asserted that no one should drink any alcohol. Among The Lancet’s sins, Ms. Belluz writes, “Not only did the data in the paper not support a zero drinks recommendation, but the authors were also guilty of doing what too many nutrition researchers do: They used definitive, causal language to talk about studies that are only correlational.’’

 

Consider, Ms. Belluz writes: “{B}eer and spirit drinkers were more likely to be lower-income, male and smokers and to have jobs that involved manual labor, compared with the wine drinkers. They had a higher risk of death and cardiovascular disease compared to wine drinkers, but was it those lifestyle factors – or just their choice of beer and spirits – that caused their disease risk to shoot up? Researchers try to control for these confounders but they can’t capture all of them.’’

 

And, Cecile Janssens, a research professor of epidemiology at Emory University, told Ms. Julia Belluz: “This paper shows that very heavy drinking is unhealthy but it doesn’t show that zero drinks is the safest.’’

 

So, unless you have health issues related to drinking (which of course means millions of Americans) meaning up to and including alcoholism you can probably safely order a glass or two of outrageously overpriced mediocre wine in our region’s many fine restaurants. To read the Vox piece, please hit this link:

 

 

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Finding the replacement for local news

Post-Newspaper Information

 

Local newspapers continue to shrink and disappear (the Trump administration’s recent lowering of its very high tariffs on Canadian newsprint might provide a small reprieve). This has encouraged an increase in costly local corruption as the ranks of reporters rapidly diminish as does local civic engagement; newspapers have long been important parts of the public square, acting as crucial sources of laboriously collected and edited information and as convenors for public discussions of important issues.

 

With the monopolistic Facebook and Google draining away ad revenue, things probably won’t get better for news on paper, unless the Feds start enforcing antitrust laws for a change.

 

Otis White,  the president of Civic Strategies Inc., writing in Governing.com, reports on a very well run community – Decatur, Ga., an Atlanta suburb – where local leaders are trying to fill the civics-knowledge gap, albeit imperfectly. The City of Decatur mails out a monthly newsletter called Decatur Focus updating stuff going on in city government. It’s well done but in effect promotes the interests and status of city officials, elected and otherwise. Decatur also has a program called Decatur 101, which seeks to develop informed and involved citizens. And there’s its Citizens Police Academy,  which focuses on how the police department enforces laws.

 

All very nice, but all communities need independent, private-sector news gatherers. Their demise is jeopardizing local democracy. To read Mr. White’s piece, please hit this link:

 

A  Perverted and Paranoid Presidency

 

“The biggest open secret in Washington is that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. His staff knows it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows it. House Speaker Paul Ryan knows it. Everyone who works for the president, including his attorneys, knows it. But they all want something, whether it’s upper-income tax cuts, starving the social safety net, or solidifying a right-wing federal judiciary.’’ 

-- Adam Serwer, in The Atlantic

 

The most interesting thing to me about Bob Woodward’s book, Fear: Trump in the White House, about the Trump presidency is that so many people seem to be surprised to learn that Trump is indeed as depraved a person as the book shows him to be. In fact, Trump has always been awful. A cursory look at his career shows it.

 

 

 

He’s been a public figure for about 40 years, and during that time this spawn of his ruthless father, Fred, and the reptilian New York fixer/lawyer (and sidekick of Joe McCarthy) Roy Cohn has consistently shown himself to be a nonstop and endlessly avaricious liar who eventually cheats everyone around him. One fairly recent change, however, is that Trump’s vocabulary is shrinking and his incoherence expanding, seasoned by an astonishing ignorance about the subjects that a president is supposed to know about. Of course, this could in part be just good old-fashioned dementia. (And maybe in post-literate, celebrity-worshipping America his base doesn’t care – so far.)

 

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New York Times

I have little respect for whichever high Trump administration official wrote the anonymous New York Times piece describing the amorality, instability and incompetence of Donald Trump and the efforts by some around him to limit the damage that this creature is doing. Recalling the craven Republican congressional leadership, the writer and his associates are enabling the sociopath by not resigning and speaking out, including with press conferences, to detail what our mobster-in-chief is doing.

 

The “Internal Resistance’’ in the White House is a cabal of cowards.

 

If there really are, besides Defense Secretary James Mattis, fully public-spirited people  (as opposed to grifters,  careerists, policy idiots  and business-special-interest promoters) around Trump – but they’re unwilling to resign on principle --  they should start acting to help remove this threat to national security by putting into motion the 25th Amendment, which provides for the ouster of presidents clearly found to be unwilling or unable  to do the job. But it might take the end of the long economic expansion that began under Obama to undermine the fearsome Trump base enough to get the “internal resisters”  around Trump to start thinking more about the national welfare and less about their job prospects.

 

As for the speculation that Vice President Pence might be the anonymous author of The Times’s piece, given the unctuous Pence’s comical servility to the president that’s hard to believe!

 

The “Internal Resistance’’ to Trump seems mostly an attempt to shield the future reputation of the national Republican Party and its leaders as Trump’s behavior gets even worse and heads toward a kind of apocalypse.  In any case, history will treat Trump’s enablers harshly. Hard to believe America’s civic and political culture has decayed so much.

 

As for the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, forget about this affable, long-time GOP operative’s views on affirmative action and abortion. He’s getting the job because, like his retired and rich Washington lobbyist father, he’ll back the interests of big business and the very rich just about 100 percent. The Koch Brothers have even more to be happy about. The social issues of abortion, etc., are there to stir up the suckers at the likes of Trump rallies. A nice distraction.

 

And the raucous demonstrators at the back of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room didn’t do their cause any good, however, rigged the hearing was.

 

Wishful Thinking and Rising Seas

 

With Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island, Earl Swift has written a charming if melancholic book about Tangier Island, in the Chesapeake Bay, whose main industry is catching blue crabs (aka soft-shell crabs – delicious!). The island – four feet above sea level -- is being reclaimed by sea-level rise associated with global warming but many residents, in their wishful thinking, refuse to accept that, arguing that it’s simply a matter of erosion that perhaps can be addressed with help from the Feds and other authorities.

 

In any case, the island will probably have to be abandoned within the next few decades.

 

Contrast that with the far more realistic attitude of another low-lying coastal place – Newport’s Point Section, where residents are elevating houses and taking other steps to deal with the ocean’s rise. Of course, folks in The Point generally have a lot more money than Tangier people. Hedge funders, et al., generally earn a lot more than crabbers.

 

Related Slideshow: The 50 Greatest Living Rhode Islanders

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#50

Professor J. Michael Kosterlitz

Nobel Prize Winner

In October 2016, Brown University Professor J. Michael Kosterlitz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. He has been at Brown since 1982.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that it awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 to three U.S. scientists, including Kosterlitz ”for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter."

"They revealed the secrets of exotic matter," wrote the Academy in their October 4 release.  "This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics."

The Academy wrote:

The three Laureates’ use of topological concepts in physics was decisive for their discoveries. Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties that only change step-wise. Using topology as a tool, they were able to astound the experts. In the early 1970s, Michael Kosterlitz and David Thouless overturned the then current theory that superconductivity or suprafluidity could not occur in thin layers. They demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures.

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#49

Barnaby Evans

Artist

Barnaby Evans is the creator of WaterFire, cited as one of America’s most important pieces of public art. Friedrich St. Florian called WaterFire the “crown jewel of the Providence renaissance.”

He has won numerous regional, national and global awards for his creation of WaterFire. The art and event has helped to transform Providence.

As his bio states, he "is also known for his photography which is included in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Bibliotheque National, Paris; the Musee’ d’art et d’histoire, Fribourg, Switzerland; the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; and the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design among others."

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#48

Howard Ben Tré

Sculptor

Ben Tré is a world leader in innovating cast glass as a sculptural medium, and his work has been exhibited at more than 100 museum and public collections worldwide -- and his studio is located in Pawtucket, RI. 

His works have been at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Art, Houston; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice.

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#47

Bill Reynolds

Sportswriter

Reynolds' books use sports as the framework, but are deeper examinations of poverty, race, and addiction.

His book "Fall River Dreams" defined him a leading American writer who uniquely captures the intersection of sports and culture. 

“Bill Reynolds is one of the best writers around, and this book is the Friday Night Lights of high school basketball,” said Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe.

"Success is a Choice," which he co-wrote with Rick Pitino, is a business "how to" book that was a New York Times best-seller.

Reynolds has written 11 books and is a sports reporter for the Providence Journal.


 

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#46

John McCauley (Deer Tick)

Singer-Songwriter

McCauley has been a leading voice in the alternative, indie rock sphere for more than a decade. His work is a mix of rock with folk, blues, and country influences.

Along with his band, McCauley won Rock Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards (beating out Aerosmith) in 2013. He is married to fellow musician Vanessa Carlton -- Stevie Nicks officiated their wedding.

With Deer Tick he has produced five albums. 

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#45

Ira Magaziner

Business Consultant

He created one of the most innovative university curriculums in America while he was an undergraduate at Brown, and went on to a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford.

Magaziner founded a leading business consulting firm - Telesis -- and then sold it to Towers Perrin. He served as the policy point person in President Bill Clinton’s Health Reform initiative that was led by Hillary Clinton. The effort failed and Magaziner was sued and fined — it ultimately was overturned

Today, he serves as the vice chairman and chief executive officer of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). His son Seth is RI’s General Treasurer.

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#44

Angus Davis

Entrepreneur

Few business innovators in America have had the success of native Rhode Islander Davis. 

He co-founded Tellme, raised more than $200M in capital, and helped to lead the company to more than $100 million in sales and 300 employees. Tellme was acquired by Microsoft for nearly $1 billion.

Now, he is trying to do it again with Upserve, formerly Swipely. The company is "the smart management assistant serving up clear guidance that makes your restaurant thrive" - a tech firm that creates an information infrastructure for restaurants. He has raised upwards of $50 million for Upserve. Davis is a leading American business thinker -- all before the age of 40.

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#43

Terry "Mother" Moy

Navy SEAL

If the Navy SEALs are the best trained and most respected in the United State Armed Forces, Moy is the "Mother" of the SEALs.

The Newport native is the embodiment of military lore. He was a famous SEAL instructor and one of his most infamous trainees was Jesse "The Body" Venture - Seal, professional Wrestler and Governor of Minnesota. 

While most SEAL activity is undisclosed, his effort to recover Apollo 17 was globally broadcast.

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#42

Phil West

Government Reformer

Once dubbed the Godfather of Ethics Reform, West has been the driving force in reforming governmental ethics for three decades in Rhode Island. 

His successes include a then-record fine against Governor Ed DiPrete, Separation of Powers, downsizing and modernizing the legislature, and the requirement of electronic filing of bills and making hearings accessible to the public.

He was the head of Common Cause RI for eighteen years and retired in 2006, but still remains a guiding force in reform. Two years ago, the master lever was eliminated and this year major ethics reform is moving through the General Assembly — all under the watchful eye of West.

West has taken on the most powerful forces — sometimes alone — and made Rhode Island a better place as a result.

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#41

Richard Jenkins

Actor

Jenkins is the consummate American actor. His work ranges from everything from “The Witches of Eastwick” to “Hannah and Her Sisters” to HBO's "Six Feet Under" to his award winning role in “Olive Kitteridge”

His formative acting years took place at Trinity Repertory Company (now Trinity Rep). Jenkins then returned later in his career to help save the financially struggling theater.

He has starred and appeared in more than 80 movies and television series or movies. In 2014, Jenkins and his wife Sharon received the Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence.

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#40

Alan Hassenfeld

Business 

The former CEO and Chairman of Hasbro was a driving force in transforming the company from a toy manufacturer to an entertainment company.

Michael Jackson and slews of others came to Rhode Island to tour the company and negotiate licensing deals.

In the early 1990's he became a force in initiating ethics reform in Rhode Island. More recently, he endowed the creation of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University.

The Rhode Island-based Hassenfeld Foundation gave out roughly $4.7 million in donations in the most recently reported year. 

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#39

M. Therese Antone, RSM, Ed.D

Educator

Sister Antone was born in Central Falls, and educated at Salve Regina University, Villanova University, Harvard University and MIT Sloan School of Management.

Correspondingly, she has taught almost every level of education, rising to President of Salve Regina. There, she transformed the school, and Salve Regina’s national rankings and student profile vastly improved under her leadership.

During her tenure, the University's endowment grew from $1 million to more than $50 million and the University invested $76 million on renovations and expansions and has received numerous awards for restoring the historic mansions, cottages, and gatehouses on its campus. She transformed the University and correspondingly has won countless awards for her service.

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#38

Umberto Crenca

Artist and Entrepreneur

Artist, visionary and business leader, Crenca took a crazy idea of developing a sustainable art cluster in Downtown Providence and made it the most unimaginable success, and has become a national model. 

AS220 was founded in 1985 to "provide a local, unjuried, and uncensored home for the arts," and has grown to own and operate multiple facilities, currently providing fifty eight artist live and/or work spaces, four exhibition spaces, a print shop, a media lab including a black and white darkroom, a fabrication lab, a stage, a recording studio, a black box theater, a dance studio, and a bar and restaurant.

In 2016, Crenca was awarded Honorary Degrees from two different Rhode Island Universities.

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#37

Carolyn Rafaelian

Businesswoman

In July, Forbes announced its “America's Richest Self-Made Women” list for 2018 and Rhode Island’s Carolyn Rafaelian came in at #21 on the list.

The list includes Oprah Winfrey at #6, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook at #12, Sara Blakely of Spanx tied with Rafaelian at #21, and Kylie Jenner at #27.

“Despite this crazy state, it’s possible for a Rhode Island woman to reach this self-made list. For that I am proud,” said Rafaelian, Founder and CEO of Alex and Ani in an interview with GoLocal.

“I am thrilled with my new team in place and we will continue to attract all the right people and continue to streamline the business and its efficiency. After all, we are the jewelry capital of the world!” she said.

In June, Alex and Ani hit a milestone that few companies could ever dream of achieving — it has surpassed the donation of $50 million to more than 50 non-profit partners through its Charity by Design program.

The program was created in 2011 to “spread the Alex and Ani ideal of sharing positive energy worldwide, igniting passion for the wellbeing of our planet, our communities, and our individual paths. Since 2011, Alex and Ani has donated $52.6M to organizations large and small,” she said.

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#36

Louise Durfee

Environmentalist and Attorney

When one talks about trail blazers in Rhode Island, Louise Durfee’s image should be the first thing that comes to mind. She was the first female partner at a major Providence law firm at a time when most law firms did not employ women attorneys. She was one of a small group of Tiverton residents who joined together in the early 1970's to oppose a proposal to build a major oil refinery. 

The fight was so profound that it was featured in 1971 in Life Magazine and resulted in the founding of an organization that ultimately became Save the Bay. Again, Durfee the trail blazer.

In the 1980’s she helped to clean up the aftermath at Rhode Housing after widespread corruption was found. In 1991, Governor Bruce Sundlun named her Director of the Department of Environmental Management and just three years later, he fired her.

So she ran against him in the Democratic primary for Governor. 

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#35

Ron Machtley 

Politician and University President

Rhode Islanders were first introduced to Ron Machtley in 1988 when he traveled around Rhode Island with a pig named Lester “Less" Pork to point out the wasteful spending of then-Congressman Fred St. Germain.

Machtley upset the 28-year veteran and Chairman of the House Banking Committee to take the Congressional seat. In 1994, he was the odds-on-favorite to win the Governorship, but was upset in the GOP primary by Lincoln Almond, who went on to serve eight years as Governor.

After his defeat, he was the surprise choice to serve as President of then-Bryant College. At first appearances it was a strange choice, but Machtley could not have turned out to be a better selection.

Under his leadership, the college transformed to a University, with massive improvements in the University’s campus, an elevation to Division I Sports, and an overall improvement in Bryant’s academic position. 

When he assumed office Bryant had a $1.7 million operating deficit and a tiny endowment. Today, the University’s endowment is nearing $200 million. Over the past 20 years, Bryant has become one of the most improved higher education institutions in America.

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#34

U.S. Senator Jack Reed

Politician

If this list of greatest living Rhode Islanders had been developed twenty years ago, it might have been rich with elected officials - the likes of Senators Claiborne Pell and John Chafee, the retired John O. Pastore and Bruce Sundlun, but today there are few with the gravitas of achievement of those politicians. 

However, there is the now-senior Senator from Rhode Island, who has a national reputation as an expert on issues of national defense and is a constantly rumored to serve as the Secretary of Defense.

The former Army ranger worked his way up the political ladder as a State legislator and Congressman before winning the Senate seat of the retiring Pell.

In a time of great diverseness, he is a rare member that has conversations across the aisle.

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#33

Trudy Coxe

Environmentalist and Historic Preservationist

Coxe has now headed three of the most most important preservation organizations in New England. As the long-time Executive Director of Save the Bay in the 1980's and 1990's, she was a powerful force in driving the preservation of Rhode Island's open space and improvements to Narragansett Bay.

Coxe lost a close race for Congress against Jack Reed, but was later appointed head of the largest Environmental Agency in New England when then-Governor Bill Weld named her head of the Massachusetts environmental agency - the Department of Environmental Protection.

After a multi-year stint in the Commonwealth, she came back to Rhode Island to lead and transform the Preservation Society of Newport.  In that role she has helped to recpaitalize and modernize the non-profit that stewards the mansions and other assets in Newport and across Aquidneck Island.

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#32

Ken Read

Sailor

No one on this list may be more accomplished in their individual field than Ken Read is to sailing. Twice the Rolex United States Yachtsman of the Year, three times leading America’s Cup yachts, and dominant in the Volvo Ocean Races for decades.

One could argue Read may be the most accomplished sailor in the world. He was a three-time college All-American at Boston University.

Today, he sails leading privately owned yachts and has been involved with the North Sail company. 

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#31

Michael Littman

Academic

There are few computer science professors that get tapped for their celebrity for a national television commercial (see below), but Brown University’s Littman is an academic rock star.  After ten years at Rutgers he left to join the faculty at Brown 

He leads an effort called Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative (HCRI) in which Brown University aims to become a global leader in the field of creating robots that benefit, learn from, teach, support, and collaborate with people.

One of his recent journal articles he co-wrote was titled, “Learning behaviors via human-delivered discrete feedback: modeling implicit feedback strategies to speed up learning.”

His commercial was easier to understand -- it has been viewed 550,000 times. 

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#30

Johanne Killeen 

Restaurateur

For decades the nicest restaurant in Providence might have been the old Rusty Scupper, but in the 1980's, Johanne Killeen and George Germon not only transformed the restaurant scene in Providence, but also proved that small cities with brilliant chefs could compete.

Food & Wine honored Al Forno for launching 'a new era of ambitious cooking in Providence [in 1980] with their thin-crusted grilled pizzas topped with superfresh ingredients.' The editors singled out Al Forno's Margarita Pizza (with house-made pomodoro, fresh herbs, two cheeses and extra virgin olive oil) as the signature item.

John Mariani, the food writer for Esquire put the new restaurant, Al Forno, on the national map by naming it the best new restaurant in America. Other food and travel magazines followed and the recognition transformed Providence, and as a result other mid-sized cities.

Al Forno put Providence on the food map and sparked many other creative and smart chefs. George Germon passed away in October of 2015. 

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#29

Terry Murray 

Business

It has been a number of years since Terry Murray ran one of the biggest banks in America. In 2004, Fleet Bank was acquired by Bank of America. Even today, Bank of America is headed up by a former Fleet executive -- Brian Moynihan.

In the 1990’s, Fleet was a superstar financial service firm — it gobbled up bank after bank in the U.S. and in 1999 Murray and Fleet made the biggest buy - acquiring BankBoston. The new FleetBoston was a megabank. 

FleetBoston was the seventh-largest bank in the United States, as measured by assets (US$197 billion in 2003). It employed over 50,000, served more than 20 million customers globally, and revenues of $12 billion per year.

Murray grew Fleet from a small RI community bank to a global player.

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#28

Farrelly Brothers

Movie Producers

The Cumberland brothers - Peter and Bobby - are two of the most prolific comedic movie makers in Hollywood. They created a genre of politically incorrect, slapstick humor that has generated billions in box office sales.

Their movies include Kingpin, There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber --  to name a few of their 15 movies.

The Farrelly Brothers also co-wrote one of the all-time great Seinfeld episodes -- titled "The Virgin."

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#27

Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson

Judge

In 1965 Thompson came to Providence from South Carolina to attend Brown University and never went home. Today, she serves on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals - one of the highest federal courts in America.

She was elevated to the seat previously held by Judge Bruce Selya.  Before serving on the court she served on the District and Superior Courts in the Rhode Island Courts.

Today, she serves on the Brown Corporation, the Board for College Unbound and Save the Bay.

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#26

Sid Abruzzi (Johnny Morocco)

Surfer/Skater

Abruzzi is known as the "godfather of the New England surf/skate mafia."

"With a face that launched a thousand spliffs, ‘The Package’ has skated, surfed, and partied over the last 50 years with no end in sight. After reaching rockstar status with Big World in the mid ’80s, Sid’s infamous Water Bros. Surf shop brought vert skating to the beaches of Newport, RI," wrote Jim Murphy in Juice Magazine.

Before ESPN's X Games (Extreme Games) or the Gravity Games were envisioned, Abruzzi was an innovator helping to create a movement and industry that was primarily a West Coast phenomenon.  

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#25

Duke Robillard

Musician

The blues guitarist and Woonsocket native is well-known locally for co-founding Roomful of Blues, but his presence on the national stage, performing with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and recording with the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits has helped make Robillard a bona fide star in American music. 

He is a two-time Grammy nominee, won the W.C. Handy Award in 2000 and 2001 for Best Blues Guitarist, and in 2007 received a Rhode Island Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts.   But don’t take our word for it — Tom Clarke with Elmore Magazine extolled Robillard’s virtues when he reviewed “The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard” in 2015."

“A jazz man, a front porch pickin’ blues man and one-time guitarist for Dylan. A string band, jug band, ragtime, delta, Louisiana, Appalachian folk and Jimmie Rodgers-country aficionado. A backwards traveler, but forward thinker. A writer and singer with distinct style, and a studio owner and in-demand producer. Did I miss anything? Duke Robillard may wear a handsome, if nondescript, lid lounging on the cover of The Acoustic Blues,but he almost literally wears a hundred hats—all of them damn well. It’s hard to believe any one man can be as prolific as this Rhode Island Duke of the blues,” wrote Clarke. 

 

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#24

John Ghiorse

Meteorologist

Ghiorse may be Rhode Island’s most trusted and beloved television and digital news personality of all time. The Air Force Veteran and Harvard educated weatherman studied Meteorology at Penn State. He transformed weather reporting in Rhode Island and created his own branded measure — the Ghiorse Factor.

He first joined WJAR-10 in 1968, then moved to Channel 6 for nearly a decade and then back to WJAR. He retired from Channel 10 in 2009 and joined GoLocal and helped the digital media company launch its first site in 2010. He has delivered the daily Ghiorse Factor to GoLocal for the past five plus years. 

Ghiorse continues to be one of Southeastern New England’s most beloved news personalities.
 

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#23

Eugene Lee

Set Designer

If you have watched Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon or many a production of A Christmas Carol at Trinity Rep, you have seen the work of Eugene Lee. He is one of America’s most creative and accomplished set designers.

The Providence resident has won three Tonys for Wicked, Sweeney Todd, and Candide. He has won multiple Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Set Design and has won an Emmy for the design of the set for Saturday Night Live.

He is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.
 

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#22

Claire Andrade Watkins

Scholar

Rhode Island has always been one of the top destinations for Cape Verde emigres — and next month, Emerson College Professor and Brown University Fellow Andrade-Watkins, who grew up in Fox Point, will have a thirty year retrospective of her work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

The subject? “Our Rhode: 30 Years of Cinema by and About Cape Verdian Rhode Islanders.”

Andrade-Watkins, a PhD, is Professor of Africana and Postcolonial Media Studies at Emerson, and is a Fellow at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown (as well as a visiting scholar). She is the Director of the Fox Point Cape Verdean Project, President, SPIA Media Productions, Inc., and a pioneer of global, intercultural media, marketing and distribution.  Her CV of work and accomplishments is 17 pages long. 

In 2006 Dr. Andrade-Watkins released "Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican?" A Cape Verdean American Story" (SKFPR), the “popular and critically acclaimed feature documentary about the Cape Verdean community in the Fox Point section of Providence, RI, and the first in a trilogy of documentaries about this unique and important community of the Africana Diaspora,” states her Emerson bio. 

She’s won numerous awards including the 2008 Community Service Award from Fox Point Boys & Girls Club Alumni Association.
 

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#21

Freidrich St. Florian

Architect

St. Florian is one of the most accomplished and varied architects in America. At one extreme he was the architect of the critically acclaimed World War II memorial in Washington, DC and on the other he designed the Providence Place Mall.

 St.Florian has won numerous awards for his architectural achievements. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. His drawings are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. In 2006 he was an awarded an honorary degree from Brown University.
 
 

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#20

Brad Read

Sailor/Educator 

Over the past few decades, Brad Read has built Sail Newport into a leading world class sailing education organization. Their programs vary from a partnership with the MET school  that introduces urban children to sailing to running world class sailing events. 

In 2015, Read was the driving force to bringing the Volvo Ocean Race to Rhode Island and then followed it up by leading the state’s effort to successfully bring the Volvo race back in 2017.

Read is a leading sailor, educator, facilitator, organizer and leader. His impact on Newport — and Rhode Island — has been remarkable. 
 

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#19

Gordon Wood

Historian

In a scene in the movie Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon humiliates a Harvard grad student by picking apart the student’s thesis regarding Wood’s “pre-revolutionary utopia.” (see scene below)

Matt Damon aside, Wood is one of America’s most accomplished scholars on the American Revolution — he won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for his work The Radicalism of the American Revolution. In 2010 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

He is the Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. His list of academic awards over the past 50 years is unmatched - he is the leading Revolutionary era historian.


 

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#18

Barrett Hazeltine

Business Mentor

For the past 60 years Hazeltine has been one of the most important educators at Brown University. While Brown does not have a traditional B-School like Penn’s Wharton, it does have one of the top American business mentors. According to many of the top business leaders in America, Hazeltine was a guiding influence on their careers.

A 2000 article in Brown Alumni Monthly unveiled in 2000 that 10% of the freshman class at Brown University took his “Engin. 9” class — short for Engineering 9.

Entrepreneurs as diverse as “Tom and Tom” (First and Scott, who met at Brown), Founders of Nantucket Nectars to John Koudounis, the CEO of Calamos Investment to Marques Coleman at Carlyle Group all identify Hazeltine as being a driving force in their business careers.
 

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#17

John Donoghue

Brain Scientist

Donoghue is one of the leading brain science researchers and entrepreneurs in the world. At Brown, he led the enhancement and growth of the Brain Science Center and his work to develop BrainGate, a mind-to-movement system developed in Donoghue’s lab.

Donoghue has published over 80 scientific articles in leading journals including Nature and Science. His work was featured on 60 Minutes and he has served on advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and NASA.

On October 2, 2018, he got another accolade that might just change the course of humanity -- "Brown scientist wins $1.5 million innovator award for new approach to decoding brain signals."

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#16

James Woods

Actor

The Warwick native is a two-time Academy Award nominee and winner of a Golden Globe, and three-time Emmy Award winner. His acting career ranges from The Onion Field to Casino and Nixon. 

More recently his voice work has been featured on The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Stuart Little 2.

Between TV, voiceover work and movies he has played roles in more than 100 productions.

Once dubbed as a genius by Business Insider for his attendance at MIT and his reported near-perfect SAT score and IQ of 184.

Today he is a Republican activist and supported Ted Cruz for President.  He has also been the center of controversy.

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#15

Arlene Violet

Politician

Violet was one of a group of pioneering women who changed the face of politics in Rhode Island.

Claudine Schneider had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 in the 2nd Congressional District.  Susan Farmer won the Secretary of State post two years later in 1982. Violet was the first female Attorney General in the United States when she was elected by Rhode Island voters in 1984. The new decade had ushered in a new era in Rhode Island politics. All three were Republicans.

It was her work and the work of other women that set the stage for Governor Gina Raimondo to be elected Rhode Island's first woman Governor in 2014.

Violet was defeated in her re-election bid in 1986, but her political presence continued in the state.

She was a talk radio host.

She penned two books, Convictions: My Journey from the Convent to the Courtroom and Me and the Mob, a book about the witness protection program. Violet was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1996.
 

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#14

Meredith Viera

Journalist/Entertainer

A native Rhode Islander, TV-journalist Vieira is one of the leading Portuguese Americans in the United States. She attended Lincoln School and Tufts before landing her first job in Worcester in radio and on television as a reporter at WJAR-TV in Providence.

Her hard news journalism bona fides were earned while working on the CBS news magazine West 57th, then as an investigative report for 60 Minutes.

Then in the late 1990s she shifted to more entertainment focused broadcast as a co-host to The View, hosting the game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” co-hosting the Today Show and Dateline NBC. She hosted her own show, The Meredith Viera Show for two years.

More recently she has been involved with a range of event and initiatives in Rhode Island including speaking at RIC regarding her heritage — all four of her grandparents were born in the Azores. Last year, URI’s Harrington School of Communication traveled down to Viera’s show at NBC Universal.
  
 

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#13

Leon Cooper

Physicist

Brown University's Leon Cooper held the distinction as Rhode Island’s only Nobel Prize winner -- until colleague J. Michael Kosterlitz earned the honor in 2016.

Cooper won the Nobel Prize in 1972 for Physics (along with J. Bardeen and J.R. Schrieffer) for his studies on the theory of superconductivity. The winning work was completed while still in his 20s.

He has received seven honorary degrees from leading academic institutions from across the globe.

In the past few years, his work at Brown has focused on neural and cognitive sciences and has been “working towards an understanding of memory and other brain functions, and thus formulating a scientific model of how the human mind works.”
 

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#12

Ernie DiGregorio

Athlete

There are certain athletes who transcend the game and elevate it from sports to a higher level of entertainment.  Ernie D. was one of those rare athletes. He was am epic story, the 6 foot guard from North Providence who helped to take the beloved Providence College Friars to the final four. His skills and showmanship helped to transform the game from fundamentals to entertainment along with players like Connie Hawkins, Pistol Pete Maravich, Dr. J, and then Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. They all may have had better and longer careers, but none of them put on any better a show.

His NBA career was cut short due to injury but in his first year in the league he dazzled and won the NBA Rookie of the year. He was the third pick in the NBA draft.

For Rhode Islanders at the time his achievements were mythical. He teamed with fellow local boy Marvin Barnes and put little Providence College in the same sentence with powerhouse programs like UCLA.
 

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#11

Elizabeth Beisel

Athlete

Arguably the best swimmer to come out of Rhode Island, the Saunderstown native and North Kingstown high school grad first competed in the 2007 World Championships at the tender age of 14, placing 12th in the world in the 200 meter backstroke after advancing to the semi-finals. 

Beisel was the youngest member of the U.S. swim team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, finishing just out of medal contention with a fourth place in the 400-meter individual medley and fifth in the 200 meter backstroke.  Four years later in London, Beisel made it to the Olympic podium with a silver in the 400 meter individual relay and a bronze in the 200 meter backstroke. 

The SEC Female Swimmer of the Year in 2012, Beisel won two individual national titles and was an eighteen-time All-American at the University of Florida, and a first-team Academic All-American.  According to her USA Swimming bio, the college communications major had dreams as a child of being an actress, but now has professional aspirations of being a news anchor.  As someone accustomed to being in the headlines, it’s not hard to imagine we’ll be seeing more from Beisel in the future. 
 

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#10

George Wein

Promoter

The Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals would not be among the top American music festivals were it not for Wein, who celebrated his 90th birthday last year. 

Trained as a jazz pianist, Wein might be Boston-born and educated, but it was the Newport Lorillards who invited Wein down in 1954 to the City by the Sea to establish the first outdoor jazz festival in the country.  Wein went on to form Festival Productions to promote large-scale jazz events, and has been well-lauded for his efforts — both nationally, and internationally.

In 1995, Wein received the Patron of the Arts Award from the Studio Museum of Harlem, and in 2004 given an Impact Award from the AARP. He was decorated with France's Légion d'honneur and appointed a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Commander of the Order of Arts and Literature) by the French government, and has been honored at the White House twice, by Jimmy Carter in 1978 and Bill Clinton in 1993. In 2005 he was named a "Jazz Master" by the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received honorary degrees from the Berklee College of Music and Rhode Island College of Music.

GoLocal’s Ken Abrams sat down with Wein for a one-on-one last summer — read more here.

 

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#9

Jeffrey Osborne

Musician

Grammy Award-winning Osborne, born and raised in Providence, came from musical lineage. His father, Clarence “Legs” Osborne was a trumpeter who played with the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie.  And the Osborne roots are firmly planted here — in 2012, the city named a portion of Olney Street “Jeffrey Osborne Way,” to honor him. 

Osborne’s biggest hits include “On the Wings of Love” and a duet with Dionne Warwick, “Love Power.” He wrote the lyrics for Whitney Houston’s “All at Once,”  appeared in the fundraising “We Are the World” video in 1985, and has sung the national anthem at multiple World Series and NBA finals games.

While Osborne is an international legend in his own right, his star status continues to grow and impact the community here through his charity work.  He’s done golf and softball classics, comedy nights, celebrity basketball games. And he brings in the big names, from Magic Johnson to Smokey Robinson to Kareem Abdul Jabbar — the list is extensive.  Osborne is the epitome of a “greatest Rhode Islander” — one who’s gone on to make the state proud, and keeps coming back to help use his celebrity to benefit the community. 
 

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#8

Tom Ryan

Pharmacist/Business

Ryan helped to build one of America’s Fortune 500 top 10 companies, as CVS is a leading retail and healthcare force in America. 

More recently, the URI pharmacy grad has been involved with two of the biggest initiatives in Rhode Island in the past few years.

He and his wife Anne donated $15 million to fund the George and Anne Ryan Center on Neuroscience at URI. The effort is one of the key elements in bringing together major educational and health organizations in a broad-based neuroscience initiative in Rhode Island.

Ryan’s neuroscience gift coupled with his fundraising leadership and donations to build the Ryan Center have made him the single biggest individual donor to URI. 
 

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#7

Ann Hood

Writer 

Born in West Warwick and a URI grad, Hood is a best-selling novelist and short story writer; and the author of fifteen books, with her latest, The Book That Matters the Most, due out this August.

Hood has won two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, Best American Spiritual Writing and Travel Writing Awards, and a Boston Public Library Literary Light Award. Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Tin House. Hood is a regular contributor to The New York Times' Op-Ed page, and is a faculty member in the MFA in Creative Writing program at The New School in New York City.  Hood’s “An Italian Wife” was recently featured as a play at the Contemporary Theater Company in South Kingstown. 

Of Hood's The Knitting Circle, The Washington Post wrote, “A wondrously simple book about something complicated: the nearly unendurable process of enduring a great loss."  Fellow best-selling writer Jodi Picoult even asked if anyone could top Hood. “Is there anyone who can write about the connections of ordinary people better than Ann Hood?" posed Picoult. 

While her reach is worldwide, Hood lives in Providence and is a fixture in the Rhode Island community.
 

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#6

Bob Ballard

Oceanographer

Ballard found the Titanic.  And yes, he was a URI undergrad and now serves multiple leading roles at URI as a Professor of Oceanography; Director, Center for Ocean Exploration; and head of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography.

Today, the Archeological Oceanography, which he started in 2003 is a unique institute “combines the disciplines of oceanography, ocean engineering, maritime history, anthropology and archeology into one academic program.” The institute involves a broad cross section of URI faculty and includes faculty from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Florida State University, MIT and Woods Hole.

He is the rockstar face of oceanography in the world.
 

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#5

Jonathan Nelson

Investor

Nelson is one of America’s leading investors. In an era of Wall Street mega firms, Rhode Islander Nelson has built in Downtown Providence a $40 billion private equity fund Providence Equity Group. 

Once the golden boys of private equity and lauded for putting together “the biggest deal in the world,” he and the firm have had a series of set backs.

The highest profile bump was the firm’s loss of nearly $800 million in the firm, Altegrity, that was contracted to review federal contractors like Edward Snowden.

As GoLocal previously reported, the domino effect of Snowden’s absconding with federal data bases exposed the deficiencies of Altegrity’s vetting process.

He has become more active as a philanthropist and is listed by Forbes richest in Rhode Island.
 

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#4

Dennis Littky

Educator

Littky is a rebel, a disruptor, an innovator, a trouble maker, and an educator.  They made a movie about him, Newsweek has featured his schools, President Obama talks about his schools and Bill and Melinda Gates gave him millions to grow, refine and scale is model of disruption.

In 2009, Littky defied all and created an alternative college and by 2015 the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education approved College Unbound as a degree-granting postsecondary option in the state.

In Rhode Island, The Met School celebrated its 20th Anniversary this past week. Thousands of students who would not have finished high school have graduated and moved on to college, business and beyond.

There may be no more accomplished innovator than Littky.
 

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#3

Bill and David Belisle

Coaches

Bill and David Belisle may be the best high school and youth coaches in history. Going by the statistics, the record of twenty-six consecutive state hockey championship (1978 to 2003) and a total of 32 may be a record never to be matched. Bill Belisle (the father) has coached at Mount for 42 years and his son David has been his assistant for years.

The younger Belisle made national headlines with his post-game speech to the Little League team he was coaching was defeated in the Little League World Series.

Twice their players have been selected #1 in the NHL Draft, countless others played in the NHL, and dozens played college hockey. There are movies and books on the exploits of Mount Hockey under the Belisles. 

Photo courtesy of Dave Belisle

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#2

Nick Benson

Artist 

There are few people in the world that are recognized as the very best in their craft, but Nick Benson of the John Stevens Shop in Newport is globally recognized as the best stone cutter in the world. 

Founded in 1705, The John Stevens Shop specializes in the design and execution of one-of-a-kind inscriptions in stone — the MLK Memorial, FDR’s Four Freedoms Park, and the inscription for the John F. Kennedy Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, to name a few. 

Benson won a Genius Fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation, and was recently featured on CBS news. The John Stevens Shop is one of America’s longest continuously running businesses.
 

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#1

Viola Davis

Actor

Davis is one of the most accomplished actors in the United States. She is the winner of two Tony awards, an Emmy and a SAG award as well as being nominated for an Oscar.  With regards to her Emmy, she became the first African-American to win the Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015. Amazingly, she did not earn her SAG card until she was 30 years old.

Davis self-describes that she grew up in abject poverty in Central Falls and worked her way to Rhode Island College and now beyond but has been a constant force in helping Central Falls to recover from its bankruptcy and rebuilding its spirit.

She is a leading fundraiser for a range of Rhode Island causes.  Davis is the embodiment of the Rhode Island spirit and a model of how to overcome the greatest challenges to reach greatness.
 

 
 

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