slides: College Guide 2013: Tips from Famous Alumni

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


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GoLocal caught up with some famous Rhode Island alums , each of whom attended school right here in the Ocean State. Read on for their take on their time in Rhode Island and their favorite spots, memories, and advice.


Related Slideshow: College Guide 2013: Tips from Famous Alumni

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Josh Owen

RISD M.F.A. ‘97

Josh Owen now serves as chair of the Industrial Design Department and an associate professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He’s also president of his studio, Josh Owen LLC, whose clients include Areaware, Casamania, Umbra, and others.

Favorite RI Spots

“Steeplestreet was a regular evening hang-out and a great place to grab a drink at the end of the day—I was sad to hear that it closed a few years back.”

Other favorites: Lupo’s and the Federal Hill area

Now: The new addition to the RISD museum and the conjoined shop selling alumni work. (Look for Owen’s projects in the shop and museum—his SOS Stool for Casamania is in the permanent collection!)

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Christopher Denise

RISD ‘90

Best known as the illustrator of beloved children’s book series Redwall by Brian Jacques, Christopher Denise also taught in RISD’s illustration department. He currently works out of his studio in Barrington, having illustrated a great many books over the years. His most recently published have been Bella and Stella Come Home by his wife Anika Denise, and Following Grandfather by Rosemary Wells. Check out his newest book here ( ).

Favorite RI Spots

Then: J.G. Goffs, The Met, the Custom House Tavern, Gallery Agniel

Now: Persimmon—“Best restaurant in RI.” The Wild Colonial for “pints and darts!” The Fez, Aspara, Broadway Bistro, and Fellini Pizzeria.

The Avon and Frog and Toad are featured in artwork in Denise’s upcoming book, Sleepytime Me by Edith Fine.

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Tony Horwitz

Brown ‘80

A history major at Brown, Tony Horwitz “got lost in the present for a few decades,” working as a union organizer and a newspaper reporter before switching to full-time book authorship, mostly writing about the past—“back to being the history nerd I was as an undergrad.” Currently resides in the present again, though, reporting in Alberta on the oil sands industry and the Keystone XL pipeline—“Frankly, I’d rather be in Providence, eating a spinach pie at Louie’s.”

Favorite RI Spots

Then: “Forget Newport or the beaches, I liked the old mills in Great Falls and Pawtucket, the faded workingmen’s pubs in downtown Providence, the Portuguese bar and bakery near my apartment in Fox Point… I also ate too many spinach pies at Louie’s, danced at Lupo’s under the highway, and went for 2 a.m. breakfast at the Silver Top diner.”

Now: Loves to walk along the small streets between Benefit and Brook on the east side of Providence, calling the old houses there “the best collection of domestic architecture in America.” He catches Wickenden Street and the Fox Point area before returning to Brown’s campus, usually stopping in at Louie’s—“The food isn’t any better than it was 35 years ago, but it’s still cheap, and the atmosphere remains much as I remember it. Basically, I’m in a nostalgic rut.”

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John J. Cronan, MD

Providence College ‘72

Having graduated magna cum laude from PC with a BA in biology, Dr. Cronan currently serves as Chairman of Alpert Medical School’s Diagnostic Imaging Department at Brown, the Chief of Radiology at Rhode Island Hospital, and Radiologist-in-Chief at Lifespan. His research in abdominal and ultrasound imaging has been published in many books and medical journals.

Favorite RI Spots

Then: Haven Brothers, Caserta Pizzeria, and Asquino’s Restaurant in East Providence (which is no longer around)

Now: Camille’s, Café Nuovo, Parkside, and Capriccio

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Jimmy Baron

URI ‘08

After graduating from URI with a reputation (and several records) for three-pointers, Baron played basketball for Mersin in Turkey, San Sebastián Gipuzkoa in Spain, PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban in Russia, and Virtus Roma in Italy.

Favorite RI Spots

Pepin Gymnasium at Bishop Hendricken High School, Newport Country Club, and The Ryan Center

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Douglas Fisher

Bryant University ‘69

Now the New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture, Douglas H. Fisher graduated as Bryant’s senior class president with a B.S. in Business Administration.

Favorite RI Spots

Haven Brothers—“Parked downtown each night after everything was closed. By morning it was gone. Their big specialty was hot dogs.” There were other local favorites, but “after forty plus years, the names escape me.”

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Sean Altman

Brown ‘83

A founding member of the band Rockapella (of Carmen Sandiego theme song fame, born of a connection with the now-defunct Brown a capella group High Jinx), Sean Altman now makes and produces records while writing songs for television and for other artists. “I was a political science major, but all I really did at Brown was sing.”

Favorite RI Spots

“Spats was always too fancy. We would go to the more divey places.”

Haven Brothers: “The silver truck—there was this late-night sandwich truck that would come around near Wayland Arch.”

Louie’s: “My picture is still hanging up in Louie’s.” He still stops in when he’s back at Brown.

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Reif Larsen


Reif Larsen, acclaimed author of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, has written several novels and essays as well as taught at Columbia University. His latest novel, I Am Radar, will be published in 2015 and the film adaptation of The Selected Works (directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet) has already been released in France.

Favorite RI Spots

“We were there pre-Mill, pre-Mall. We had to get a little creative.”

For brunch: Julian’s on Broadway

For drinks: Family Pub (now Captain Seaweed’s)

Other spots: Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel—“Washington Street was kind of spooky back then.”

Horseneck Beach—“Afterwards we would go to Marguerite’s in Westport and get New England clam chowder. The best bowl of chowder you’ll have.”

For weirdness: Ocean State Job Lot—“Their inventory was just so wacky. Like thousands of those Idiots Guide to… series. Or sample razors. Or pigs’ feet in a jar. All for so cheap. Freaky cheap… But that place was beautiful. A real temple of capitalism’s excess.”

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Clare Burson

Brown ‘98

Since graduating from Brown with a degree in modern European history, Clare Burson has released three full-length records. She’s currently taking some time to be with her two-year-old daughter Lionel, while starting a project involving off-beat family heirlooms and working part time at the Lower East Side tenement museum.Check out her new project here (

Favorite RI Spots

Food-wise: “My favorite pizza in the whole world is made by Sicilia’s Pizza on Federal Hill… I prefer the pepperoni, but I had the spinach on my last trip and was quite pleased.”

Otherwise: “There was a beautiful tree somewhere not far from campus… It had purplish black leaves and roots that rose out of the ground like branches. This was a destination for me in late afternoons when I was looking for a bit of calm away from campus.

Lupo’s-wise: “Coming to Providence from Nashville, TN, I was happy to have a venue in town that hosted shows I wanted to see.”

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Carl Takei

Brown ‘02

Carl Takei concentrated in Geology as a Brown undergrad, and after law school at Boston College, worked his way up the ranks a clerk for a federal judge in NH and a two-year, ACLU fellowship in Washington, DC, before landing his current position as a Staff Attorney for the ACLU National Prison Project, where he “litigates on behalf of the rights of prisoners, and advocate against overincarceration and private prisons”.

Favorite RI Spots

Then : Portuguese bakery at Fox Point, wandering into the Biltmore and imagining it in its heyday, and taking detours walking up to Federal Hill. Being able to wear whatever, whenever. Trinity Brewhouse. Spike’s for the Great Contradiction, a veggie hot dog with bacon.

Now : Trinity Brewhouse

Best Memories

“The never-ending nights that started with partying, transitioned to late-night bull sessions talking philosophy and politics, and ended with a sunrise trip to Louis.”

“Pulling the last all-nighter of my senior year along with my friend Avery.”

Advice: Takei encourages students at Brown now to find a good study abroad program and “explore the parts of Providence that you might miss if you’re just passing by”.

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Eileen Pappas

Brown ‘05

Eileen Pappas majored in Architectural Studies and pre-med before attending medical school in Budapest. After two years she found her calling was fashion and attended NYC’s Parson’s New School for Design. Her senior thesis project, “Women In Styles of Undress”, was featured in as a finalist in the Parson’s and Kering’s “Empowering Imagination” competition. Eileen has done work for St. John Knits, the Donna Karan Collection, Stoll FTNY, Billy Reid, and Simon Miller, and in 2012 won the CFDA Geoffrey Beene Design Scholarship Award while at Parson’s. Post-graduation, Eileen apprenticed at 10 Crosby Derek Lam until taking on her current role as “Assistant Designer for Cut & Sew Knits and Sweaters at 1. State, a division at the contemporary brand Chaus”.

Favorite Spots

Then : RISD museum, Waterfire, Tealuxe, Meeting Street Café, the Avon Theater, running along Blackstone Blvd, and any of the restaurants on Wickenden St. “I still make sure to grab sushi at Tokyo whenever I'm in town.”

Now : “The Brown campus of course!”

Best memories at Brown

“My best memories at Brown are experiences and activities I shared with my fellow brothers and pledges of Zeta Delta Xi. A semester-long pledge process is filled with its ups and downs, but it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“Ballroom dancing! I was on the Brown Ballroom Dance Team for only a short while, but to this day it remains one of the best things I ever got to do.”

Prof. Dietrich Neumann’s architecture history lectures. “After taking one class with him, I decided to major in Architectural Studies.”

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Theophilus Martins

URI ‘09 Theophilus Martinsis a DJ, actor, and hip-hop/rap artist. After graduating from URI with a B.A in Communication Studies and a Minor in Music Composition, he released his debut mixtape, The Birth, followed by his EP, You Can’t Do That on Television in 2010, and his most recent debut album, Wonderland in 2012. He has received much acclaim for his work, called AOL’s, “Need To Know” artist, and Prefix Magazine’s, “Artist To Watch. In his career Martins has DJed for Chris Brown, acted in Steven Spielberg's Amistad, toured with Warren G, and performed all across the United States, and even Asia.


“I will always encourage students to take advantage of the opportunities around you. Internships, connecting with other students from different social groups, studying abroad as well as the accessibility to those delicious Belgian waffles from Butterfield.”

  • Join a student organization. I had the opportunity to be apart of some amazing ones (NSBE, Student Senate, UHURU SASA and BOND)
  • Take an intramural sport. it's a great to meet new folks and enjoy a sport without it being a heavy burden.
  • Avoid the "scrambled" eggs from Hope Commons or Butterfield.

Best Memories : “I was able to nurture my gifts and connect with others who shared the same passions as I did while building a presence on campus. From DJing big campus celebrations or interning for Atlantic Records, all of these opportunities were possible because of the foundation URI gave me.”


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