Whitcomb: A Tear in Fall River’s Fabric; Wind Money; Affirmative Action for Rich Kids

Monday, October 22, 2018

 

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Robert Whitcomb, Columnist

“May something go always unharvested!

May much stay out of our stated plan,

Apples or something forgotten and left,

So smelling their sweetness would be no theft.’’

-- From “Unharvested,’’ by Robert Frost

 

“Nobody minds having what is too good for them.’’

-- Jane Austen

 

“I don’t know where their personal philosophy ends and their business goals begin. They’re not the Koch Brothers, but they reflect a deep-seated conservatism and generations of libertarian philosophy that also happen to help their business.’’

-- Andrew Schwartzman, who lectures on telecommunications law at Georgetown Law School, on Sinclair Broadcast Group, which orders its many TV stations, including Providence’s Channel 10, to broadcast pro-Trump propaganda. He was quoted in an Oct. 22 New Yorker magazine article headlined “Breaking the News’’.

 

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Fall River Mayor Correia

The planned Nov. 25 closing of spectacular St. Anne’s Church, dedicated in 1906  and probably Fall River’s best known building (besides its much-disliked Brutalist city hall, which hangs over Route 195), is a reminder of the decline of churches and other institutions that were in varying degrees ethnically as well as well religiously based. These congregations, in their heydays, did much more than carry out their official religious missions. They also became social-welfare institutions, providing not only spiritual and psychological sustenance but also food and even shelter in tough times.
 

St. Anne’s was a French-Canadian parish, serving the many thousands of Quebecois who moved to Fall River and other New England textile- and shoe-making towns starting in the 19th Century – a migration that hit its peak in the World War I  boom years. French-Canadian architect Napoléon Bourassa designed the church, with its dramatic bell towers.

Now many of the devout have died and many parishioners have long since dispersed to the suburbs or elsewhere.  The priest-abuse scandals and the long decline in affiliation with organized religion in the Northeast also help explain the woes of St. Anne’s.
 

The church has serious physical problems, and would require millions of dollars in repairs, which apparently can’t be raised; the parish is no longer populous and committed enough to fund the work.  Bishop Edgar da Cunha, who runs the Diocese of Fall River, announced that parishioners are invited to join a new “Catholic Community of Central Fall River,’’ which sounds pretty vague and diffuse.

 

It’s been another bad stretch for the Spindle City.  Its mayor, Jasiel F. Correia II, 26, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and tax charges. This hard-charging and glitzy materialist was elected when he was 23. That means that he was far too inexperienced to run a town or city, let alone one as big as Fall River, which has a population of about 87,000. They should raise the minimum age for mayors to 30.

 

Over four years, beginning in 2013, U.S. Atty. Andrew E. Lelling said, Correia persuaded seven people to invest $363,690 in a startup called SnoOwl, yet another phone app.

 

The Feds allege that the mayor, who proclaims his innocence, illegally diverted more than $230,000 of that money. He is said to have spent the money on his mayoral campaign, travel, adult entertainment, designer clothes, jewelry, credit-card and student-loan payments, casinos and a 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300 all-wheel-drive sport sedan. This makes it sound as if he had serious lifestyle ambitions of the sort modeled by the Emperor of the Oval Office.

 

Fall River and New Bedford are often lumped together. After all, they ’re both old textile-mill towns a mere 14 miles apart. But at least in the past few decades, New Bedford, with about 95,000 people,  has generally had much abler and more visionary mayors than Fall River,  most notably the current chief executive, John Mitchell, and former Mayor John Bullard.

 

The Whaling City has rebuilt its downtown around a cobblestoned National Historical Park and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. Meanwhile, its big scallop fleet has prospered, bulk shipping has increased, and it has become a center for the wind-power industry. Of course, New Bedford was always much more of a port than Fall River. And a good number of urban pioneers (aka gentrifiers) have moved to New Bedford in the past few years, many drawn to its beautiful old houses, loft spaces and “romantic’’ (if gritty) waterfront.

 

While Fall River has lured an Amazon fulfillment center, a new Justice Center and SouthCoast Marketplace, it is way behind New Bedford as a happening place. That seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

 

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Deepwater Wind

Money in the Wind

The Danish energy company Orsted’s purchase of Providence-based Deepwater Wind from D.E. Shaw & Co., an investment company, for $510 million certainly testifies to the growing value of wind power, especially in the reliably wind-rich area off southern New England. Congratulations to the Deepwater Wind folks for their visionary and complicated risk-taking -- economically, technologically, politically and regulatorily.

 

I noted that the companies said that, Deepwater, now a subsidiary, would be based in Providence and in Boston; the latter city is where Orsted’s North American operations are based. But I predict that soon the Providence office will be closed and everything will be run from Boston (and Denmark). As a PR move in acquisitions, companies often assert that much important stuff will remain in the hometown of the acquired entity. But the savings and efficiencies from consolidation almost always trump such sweet ideas sooner rather than later.

 

If anything, Newport, not Providence, might be the best town for a second headquarters: It’s closer to planned big wind farms south of New England. And Aquidneck Island, like Greater Providence, has lots of engineers.

 

By the way, wind turbines, though far, far better than burning fossil fuel, can raise air temperatures in wind-farm areas by half a degree or more by interrupting wind flows, say recent studies. All energy production has downsides. Consider, for example, that solar arrays require a lot of space, which leads to clearing woodlands in some places. Abandoned big-box store parking lots and landfills are among the best sites, besides rooftops, of course.

 

Affirmative Action Indeed
 

“Americans are the only people in the world known to me whose status anxiety prompts them to advertise their college and university affiliations on the rear window of their automobiles.’’

 

-- The late Paul Fussell

 

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Harvard University

The federal government is suing Harvard as part of the Trump administration’s drive against affirmative action in college admissions (and elsewhere). Its angle is to assert that Asian-Americans, many of whom have very strong high-school records, should be admitted in higher percentages. What is left unspoken is that the Trump plan is also meant to help white applicants, who, at least in part because they tend to come from more privileged backgrounds than African-Americans and Hispanics, also tend to have better high-school records.

 

I think that the Feds should bug out of the college-admissions controversy. All elite colleges, including all eight Ivy League schools, use a wide variety of criteria to try to make sure that their undergraduate student bodies have at least a vague resemblance to the population of the nation that these schools have served very well. Indeed, the schools are jewels of American culture, having helped to produce much cultural, technological and financial wealth. Consider the scientific breakthroughs in the institutions’ labs.
 

Anyway, despite the schools’ efforts at affirmative action,  students from affluent backgrounds (overwhelmingly white) dominate these schools because of the economic, educational and social advantages (including better public and private schools) they’ve grown up with.  Students must be careful to pick the right parents! If the administration wins, the colleges will be even more skewed to the rich. Such skewing is what helped Jared Kushner get into Harvard despite a mediocre high-school record. Daddy wrote a check to America’s oldest college for $2.5 million. And Donald Trump’s transfer to the University of Pennsylvania from Fordham was lubricated by his father’s wealth.

 

As this Bloomberg story reported:

“A Harvard dean was thrilled. The undergraduate college had just admitted the offspring of some wealthy donors, and now the money was expected to pour into the university.

"’I am simply thrilled about all the folks you were able to admit,’ David Ellwood, then the dean of {Harvard’s} John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote to {Harvard College} Dean William Fitzsimmons on June 11, 2014. ‘All big wins. [Name redacted] has already committed to building and building. [Name redacted] and [name redacted] committed major money for fellowships -- before the decisions (from you) and are all likely to be prominent in the future. Most importantly, I think these will be superb additions to the class."

There will always be affirmative action for the rich, even at Harvard, with a $39 billion endowment.

 

Oh, well: Not all the big donors’ gifts go to putting up grandiose buildings with their names plastered on them and endowed professors’ chairs, also with donors’ names plastered on them. Some goes to fellowships and scholarships.

To read more, please hit this link:

 

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Bird Scooter - father and daughter and no helmets

Maybe S.F. Will be a Model for Scooter, Bike Regulation

 

As electric bikes and scooters become more common in Providence and other cities, municipal officials should follow what’s happening in San Francisco, where the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency has designated two scooter companies – Skip and Scoot -- to start a pilot regulated scooter system in the very hilly and congested city.

 

One big issue: Keeping parked scooters off sidewalks by trying to ensure that they’re attached to existing bike-locking gear. People get cranky when they see abandoned electric scooters and bikes just lying around, sometimes blocking sidewalks and even streets. Cities and personal-transportation companies such as Skip and Scoot need hotlines that people can call to report abandoned bikes and scooters.

 

Other questions for cities and states: What should be the extent of dedicated personal-vehicle- lane networks? Who should regulate these vehicles? The state or communities? Should helmets be mandatory?

 

The arrival of these small electric vehicles is good news for cities seeking to limit car congestion and the pollution that cars cause. But much needs to be done to systemize their use to maximize their efficiency and safety.

 

To read more about what they’re doing in San Francisco, please hit this link:
 

 

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National Sailing Hall of Fame votes to move to Newport

Even More of a Sailing Capital

 

This is as it should be: The National Sailing Hall of Fame will move from Annapolis, Md., to Newport, where the institution will be housed in the Thames Street Armory Building, most of which will be owned by the Hall of Fame. The city will retain ownership of the Newport Maritime Center in the basement but the retail operations in the old building will have to go.

 


As major international sailing and yachting center, the former long-time base of the America’s Cup races, one of the two homes of the New York Yacht Club and a storied port dating back to the 17th Century, Newport should have always been the home of the Sailing Hall of Fame. And, after all, the City by the Sea is on the, well, breezy sea, and not, like Annapolis, on the inner reaches of fetid Chesapeake Bay, much of which is virtually inland.

 

The city will retain ownership of the Newport Maritime Center in the basement.

 

So now Newport will have two major Halls of Fame, with the National Sailing Hall of Fame joining the International Tennis Hall of Fame - institutions honoring two sports traditionally associated with wealth in a city with a long romance with great private riches.

 

Tyranny Likes Oil

 

“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.’’

 

-- British statesman Lord Palmerston, in 1848

 

The  apparent torture and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the order of a Trump favorite, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and that brutal regime’s implied threat to cut off oil supplies to governments that try to punish it  for this outrage,  is another reminder that we need to get off oil, especially from corrupt Mideast dictatorships,  but I repeat myself! oil props up these gangsters, even as fossil-fuel use threatens to ruin the world within the next few decades.


Readers might also note that the Saudis, using a lot of U.S. weaponry, have been massacring thousands of civilians and causing the death of thousands more by starvation in the murderous monarchy’s intervention in the civil war in Yemen. I repeat, despite U.S. antipathy toward the theocratic regime in Iran, the Saudi monarchy is far, far worse for those who care about human rights. And a reminder: Saudis led the 9/11 attacks.

 

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China’s Cheap Mail to America

 

Trump plans to withdraw the U.S. from a 192-nation treaty that lets Chinese companies use discounted shipping rates for small packages ordered online to be sent to American consumers.  Under the pact, poor and developing countries have been assessed lower rates than wealthier ones to try to boost their economies and international trade. But China now has the world’s second-biggest economy and a rapacious approach to trade competition.

 

Good for Trump, especially, considering that, among other things, fentanyl and other dangerous drugs have been illegally shipped to America from China, including in business envelopes.

 

The law has let Chinese companies ship goods here at lower rates than what U.S. firms pay domestically; indeed it has let some Chinese online retailers offer free shipping to the U.S., even as U.S.-based businesses pay hefty rates to ship to China.

 

 

Some of Trump’s trade “policies” (if you think they’re coherent enough to be called “policies”) are sloppy and self-defeating. But this mail move, while it’s unlikely to have a very big macro-economic effect, is long overdue.

 

And, as Jay Timmons, the president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said: “This outdated arrangement contributes significantly to the flood of counterfeit goods and dangerous drugs that enter the country from China.” He’s right.

 

Globalization and its discontents

 

John B. Judis has written a very thoughtful New York Times piece headlined “What the Left Misses About Nationalism: The perception of a common national identity is essential to democracies and to the modern welfare state’’ Among his remarks (which I strongly agree with) about how globalization has been oversold and how right-wing populists have profited by opposition to it:

 

“The free movement of companies has led to a global race to the bottom for wages, taxes, and regulation and to growing inequality within nations….’’
 

“Here is the simple truth: As long as corporations are free to roam the globe in search of lower wages and taxes, and as long as the United States opens its borders to millions of unskilled immigrants, liberals will not be able to create bountiful, equitable societies, where people are free from basic anxieties about obtaining health care, education and housing. …. To achieve their historic objectives, liberals and social democrats will have to respond constructively to, rather than dismiss, the nationalist reaction to globalization.’’

 

“Today’s nationalist revival is in reaction to the failure of global, not nation-based, initiatives that sailed over the heads of ordinary citizens. The reaction has been most potent on the political right, but there is certainly a basis for a liberal or social-democratic nationalism. If anything, the decline of liberal and social-democratic parties is a result at least in part of their inability to distinguish what is legitimate and justifiable in nationalism from what is small-minded, bigoted and contrary to the national interest it claims to uphold.’’

 

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Mayor Jorge Elorza

Wrong venue, Mr. Mayor

 

On Oct. 13, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza addressed one of those now all-too-trendy and self-consciously hip TEDx conferences, this one held in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.  (The event started with a tedious modern-dance performance that went on and on, accompanied by irritating techno noise, magnified by the hall’s alarmingly good acoustics.) Hizzoner should have just warmly and briefly welcomed the several hundred people attending and gotten off the stage fast.

 

Instead, he used his time to make a campaign speech rife with assorted “progressive’’ positions on the rights of the transgendered, the glories of leading a “sanctuary city’’ for illegal aliens, etc., etc.  (He was generally preaching to the converted.)

 

There’s a place for such speeches, but not, you’d think, at a TEDx confab, where the focus is supposed to be on invention, innovation and entrepreneurialism, in scientific,  cultural and other areas – of which there’s quite a bit going on in the big college town known as Providence.

 

TED comes from “technology, entertainment and design,’’ the focus back when TED Talks were invented in 1984 by Richard Saul Wurman, an architect and graphic designer, who, by the way, owned a Newport mansion with his wife, the author Gloria Nagy, from 1993 to 2016.


In 2010, he told The New York Times: "I love living in this  {Newport} house, and I'm not blasé about it at all, but this town is an intellectual wasteland without any sense of humor. I've been living here for 17 years, and if you asked me to tell you when I last had lunch with anybody but my wife or someone that came to see me from India or New York or Boston or Germany, I couldn't come up with a name."

 

Maybe no one invited him to dinner at The Reading Room. Or maybe somebody did…. Perhaps he should have spent a lot of time at the  Naval War College if he needed intellectual stimulation. I met with Mr. Wurman a couple of years ago in New York. He has a splendid sardonic sense of humor and doesn’t like what has happened to TED since he left his creation, in 2002.

 

The two favorite words at TED Talks are “incredible’’ and incredibly,’’ applied to many banal things. Could we at least bring back the word “very’’ to replace “incredibly”? For that matter, “very’’ is usually not needed either.

 

Brexit Bathos

 

Perhaps the most memorable takeaway from London-based writer and long-time NPR and BBC contributor Michael Goldfarb ’s brilliant Oct. 17 talk on Brexit at the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations. The Brexiteers had/have little idea on how to actually do Brexit. They have operated with bombast, ignorance and wishful thinking. Fear and chaos still reign as the deadline fast approaches.

 

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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