Dan Hurley: 17 Who Made a Difference in 2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


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URI head coach Dan Hurley led the URI Rams to their first A-10 Championship win since 1999 and then their first NCAA Tournament win since 1998 when they beat Creighton in the first round.

The Rams went 25-10 overall in 2016-17 and 13-5 in the A-10, good enough for a third-place finish.

So far in the 2017-18 season, Hurley and the Rams are 7-3 overall with one game left in their non-conference schedule.

The Rams non-conference season is highlighted by their first win over Providence College in seven years, and the first time in the Hurley era.

The Rams begin their A-10 title defense on Saturday, December 30 when they open conference play at home against George Mason.


Related Slideshow: 17 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2017

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Kimberly Arcand

Kimberly Arcand, who works in NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, is emerging as a rising star in the field and getting recognition as a top scientist and thinker. The Smithsonian just ranked her co-authored new book, “Magnitude, The Scale of the Universe," as one of the Ten Best Science books of 2017. 

The Smithsonian writes, “Now, Megan Watze and Kimberly Arcand take you on a similarly breathtaking journey through space, time, size and speed in this richly illustrated science book. From tiny to massive, novel to ancient, no comparison is too challenging for this visual masterpiece.”

Arcand, a frequent guest on GoLocal LIVE, breaks down the most interesting and complex issues -- she says black holes aren’t really giant vacuum cleaners as science fiction makes them out them to be. 

In fact, Arcand describes the black hole at the center Milky Way galaxy astronomers have named Sagittarius A as “chill.” 

Black holes can range in size and using the Chandra satellite, Arcand says astronomers can learn more about how they influence what’s around them. 

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Noel Frias

Community leader Noel Frias was front and center on issues of importance to the community in 2017. 

Frias was part of a group that pressed for answers about the financial and non-profit accountability of the Providence NAACP Branch in May -- when he appeared on GoLocal LIVE to express his concerns.  

He was part of a group of minority leaders that questioned Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's membership to the all-white Bailey's Beach Club -- after Whitehouse had transferred his stock ownership in the club to be solely in his wife's name when he first ran for Congress in 2006.

“To see Whitehouse, and to see him calling out Donald Trump -- trust me, I saw the floor speeches -- to say all that, why do you have to be in all-white club? To see him duck the questions, he knows. He knows what he's done,” said Noel Frias, President of the Youth Council of the Providence Chapter of the NAACP.

Most recently, Frias turned his attention -- and efforts -- to improving Trinity Square in Providence, helping lead the community initiative to allow local businesses to take control of the neighborhood by supplying individual trash cans to be privately maintained. 

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Emily Luther

The Woonsocket native wowed America with her performance on The Voice -- and most were left scratching their heads when the super talented and elegant Luther did not advance.

“It’s good to encourage young women or young men to be themselves, to be true to themselves, to not feel like they have to fit a mold in order to be successful,” said Luther, when she appeared on GoLocal LIVE. “I had to figure that out the hard way.”

This is not the first time she’s pursued a career in music, Luther says after a failed record deal, she struggled with anxiety and depression.

“I disappeared from the music scene for quite some time, there was a lot of mental health issues that I was going through when I was dealing with the negativity of the music industry,” Luther says.

Now, she is back and showed America what some in Rhode Island already knew - she is a super talent.

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Stephen Del Sesto

The largest pension failure in Rhode Island -- the collapse of the St. Joseph pension fund -- reeks of mismanagement, financial malfeasance, and political and financial deceit. Stephen Del Sesto is the court-appointed receiver who is responsible to investigate and then remedy the more than $100 million shortfall needed to make nearly 2,800 retirees whole.

Del Sesto has brought on 38 Studios hero Max Wistow as special investigator, but the challenges are immense. Del Sesto and Wistow must take on some of the most powerful political interests in the state -- Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, and the billion-dollar Prospect of California hospital group.

To date, Kilmartin and Tobin have filed multiple motions trying to delay and limit the scope of the subpoenas.

For the thousands of retirees, Del Sesto has been -- and needs to be -- resolute to force the recovery of tens of millions of dollars to begin the process of stabilizing the pensions.

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Keith Oliveira

Keith Oliveira has been a mainstay in the state's education community for years, and his leadership and advocacy for Rhode Island's youth was on clear display in 2017. 

While serving as the Chief Operating Officer at the Rhode Island Nurses Institute Middle College, Oliveira took a firm stand when opponents to recently elected Donald Trump posted a profane sign directly across the street from the school.  

“What have we come to as a society when students can’t come to school without having to look at profanity right out their classroom window? [This is] profanity by an adult person directly at kids,” said Oliveira when the sign reappeared.

“When did that become acceptable? This not about protected speech,” said Oliveira. “This is about common courtesy and decency. All we’re asking for is some common courtesy.”

Oliveira was named the Executive Director of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools in June -- tackled thorny issues including Trump's immigration policies -- and how they could impact students in Providence -- as well as a controversial admissions policy by Beacon Charter School which was not in accordance with the League's, at a time when thousands of students and families are looking for spaces in the public school alternatives.

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Chef Ashley Faulkner

Proving that rising to the top of Providence's food scene isn't all about haute cuisine to get national recognition, Chef Ashley Faulkner of Bucktown, which was named one of Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants of 2017, appeared on GoLocal LIVE to talk about the honor -- and why the welcoming environment and what she describes as comfort food is what sets them apart as a popular new restaurant in Providence. 

“I’d like to describe it as comfort food,” Faulkner says, “I think southern food is comfort food because my family is southern, so if I think about making myself feeling better, I’m going to eat some fried chicken, some collards, some biscuits, everything is homemade, made with love.” 

It's not hard to see why the West End establishment won top accolades from Bon Appetit, who wrote the following:

ORDER THE: largest quantity of fried food that your crew can handle: the “captain's platter” (flawlessly fried catch-of-the-day); the deep-golden fried shrimp; and the shatteringly crisp fried chicken. Then tack on sides of collard greens and extra-gooey mac and cheese.

THE VIBE IS: no-frills. Place your order at the counter, grab a seat at one of the high-top tables, and soon trays of delicious fried things will arrive.

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Patricia Serpa

When problems at UHIP -- the state's new online health benefits technology platform -- saw Governor Raimondo apologize in February for the failed rollout, House Oversight Chair Patricia Serpa kept the pressure on.

From calling for the State's Auditor General to conduct a full review shortly thereafter, to questioning the management -- even after former Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts resigned at the Secretary of Health and Human Services -- Serpa demanded the state be accountable for UHIP's shortcomings at every turn. 

"This is a serious problem that has impacted all Rhode Islanders. UHIP’s failures had a dramatic effect on our recipients and providers who depended on these services, but the broken system has also impacted all of our state's taxpayers who must foot the bills for this botched effort,” said Representative Serpa. 

Now, the federal court has taken over management of UHIP under the oversight of Special Master Deming Sherman, but it was Serpa's continued pushing -- along with other legislators and community groups -- that forced the state's hand. 

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Jeremy Duffy

It has been a dream for more than a decade. The goal has been to re-establish brewing in RI.

Jeremy Duffy loves to talk about the founding of Isle Brewers Guild. The 130,000-square-foot craft beer campus that is now bringing tens of thousands to Pawtucket.

Their latest foray is into brewing -- a smaller, "Guild Brewers Series," which enables Guild brewmasters, along with other brewers, to try out new ideas and concepts, with a weekly changeover of beers to let visitors and buyers experience. 

Duffy and his team have worked for years and overcome most every business challenge to make it a reality.

Today, seven brewers are making their beer at the facility.

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The state's leading source of environmental news partnered with GoLocal in 2017 to appear regularly on GoLocal LIVE to talk about the biggest stories impacting Rhode Islanders' health, well-being, and surroundings. 

From calling out Governor Gina Raimondo for her initial support of the Burrillville Invenergy power plant proposal -- which she walked back when she expressed her regret for "putting her thumb on the scale" of the process; to reporting local issues of lead levels in Providence water and opposition to the proposed LNG facility in South Providence; and covering statewide issues such as solar policy -- and the state's use of chemicals, Eco RI continued to shine the light on important environmental issues. 

Moreover, EcoRI didn't shy away from difficult -- and controversial issues. 

Joanna Detz, Executive Director and Co-Founder of EcoRI -- told Golocal LIVE that it is time to rethink recycling and move to simpler strategies like “reuse.”

“I think we should get rid of recycling - I think it we should focus on reuse. So many loads are rejected from contamination. We have not moved the needle,” said Detz during comments made on EcoRI’s weekly appearance.

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Danny Hurley

URI head coach Dan Hurley led the URI Rams to their first A-10 Championship win since 1999 and then their first NCAA Tournament win since 1998 when they beat Creighton in the first round.

The Rams went 25-10 overall in 2016-17 and 13-5 in the A-10, good enough for a third-place finish.

So far in the 2017-18 season, Hurley and the Rams are 7-3 overall with one game left in their non-conference schedule.

The Rams non-conference season is highlighted by their first win over Providence College in seven years, and the first time in the Hurley era.

The Rams begin their A-10 title defense on Saturday, December 30 when they open conference play at home against George Mason.

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Steve Brown

From UHIP, to immigration issues, to panhandling and more, 2017 kept RI ACLU Executive Director Steve Brown active on the forefront of a myriad of civil liberty issues in the state. 

Agree with him or not, Brown was out front, among other areas, on working with cities and towns to fight then-recently elected President Donald Trump's immigration orders.

"One of the aspects of the President's orders is to encourage state and local police departments to comply with these detainers. Any time they get one of these civil detainers, the President wants to force police to actually enforce them.  And in this lawsuit we filed, the judge found it was unconstitutional," said Brown. "These detainers were holding people based on something less than probable cause."

Brown and the ACLU also kept track of who was receiving UHIP benefits -- and when, during the tumultuous first full year of the program. 

According to a letter sent to special master Deming Sherman from the ACLU and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ) in December, “The percentage of applications for which expedited SNAP was issued within 7 days was only 58.19%. This means, of course, that almost four out of every ten households determined to be the most destitute went without timely assistance during the holiday season.”

Brown and the ACLU's insistence on empirical evidence continues to put pressure on government and those in charge. 

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Don Grebien

Bad luck, perfect storm, or just the grim reality of running an old mill town in the northeast — Don Grebien had a brutal year.

First, he has been in the eye of the storm for endless battle over public financing for the private owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox. Rhode Islanders are adamantly opposed to millions for billionaires. That battle continues.

Second, the award-winning Gamm Theater announced its departure from Pawtucket — moving to a new location in Warwick.

Third, Memorial Hospital is being closed. The largest employer in Pawtucket will close and a deal is in place to save “up to” 200 jobs. At best case scenario, Pawtucket closes its largest employer and a net loss of nearly 800 jobs.

Fourth, Hasbro has announced that it is looking to consolidate its three different Rhode Island locations into a new corporate campus in Providence or beyond. Regardless, it appears Hasbro may be the next one to leave Pawtucket.

Sadly, growing gang violence in the city could make 2018 an even tougher year for the Mayor of Pawtucket, who continues to fight battles on all fronts. 

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The Fachon Family

When East Greenwich's Neil Fachon fought the FDA to be able to have the right to a clinical trial during his battle with cancer, his brave battle didn't end when he passed away in February. 

Parents Wendy and Dean Fachon spoke of their effort on GoLocal LIVE pressing for legislation to allow terminally ill patients to obtain experimental drugs that have not yet been federally approved but may be in the final stages of testing -- after their son Neil fought the Food and Drug Administration to do so. 

Wendy Fachon urged the Rhode Island Senate to take up the measure -- which unanimously passed the House earlier this year.  

"We would like to emphasize the "Right to Continue" clause of the bill, which sets this bill apart from legislation established by other states. 36 states now have enacted Right to Try," Fachon told GoLocal.

As of October 2017, 38 states had "right to try" laws on the books -- but not Rhode Island.  Dean Fachon excoriated the Rhode Island General Assembly in a Guest MINDSETTER™, "A Law of Law-Makers," stating, "No committee chairman or committee should have the power to kill a bill that received overwhelming support from the other side of the General Assembly."

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Teresa Tanzi

It was half of the biggest blockbuster in 2017. State Representative Teresa Tanzi came forward under the auspices of the #MeToo movement and announced that she was sexually harassed by another legislator at the Rhode Island State House and that the issue was serious and rampant.

When pressed by reporters, she refused to names the incidents, the timeframe, or the perpetrators. Tanzi said in a statement that she was harassed by a high ranking State House official and was told that sexual favors would help her bills go further.

The State Police and the Attorney General are conducting an investigation.

The State Police and Kilmartin Released the Following Statement

“Attorney General Peter Kilmartin contacted Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety, regarding allegations of sexual harassment at the Rhode Island State House made by Representative Teresa Tanzi.

The two agencies are working together to review the allegations. As is the policy of both the State Police and the Attorney General’s Office, the two agencies are not going to be making further comment with respect to the status of or direction of the inquiry.”

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Eric Aaronian

No one in Rhode Island was more controversial than Moses Brown Soccer Coach Eric Aaronian in 2017. Social media exploded after GoLocal broke the story of the prep school coach when he announced that he would kneel during the National Anthem before each game.

He announced that he would kneel in a school an email sent to parents of his players. Aaronian is also the chair of the Science Department Chair at the prep school located on Providence's East Side, where tuition for the day school is $35,555 for grades 9-12. 

The head of the RI Interscholastic Sports League Thomas Mezzanotte said that during the national anthem players and coaches are expected "to properly show respect during the playing of the National Anthem is to stand, remove your hat and place your hand over your heart."

"Much like other state high school associations we do not/have not released a statement relative to our position on what is occurring with the playing of the National Anthem.  However, when asked we share the following: It is the sincere desire of the RIIL that all participants at an education based event demonstrate proper respect and attention during the presentation of the National Anthem while respecting the rights of individual freedoms of expressions," said Mezzanotte in an email to GoLocal.

President Donald Trump criticized players who protested by kneeling during the national anthem and players in the NFL responded. Some players knelt and some teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers refused to go on the field during the anthem.

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Sean Spicer and Michael Flynn

One year ago, Sean Spicer and Michael Flynn were named to key roles in the White House. Maybe never before had two Rhode Islanders had such unfettered access to a President.

Spicer came up the GOP communication ranks and had been appointed White House Press Secretary, whose ranks under previous Presidents included Pierre Salinger, Bill Moyers, Ron Ziegler. James Brady and George Stephanopoulos, to name a few. 

However, Spicer almost immediately ran head-on into conflict with the Washington press corps. He became the punchline on Saturday Night Live, and was gone from his position in 182 days. He is now writing a tell-all book about his tenure with President Donald Trump.

Spicer’s tenure was a lifetime compared to General Flynn’s period as National Security Advisor.

Flynn lasted just 24 days as NSA.

Previous players in Flynn's position include Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and another Rhode Islander, Tom Donilon. The job is immense -- it is responsible for coordinating defense, foreign affairs, international economic policy, and intelligence. 

Now, Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and if sentenced will then be a convicted felon.

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Newport Opera House

2017 was a pivotal year for the restoration of the historic Newport Opera House, which has stated that during renovation -- which is slated to be completed in 2018 --  the economic impact is calculated to be over $15 million, supporting 181 jobs in Newport County.

Their data also shows the new theater and its audiences will generate $1.6 million per year in new direct and indirect economic activity, once the theater is open and presenting, including supporting 54 jobs in Newport County with an annual payroll of approximately $367,359.

With the successful completion of phase one of construction in 2017, including the new state-the-art expanded stage and key structural renovation, and growing community backers of over 6,000 supporters - including hundreds of businesses and organizations.

According to the Opera House, no theater within fifty miles has a capacity between 400 and 1,000; -- the theater’s 700 seats will be a unique asset that will attract performers currently limited to outdoor appearances in the area. 

"Potential partnerships with Newport’s Folk and Jazz festivals, the Newport Music Festival, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Island Moving Company, Trinity Repertory Theater, existing summer season presenters and others will provide local arts organizations with a quality performance space that will help extend seasons and develop year-round audiences," says the Opera House.  "The Opera House Theater’s location in Washington Square, a National Historic Landmark District, places it squarely at the cultural, historic, commercial and architectural crossroads of the city.


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