Four Members of Rhode Island College Community Among “12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012”

Four prominent members of the Rhode Island College community are among “12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012,” according to

·      Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo was praised for her efforts to obtain voter approval of a $50 million bond initiative for improvements to the college, while also “putting her college increasingly on the map in Rhode Island.”

·      Actress Viola Davis, a RIC alumna who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in “The Help,” was cited for her philanthropic efforts on behalf of Rhode Island College and other schools and programs.

·      Jennie Johnson, a RIC alum who’s director of City Year Rhode Island, and co-chair of the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet, which is charged with identifying and implementing strategies to improve school attendance.

·      Carolyn Rafaelian, creator of Alex and Ani, was praised for two “spectacular, million-dollar contributions” to two local colleges, including $1 million to the new Art Center under construction at Rhode Island College.

They were among 12 Rhode Islanders singled out for praise by, a website with news and information about Rhode Island. The news source noted that the 12 individuals “make it their job every day, day in and day out, to make a real difference right here in RI.”

The story notes that Carriuolo was able to secure voter approval of a $50 million bond that will enable the college to renovate and modernize two academic buildings. “The winners,” the story states, “are Rhode Island’s young adults who can gain access to affordable education, not the mention the state at large – 86 percent of RIC undergrads are residents of the state and remain in Rhode Island after graduating. They are the state’s teachers, social workers, nurses and business owners.” The story further states that passage of the bond “was not only a big win for RIC, but also for Rhode Island.”

Davis, who graduated from RIC in 1988 and received an honorary doctorate in 2002, was credited with pitching in to help her alma mater by volunteering to record a radio ad in support of the bond initiative. In addition, Davis was praised for her philanthropic support of a number of other programs, including the Upward Bound scholarship program based at Rhode Island College, as well as the Adams Memorial Library in her hometown of Central Falls, the Segue Institute of Learning, the Community Preparatory School and the drama programs at Centrals Falls High School and the Segue Institute.

Johnson, who graduated from RIC in 2000 and was named executive director of City Year Rhode Island five years ago, was recently appointed chair of the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet. She’s working to coordinate representatives from the school district and community organizations to increase awareness of the problems caused by chronic absenteeism and to identify and implement strategies to improve school attendance.


Rafaelian was noted for growing her positive energy company in Cranston despite challenging economic conditions, and for investing in Rhode Island through her purchase of the Sakonnet Vineyards and Newport’s Belcourt Castle. “But Rafaelian’s ultimate act of sharing of the wealth in 2012 was two spectacular, million-dollar charitable contributions, both to local colleges,” the story states. She donated $1 million to Bryant University for its International Business Program and an additional $1 million to Rhode Island College – $100,000 a year for 10 years – towards construction of the new art center, which will be called the Alex and Ani Hall.

The full list of “12 Who Made a Difference in 2012” is on the website, with a story that notes that these 12 men and women “made 2012 a better year for those who needed it most.”