RIC announces 2009 honorary degree recipients to be awarded at May 14 and 16 commencements

RIC will award four honorary degrees and confer 1,400 advanced and undergraduate degrees during upcoming commencement exercises. John Nazarian, immediate past president of the college, is among the honorary degree recipients.

Nancy Carriuolo will preside over her first commencement exercises as president of Rhode Island College in ceremonies for advanced degrees on May 14 and undergraduate degrees on May 16. Four honorary degrees – including one for John Nazarian, former RIC president who retired last June after 54 years of service to the college – and about 1,400 master’s and bachelor’s degrees will be awarded in ceremonies over the two days.

Advanced degree commencement will be held on Thursday, May 14, at 5:30 p.m. in Roberts Hall Auditorium.

Morris Nathanson, internationally acclaimed designer and leading historic preservationist, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree and deliver the graduate commencement address. In the same ceremony, RIC president emeritus John Nazarian will be honored with a Doctor of Public Service award. Nazarian served as a faculty member and administrator for 54 years at the college, including the last 18 as president, before his retirement in 2008.

Undergraduate commencement will take place on Saturday, May 16, at 9:30 a.m. on the college’s esplanade. (Ceremonies will be moved indoors to The Murray Center if inclement weather).

Anne G. Murphy, president of Linkages in Washington, D.C., a consulting firm specializing in public policy, the arts and humanities, and a member of RIC’s class of 1959, will be the commencement speaker and receive an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree. It is the first time in the college’s history that a member of the golden anniversary class has been chosen as commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient.

Philanthropist, political activist and business executive Mark S. Weiner will also receive an Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree that day.

On May 16, the college will also confer an undergraduate degree to Elizabeth Codd, 18, of Barrington. Codd began her studies at RIC in the fall of 2002 at the age of 11 as a non-degree student. She is the second youngest degree recipient in the history of the college. Codd will graduate with a major in mathematics, and a 3.924 GPA.

Another Barrington resident will hold the distinction of being the oldest graduate in this year’s class. Eighty-one-year-old Edmund D’Attelo will receive a bachelor’s degree in history. He started to earn a college degree in 1948 after being discharged from the Army. Though he took courses throughout the years, family obligations took precedence over his education. He returned to school after closing his gardening business and retiring in 2000. D’Attelo said that RIC professors “wouldn’t let him quit,” and that he’s ready to take on another job if anyone is hiring.

Members of the class of 1959 will celebrate their golden anniversary at commencement, leading the graduation processional. The class has raised over $125,000 dollars for scholarships, renovations and enhancements to the college in a program they initiated called “Thanks A Thousand Times,” referring to a thousand times the $125 it cost students in 1959 to receive a four-year college education at RIC. The money was raised among 100 members of the class.

Representatives from each graduating class of the college from 1945 to 2008 will also march before this year’s graduating seniors.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the first commencement held on the college’s Mt. Pleasant Avenue campus. The first took place on June 6, 1959 in the auditorium in Roberts Hall.

Established in 1854, Rhode Island College is the state’s oldest public institution of higher education.

Biographies of honorary degree recipients

Anne G. Murphy
Doctor of Humanities

Anne G. Murphy is president of Linkages, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in public policy and the arts and humanities.

She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Digital Promise Project, which aims to establish a major national trust fund to help transform education, training, and lifelong learning to meet the needs of the nation's new knowledge-based economy. Previous clients have included OVATION, a cable network dedicated to the arts, the National Cultural Alliance and other arts and humanities organizations.

Murphy was director of the American Arts Alliance from 1979-1991 and has also held senior positions at the Public Broadcasting Service and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has served on the Board of Overseers for the Corcoran Museum of Art and, early in her career, worked with R.I. Congressmen John E. Fogarty and Robert O. Tiernan on legislation establishing the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A member of the RIC 2009 Golden Anniversary Class, Murphy holds a BEd from the Rhode Island College of Education (1959) and has pursued graduate studies at the University of Connecticut.

She is part of a three-generation family to matriculate at RIC and was recognized by her alma mater in 1984 with the Charles B. Willard Achievement Award.

Morris Nathanson
Doctor of Humanities

Morris Nathanson is founder and president of the internationally acclaimed, Rhode Island-based Morris Nathanson Design. His clients have included the Disney Company, Royal Caribbean International cruise lines, and major restaurants and music clubs such as the B.B. King Theatre in Times Square and other venues in the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and throughout the United States.

Nathanson is an accomplished professional artist whose work has been exhibited at the Providence Art Club and other venues. A leading historic preservationist, he served on the Providence Historic Commission. Early in his career he oversaw the conversion of the Majestic Theatre into the current home of the Trinity Repertory Company.

Nathanson helped establish the Pawtucket Foundation, which has been instrumental in establishing Pawtucket as an emerging center for the arts. He initiated the creative redevelopment of the abandoned Rhode Island Cardboard Mill into an artist-friendly working and living space. A charter member of the Pawtucket Arts Council, his leadership in restoration of the Armory in Pawtucket has helped to create a home for the Gamm Theatre and the Walsh School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

He is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers and the American Planning Institute. Nathanson is an inductee of the Pawtucket Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Pawtucket Foundation’s Heritage Award. He holds a BFA from the University of Miami and has pursued graduate studies at the New School of Social Research in New York City.

John Nazarian
Doctor of Public Service

John Nazarian is President Emeritus of Rhode Island College, an institution he attended as an undergraduate and subsequently served as a faculty member and administrator for 54 years, including the last 18 as its president before his retirement in 2008.

A lifelong resident of Pawtucket,he holds a PhD from New York University, an MA from the University of Illinois, an AM from Brown University, and a BEd from the Rhode Island College of Education. As president, he led the establishment of two new schools (Management and Nursing); expanded and improved the campus; initiated new scholarship programs, developed new academic programs; and chaired the college’s first-ever capital campaign.

Beyond his work at RIC, he has served in leadership roles with numerous community-based organizations. These include The Providence Foundation, WaterFire Providence, the Rhode Island Council on Economic Education, TIDES Family Services, the Rhode Island Anti-Drug Coalition, the Salvation Army, the Boys and Girls Club of Pawtucket, Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), Dorcas Place and the Sargent Rehabilitation Center, among others.

Nazarian is a past recipient of two of the state’s most prestigious public service awards: the Robert M. Goodrich Distinguished Public Service Award given by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, and the John O. Stitely Distinguished Public Service Award given by the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Society of Public Administration.

Mark S. Weiner, Sr.
Doctor of Public Service

A lifelong Rhode Islander, Mark S. Weiner, Sr. is a business executive, philanthropist, and political activist. He is founder and president of Financial Innovations, Inc., located in Cranston, one of the largest political mass marketing firms in the United States.

In his youth, he attended the Henry Barnard School, the demonstration school operated by Rhode Island College, and later graduated from LaSalle Academy and from Harvard University, where he earned a BA Mr. Weiner has an extensive record of public service, including membership on the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority and the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education. He also served as treasurer of the Providence Civic Center Authority and as chair of the Providence Zoning Board of Review.

His political involvement has included service as Chair of the Rhode Island Democratic Party as well as national leadership capacities within the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

His philanthropic efforts on both the state and national level have helped support Hands Across America, the Rhode Island Diabetes Association, the Special Olympics, the Rhode Island Heart Fund, Amos House, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Big Brothers of Rhode Island and other charitable organizations.