The Thomas '65 and Louise '64 Barry Scholarship


Thomas and Louise Barry with Grace Savastano '14, recipient of the Thomas '65 and Louise '64 Barry Scholarship.

Thomas and Louise Barry crafted their scholarship based on real life experience. Not only does their gift make a significant difference to the recipient, but it reflects who the Barrys are. The Thomas '65 and Louise '64 Barry Scholarship goes to first-generation students: the Barrys themselves were the first in their families to graduate from college. Louise recalls that when she and her sister attended RIC in the early 60s, tuition was $100, a lot of money! But thanks to the financial aid she received, Louise was able to finish not only her bachelor's degree, but also her master's in special education. As she puts it: "Rhode Island College gave us an extraordinary beginning."

Thomas, who has earned three degrees at RIC, a master's and a CAGS as well as his bachelor's, also sees the college experience as transformative. He reminisces: "To come from the 'lower class' and make it to the 'middle class' took some work. We initially came to Rhode Island College as hourly workers and we left as professionals. The College provided us with an intellectual and a cultural climate that changed us dramatically." The Barrys have had long and distinguished careers in public education, primarily in the Warwick Public Schools. They have been giving to the community their whole lives. Louise was a special education teacher, and Thomas a school psychologist: their scholarship is offered to a student pursuing a degree in special education or in school psychology.

This year's recipient of the Thomas '65 and Louise '64 Barry Scholarship, special education major Grace Savastano '14, is emulating her generous donors while following her heart. She sees her role as helping her special ed students meet challenges. "When my students achieve their goals, specialized, smaller goals than other students might have, we all celebrate." The Woonsocket native has firsthand experience overcoming obstacles herself. In 2008, Grace lost her job due to the economic downturn. That same year, she experienced a much greater tragedy: her young and previously healthy sister Carol was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away six weeks later. After that, says Grace: "I thought long and hard about my life. I decided that I wanted to change my career and do something that would help others." Grace chose to enroll at RIC to be an elementary and middle school special education teacher, and her 3.4 GPA attests to her dedication and success.

Grace was thrilled to learn she had been awarded the Thomas '65 and Louise '64 Barry Scholarship. A first-generation student, she is devoted to her family as well as her future career. She has a six year old son and her husband works long hours in a family business, so she relates candidly: "We are struggling to pay for my education." She adds: "This scholarship could not have come at a better time." Being an 'older' student brings its own challenges, of course. But there are unexpected benefits, she confides, such as trying out lesson plans on her son.

Grace had a chance to express her thanks to her donors, Mr. and Mrs. Barry, in person, when she met them at the First Annual Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon in the fall. "They made me feel welcome," Grace relates, "And I was able to let them know what it means to have some of the burden lifted thanks to their scholarship." The Barrys have been vibrant members of the RIC community since they set foot on campus over forty years ago and they have never stopped appreciating their RIC. Thomas says it best: "We try to give back. We wish to help Grace and others have the kind of life we have. As educators, we want to support future educators." After all, he concludes: "The future of the College is not in us but in these recipients." With the Thomas '65 and Louise '64 Barry Scholarship, Thomas and Louise have created a meaningful cycle of compassion, dedication and service for generations to come.

If you are interested in becoming part of our generous donor community at RIC, please call the Office of College Advancement at 401-456-8086.

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Page last updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013