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URI College of Engineering receives $2.5M donation

By Allison Farrelly
On January 31, 2013

The University of Rhode Island's College of Engineering recently received one of the largest planned gifts ever left to the university.

A $2.5 million donation was left to the university from the estate of URI alumni David and John Parker, class of 1934 and 1940, respectively.  The Parker brothers left the money to the university from their reciprocal estate with the intent that it should benefit the College of Engineering. 

Michael Smith, president of the URI Foundation said this particular gift is unique not only in its large amount, but also in its nature.  Unlike most other gifts that are given to the university with a specific donor-intended use, the Parker brother's gift was given with the main intent of improving the College of Engineering.  "This gift is a truly philanthropic gift because, for a good portion of it, I don't believe there were any expectations other than to be used for the best use for the college," Smith said. 

In an official URI Foundation press release, Dean of the College of Engineering Raymond Wright expressed his gratitude for the gift. 

"The Parker brothers' gifts will have a tremendous impact on the college and its students, providing significant support to a number of college priorities," the release said.   

Approximately half of the gift will be used as support for the college, with an emphasis on the mechanical engineering department, which was the discipline John taught while a professor at URI.  The remainder of the gift will fund two endowments.  The first endowment is a scholarship in ocean engineering and the second endowment will be named in honor of the brothers and will provide library resources in engineering.

"A bulk of the money came in for the dean to decide the best use in the college," Smith said.

The money will support the college's new building future fund, according to Smith. 

The Parker brothers were close and lived together for many years.  They had close ties to the university and John retired as an engineering professor from the university in 1997 after 25 years.  During his time at URI he was not only a respected professor, but was also very involved in the building of Wales Hall. 

John remained close with the university after his retirement and went on to become the treasurer of the URI alumni association.  He received the Ram Award in 1975 for his dedicated campus involvement.

David passed away in 2001 and left his estate to his brother John Parker.  The gift was passed on to the university after John's death in 2011. The university, however, was aware of the gift before their passing.  "We were made aware of the brothers intent to provide for URI in their estate plans in 1992," Tracey Manni, director of communications for the URI Foundation said.

"I think it is important to note the tie between their gift and the impact it will have on engineering students," Smith said.  "The brothers had a true passion for education."

According to Smith, this gift will have a large impact on the college and university for years to come.  "This is an extremely generous gift and will have a lasting impact on University."

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