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 College launches 100th with a flair of tradition, spirit

Around Campus; Academics; Centennial; Common Reading BookStandard
Convocation, Mass are focal points of daylong celebration uniting PC community.

​​​​​​​​​Providence College began the year-long celebration of its centennial on Wednesday, Aug. 31, with programs that reflected its tradition of academic excellence, its commitment to its Catholic and Dominican tradition, and its sense of fun. 

Classes were cancelled for the day to allow students and faculty to participate in all events, which began at 8:30 a.m. with academic panels in the Ruane Center for the Humanities. Professors explored the impact of foreign language studies on a liberal arts education, the growth of psychology as an academic discipline, health care in 1917 Providence, and the impact of World War I on the British empire and race in America.

The Centennial Opening Mass in the Peterson Recreation Center followed at 11 a.m. with the Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, D.D., bishop of Providence, as the principal celebrant. In his homily, College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80, acknowledged that God’s work in founding the College is not complete, but remains the mission of all who work and study there.  

After the Mass, hundreds of students, faculty, administrators, and staff gathered on the field of the Ray Treacy Track to spell out “PC 100” for a photograph taken by an overhead drone. A lunch followed under a tent on the Slavin Center lawn, featuring Rhode Island specialties, including Italian pasta dishes, sliders and wieners, clam chowder and salad, and Del’s lemonade. Cupcakes were decorated with black and white frosting and the centennial logo.

At the Academic Convocation, held at 3 p.m. in the Peterson Recreation Center, the Class of 2020 was officially welcomed to campus, 20 new full-time faculty members were introduced, and Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times who has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, presented the keynote address. A question-and-answer session and book-signing with Kristof followed, along with a reception on the Slavin lawn. 

Events to mark the College’s centennial will continue throughout the academic year. For a full schedule, visit​

“The greatest threat … a girl with a book”

At the start of his address, “A Conversation with Nicholas Kristof: The Importance of the Liberal Arts, Malala, and Women’s Global Education Initiatives,” Kristof wished the College a happy birthday, adding, “You don’t look your age, which is a tribute.” 

​​Kristof, who grew up in Oregon, the son of college professors, is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University. He attended Magdalen College at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar, earning a law degree, then studied Arabic in Egypt. He joined The New York Times staff in 1984. With his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, he received the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1990 for coverage of the pro-democracy student movement in China and the Tiananmen Square protests. In 2006, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his columns about the genocide in Darfur, western Sudan. He has written several books.  

Kristof acknowledged the anniversary of the College’s founding and recognized the 800th anniversary of the Dominican Order of Preachers. He praised the Dominicans, who founded PC and continue to staff the College, for their intellectual rigor and their tradition of “going out to change the world” rather than “remaining in the monastery.” 

Kristof asked students for their reaction to I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Back Bay Books, 2013), the Common Reading Program selection for the academic year. Students were given the book during the summer and discussed it in groups during New Student Orientation.

Malala Yousafzai, who now lives in England with her family, “really is an incredible person,” said Kristof. “She reflects the transformative power of education.”

In 1990, Kristof and WuDunn went to China to tell the story of girls who could not attend school because their parents did not consider their education worth the expense. Donations poured in from readers and were used to establish a fund to pay for the education of all young women in the village. Years later, that village was more prosperous than others around it. Education began “a virtuous cycle that benefitted the entire community,” Kristof said.

In his travels since Sept. 11, 2001, to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Iraq, Kristof said he has concluded that the United States has overemphasized its military toolbox while underemphasizing its education toolbox. 

“Extremists know that the greatest threat doesn’t come from drones in the skies, but from girls with a book,” Kristof said, citing incidents of the Taliban shooting Malala in the face and throwing acid at schoolgirls, and Boko Haram kidnapping Nigerian girls who are students. 

Education, especially education in the liberal arts, builds communication, empathy, humanity, and the desire to give back to the world, Kristof said. He told students not to become cynical about public service, or discouraged because good intentions are not enough and seem to be “drops in the bucket.”

Problems are vast, but “I’ve become a believer in drops in the bucket,” Kristof said. “That is how you fill the bucket.”

Following convocation, Kristof answered questions from faculty, alumni, and students in Slavin Center ’64 Hall. Magali García-Pletsch ’13, program coordinator for PC’s Feinstein Institute for Public Service, asked Kristof for advice on how to avoid the “all-knowing white savior” complex when sending students to serve abroad.

“The big problem in the developing world is not that it is bustling with white saviors, but that whites aren’t interested in helping people with dark skin,” said Kristof. “So send ’em out! If they get malaria, give them extra credit.” 

Accinno Award winner recognized

Also at convocation, Dr. Hugh F. Lena, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, recognized Dr. Julia Jordan-Zachery, professor of political science and of public and community service studies, who received the 2016 Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award, the College’s top teaching honor.

Lena introduced Rev. Michael S. Sherwin, O.P., who will be this semester’s Rev. Robert J. Randall Distinguished Professor in Christian Culture, and Dr. Leo H. Kahane, professor of economics, who is the first Michael A. Ruane Distinguished Chair in Economics. 

The Class of 2020 was welcomed by Mary Pat Larkin Caputo ’79, president of the National Alumni Association Council. Andrew Konnerth ’17 (North Haledon, N.J.), president of Student Congress, told students that they will experience their own history at PC, but should not ever feel alone in the journey. 

Rabbi Wayne M. Franklin, senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, gave the invocation in recognition of the College’s long relationship with the area’s Jewish community. The benediction was given by Rev. Peter Martyr Yungwirth, O.P., the College chaplain. Rev. Kenneth Sicard, O.P. ’78 & ’82G, executive vice president and treasurer, blessed the centennial pins given to each new student.

Music was provided by Providence College Symphonic Winds, under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Bill ’00, and the Liturgical Choir and Schola Cantorum, under the direction of Mark E. Colozzi, the new director of liturgical music. Tiernan Chase ’18 (Newport, R.I.) sang The National Anthem and Thomas Begley ’17 (St. Albans, Vt.) sang the Alma Mater.

“God is building a foundation He began in 1917”

In his homily at the Centennial Opening Mass​, Father Shanley talked about how buildings tell the history of PC. They carry the names of Dominican saints, past presidents, and more recently, as the College has evolved, alumni donors.

“These buildings have shaped the lives of generations of people who have lived and taught and studied at PC,” Father Shanley said. He mentioned his mother, who worked in Phillips Memorial Library for 25 years, and his father, who attended PC after World War II under the GI Bill. 

In St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, he reminds us that the College and its buildings were not built by the men they are named after, but by God, Father Shanley said. 

“The history of Providence College is the history of what God has done,” Father Shanley said. “This is God’s work. All we have accomplished here and all the good work that has gone on here is from God. God is building a foundation He created in 1917. In this lies our hope for the future.”

Saint Paul also told the people of Corinth that they had to stop dividing into factions, because they all belong to God, Father Shanley said.  

“In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female,” said Father Shanley. “All the things we use to divide us from others do not come from God. In Christ there can only be unity.”

Our work at PC is meant to be “the work of inclusion, unity, and opportunity,” Father Shanley said. “We have not yet become the building that God wants us to be. Our embrace of diversity is a barometer of how far we still need to go.”

Lectors were Taiwo Adefiyiju ’14, PC assistant director of student activities and cultural programming, and Patrick Monaghan ’17 (Medway, Mass.). Annie Rodriguez ’18 (Springfield, Mass.) and Thomas Begley ’17 (St. Albans, Vt.) were cantors. 

Altar servers were Dennis Fitts ’20 (Scarborough, Maine), Liam Gallagher ’19 (Bryant Pond, Maine), Matthew Harrington ’17 (Peabody, Mass.), Ally Luongo ’18 (Rehoboth, Mass.), and Joshua Maloney ’19 (Old Orchard Beach, Maine).

FIRST PHOTO INSET: Members of the Class of 2020 celebrate at the Centennial Lunch Market.

SECOND INSET: New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof gives the keynote address at convocation. 

THIRD INSET: ​ Joseph A. Gemma ’75 & ’77G, assistant professor of management and assistant dean of undergraduate students, applauds during convocation. 

FOURTH INSET: College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80 presents the homily at the Centennial Opening Mass.


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