Photo by Nora Lewis
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The new Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center on the University of Rhode Island’s South Kingstown campus was officially opened in a ceremony held Wednesday morning.
The 11,000-square-foot facility was named in honor of the long-time local banker, URI supporter and 1967 alumnus, Robert J. Higgins. His widow, Mary Danielian Higgins, a 1967 alumna of URI, made a $2 million contribution to the URI Welcome Center Building fund.
“Bob always maintained a strong connection to the university,” said Danielian Higgins in a statement. “I hope the Welcome Center will be the starting point for many others to begin similarly long-lasting relationships to URI.”
At the Wednesday ribbon-cutting celebration renditions of the URI fight song were sung and university jazz groups played in rooms throughout the new building as visitors toured the facility.
“In the Robert Higgins Welcome Center, we have a facility that now reflects the status of the University of Rhode Island as a global research university and the outstanding work of our students, faculty, staff and alumni. When visitors enter, they will immediately know that URI is a leader in teaching and research and whose influence is felt around the world,” said URI President David M. Dooley in prepared remarks.
Located on Upper College Road and Briar Lane, the welcome center is an interactive, one-story building which will serve roughly 50,000 annual visitors including prospective students and families, visiting scholars, guest lecturers, as well as community and business leaders.
The former welcome center facility was razed in late 2017.
Key features of the new facility include a wall documenting historic milestones in the university’s history, an open recreation area, presentation and conference rooms, as well as “float” office for use by faculty and staff visiting campus or away from their departments for the day.
Outdoor gathering places include the Taricani Terrace, named for URI honorary degree recipient and investigative journalist Jim Taricani, as well as the White Family Garden honoring 1981 URI alumna Laurie White and her family.
Topping off the project is a new sculpture of Rhody the Ram outside the Welcome Center’s entrance.
Silver LEED certification, the globally-recognized Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design prize symbolizing excellence in sustainable construction, will be sought by the university.
Providence-based DBVW Architects collaborated with URI on the design of the Welcome Center while E.W. Burman Inc. of Warwick served as contractor.