Sunday, November 17, 2013


It sometimes seems that all across the world there is talk of “transformation” – the transformation of institutions, corporations, governments, economies, policies, and even societies. At the University of Rhode Island we have defined a set of transformational goals, goals that, if achieved, will make the university a different kind of place for learning and discovery.  One might reasonably ask: “What would “transformation” actually look like?  Thanks to the events of this past week, we have another excellent example of a truly transformational step for URI. 
The visionary gift of $15 million from Tom and Cathy Ryan to create the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience has set the University of Rhode Island on an entirely different trajectory.  There can be little doubt that, as a result of this gift, the University of Rhode Island will be a different and much better university than it is at this moment.  As a result of this gift, the University of Rhode Island is now extremely well positioned to dramatically capitalize on its previous success in forming the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program.  URI now has the capability to become a leader in the effort to prevent, diagnose, and treat neurodegenerative and neurological diseases, and to discover fundamentally new insights into the functioning of the human brain.
Importantly, the Ryans' gift is perfectly consistent with existing strategic priorities of the University of Rhode Island and our Transformational Goals.  Consequently, the University is well positioned to supplement the resources provided by their gift.  The Ryans’ gift will catalyze the rapid expansion and growth of research and advanced training in neuroscience research at the University of Rhode Island. URI will provide base funding for the newly created position of the Thomas M. Ryan Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience.  URI will also fund three new faculty positions in neuroscience, which are part of our "cluster hire" strategy associated with the implementation of our Academic Strategic Plan.  Funding from the Ryan gift will provide absolutely critical start-up resources for these new faculty members, as well as ongoing support for their activities.

An additional feature of the Ryans’ gift significantly enhances its transformational impact. It will create new opportunities for collaborative research with colleagues at Brown University, the Rhode Island Hospital, Butler Hospital, and the Veterans Administration in Providence.  What each of these institutions would be able to do independently will be substantially enhanced by what we can do collaboratively.  The vision is to make Rhode Island a “go to” destination for research and care in neurodegenerative and neurological diseases. With the support of Tom and Cathy Ryan, this vision is measurably closer to becoming real, to the benefit of the University of Rhode Island, our partners, the state, and society.  That is truly transformational.