KINGSTON, R.I. — Two $1 million alumni donations to the University of Rhode Island will benefit improvements to the Graduate School of Oceanography and help female students at the university’s Harrington School of Communication and Media.
The university announced Friday that former WPRI Eyewitness News anchor Karen Adams made a $1 million gift to her endowment to support female students at URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media.
The Karen L. Adams Scholarship in Communications, established in 2016, benefits junior or senior female students from Rhode Island who maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
Adams, who lives in Narragansett, was the evening anchor for WPRI’s newscasts from 1989 until her retirement in 2010.
She received an Emmy Award for Individual Achievement in Anchoring and was admitted into the Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which recognizes her career in broadcast news.
“It is important for me to give to URI rather than another institution,” Adams said. “Rhode Island is where I spent the bulk of my career, and I feel compelled to give back to the flagship university.”
Harrington School Director and College of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Adam Roth called the gift “both an inspiring gesture of generosity and a resounding validation of our shared commitment to educate a new generation of women leaders who will work across a range of media platforms in their respective communication careers.”
Adams, originally from Missouri, worked as an anchor and news director at WPCQ, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, before coming to Rhode Island. She received her bachelor’s degree at Missouri State University, where she majored in speech and theater, and minored in journalism.
In 2010, she received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from URI in recognition of her commitment to public service.
The Harrington School was established in 2008 and offers programs in digital media, communication studies, film production, multimedia journalism, library and information studies, public relations, sports media and writing and rhetoric.
Adams wasn’t the only URI alum giving back to the college last week.
On March 5, URI announced a $1 million gift from Stephen M. Greenlee and Donna Church Greenlee to support efforts to improve facilities at the Graduate School of Oceanography.
The Greenlee Family GSO Campus Redevelopment Fund supports construction on the Narragansett Bay Campus. The couple hopes to inspire interest in and support of oceanographic research, building on recent momentum at GSO, the university said.
The Greenlees’ gift follows a bond issue voters passed in November authorizing $45 million to GSO to enhance research capabilities and prepare for the new Regional Class Research Vessel arriving in 2021. In July, the National Science Foundation awarded the vessel - one of just three in the nation - to the East Coast Oceanographic Consortium led by URI.
“Donna and I feel that our investment in GSO’s Bay Campus renewal will help to ensure that their mission of research, education, and outreach can be fulfilled well into the future,” Stephen Greenlee said. “We believe strongly in GSO’s capacity to impact our knowledge of the world’s oceans and help solve critical challenges in this area.”
Bruce Corliss, dean of the school, will oversee the use of the funds according to the school’s strategic plan and in conjunction with the upgrades funded by the bond.
“We are grateful for the Greenlees’ confidence in our work, particularly at this key moment for the school,” Corliss said. “Their gift will expand the possibilities for our faculty, researchers and students.”
The donation follows a 2018 contribution to URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus of the nearly $2 million Greenfins Aquaculture facility from Peter Mottur, co-founder and president of Greenfins Global, LLC.
Stephen M. Greenlee is a geoscientist and president of the ExxonMobil Exploration Company. He is a member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. In 1982 he earned a master’s degree in oceanography at the GSO, after a bachelor’s degree in geology at Duke University. Donna Church Greenlee, originally from Portsmouth, worked as a geophysicist at ExxonMobil and Kerr McGee. She earned a bachelor’s degree in geophysics at Boston College. They live in Texas.
Founded in 1961, the Graduate School of Oceanography conducts deep water oceanographic research, coastal planning and management, sustainable fisheries and monitoring of Narragansett Bay.