201119ind URIDonations

The University of Rhode Island has announced two separate donations of $1 million each for planned renovations to the West Gymnasium in the Tootell Athletic Complex. Above, a rendering shows what the project will look like when completed.

KINGSTON, R.I. — The University of Rhode Island says $2 million in recent alumni donations will be used to help the school’s basketball programs by renovating the West Gymnasium in the Tootell Athletic Complex.

URI announced last week that James and Doreen Clappin had pledged $1 million to benefit the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

On Wednesday, the school said that Geraldine and Gregory Barber had also made a $1 million donation toward the project.

URI said the money will advance an $8 million initiative to expand and improve facilities for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The university’s West Gym in the Tootell Athletic Complex will be renovated, while adjacent corridors will be upgraded to provide better access to game-day facilities in the Ryan Center. The changes are intended to improve the training experience for student-athletes and draw top recruits to the URI program.

URI Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn said the renovated facilities would include a new full court and two half courts. Fundraising for the work is about half complete at $4 million, he said, and design work is progressing.

James Clappin, a 1980 URI graduate, is vice chairman at Corning Incorporated.

“I am a proud alum and we are proud parents of a recent graduate,” Clappin said. “Doreen and I recognize how important a successful athletics program is for the Rhody community, and we want to create the best possible experience for the next generation of student-athletes.”

Clappin was recognized in 2013 with a Distinguished Achievement Award from the URI College of Engineering, and again in 2020 with a URI President’s Distinguished Achievement Award. He is a member of the URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement Campaign Committee, which is leading the largest fund-raising initiative in the university’s history with a goal of $250 million.

The Clappins made a $1 million contribution to URI two years ago for a new synthetic turf field and lights at Meade Stadium.   

“Jim and Doreen continue to demonstrate their commitment to driving URI athletics forward and giving our student-athletes a competitive advantage,” Bjorn said. “We are all grateful, and I know how much this will mean to the men and women of Rhody basketball.”

Geraldine Barber graduated from URI in 1970 and is a member of the URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement Board of Trustees and a member of the Women’s Council for Development. She was an elementary school teacher for 11 years in Coventry.

“Greg and I believe in URI’s student-athletes, in the coaches, and in Thorr Bjorn’s vision for the program,” Geraldine Barber said. “We want to see the university’s athletic excellence contribute to greater national and international recognition.”

Gregory Barber has spent the majority of his career as a principal in five venture capital funds, beginning with Narragansett Capital in 1978. In 1990, he co-founded Providence Equity Partners, which grew to become one of the country’s largest private equity investment companies. He received the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam.

The Barbers have supported URI and its athletic programs for more than 30 years, Bjorn said.

They have donated funds toward the Thomas M. Ryan Center and the Student-Athlete Development Center. They have also funded the Geraldine M. Barber Endowed Scholarship for Educational Travel and supported the Women Transforming Women Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“They have helped our students’ academic pursuits through endowed scholarships, and they are helping our athletic pursuits as well. We are so grateful for their support and their commitment to strengthening the university and our basketball teams,” Bjorn said.

Since 2017, the URI men’s basketball team has won two Atlantic 10 titles and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship twice. Over the last four seasons, 10 former players have gone on to professional careers, including Jared Terrell, who played in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves. New women’s head coach Tammi Reiss had a successful first season, after which two of her players signed professional contracts with teams in Europe.

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