Providence College celebrates close of record $185 million fundraising campaign

Providence College celebrated the close of its record-breaking fundraising campaign, Our Moment: The Next Century Campaign for Providence College, during St. Dominic Weekend, Sept. 15-16.

The most successful campaign in College history raised $185 million, shattering the target of $140 million announced at its public launch in October 2014. It featured gifts from more than 35,500 donors, including alumni, parents, faculty, staff, corporations, and foundations. Forty-two percent of the College’s 56,000 alumni made a gift during the campaign, and 41 donors made commitments of $1 million or more.

The seven-year Our Moment campaign transformed campus, enabling the construction of the Ruane Center for the Humanities, the Arthur F. and Patricia Ryan Center for Business Studies, the Ray Treacy Track and Field, and Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium. It established five endowed professorships and three endowed lectureships. The amount of financial aid and scholarships awarded to students increased by 45 percent, to more than $70 million annually, and 120 endowed scholarships were created.

Gifts to the campaign enhanced research and study abroad opportunities, bolstered the implementation of a new core curriculum, and supported diversity initiatives and new programs, such as The Humanities Forum.

The successful close was announced at a celebration on Saturday night in the Peterson Recreation Center that drew alumni, trustees, students, administrators, faculty, and staff. St. Dominic Weekend is an annual event during which the College thanks its most generous benefactors.

At the event, College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80 said visitors frequently tell him, “I can’t believe what you have done” in transforming the campus. But most significant, Father Shanley said, is the campaign’s impact on students.

“For me, the most important part of this campaign is that we’ve been able to increase financial need-based aid to our students as a result of philanthropy,” Father Shanley said. “I love our buildings, but I’m more interested in investing in our students, who can be transformed in their hearts, souls, and minds in beautiful academic spaces.”

The campaign also made possible the replacement of Huxley Avenue, a city street that bisected campus, with a landscaped walkway and a new entrance off Admiral Street. A softball field was built, and Schneider Arena and Mullaney Gym in Alumni Hall were renovated.

Ongoing projects include an expansion and renovation of the Science Complex and the multiphase construction of the Ruane Friar Development Center, which will include a basketball practice facility, a new Center for Career Education & Professional Development, and an expanded and a renovated Slavin Center ’64 Hall.

“Providence College is at an incredible point in our history,” said Gregory T. Waldron, senior vice president for institutional advancement. “We are experiencing unprecedented momentum academically, athletically, and with admissions. The philanthropic support of the Friar faithful has been critical to our success thus far and will be just as critical to our future success.”

At the campaign celebration, Adam Hanna ’18 (Lakeville, Mass.), a singer and songwriter, played and sang a ballad, “100 Years,” that he composed for the occasion.

“This is in honor of the last 100 years, it’s looking forward to the next 100, and it’s knowing that in some way, we’re all a part of both,” said Hanna.

“One hundred years ago, no one we know was here,” Hanna sang. “Poor people, of simple means, 100 years ago, accomplished things they never could have dreamed. … Time is a tiny plot of land we worked so hard to clear. We have a lease that says 100 years.”

Biology students’ stem cell/organoid research takes off

By Chris Machado

Whether it’s cataracts, kidney stones, or cancer, advances in treating these diseases and disorders have begun under a microscope at the cellular level. If you think the road to discovery requires a Ph.D., a group of Providence College biology students recently proved otherwise.

This past semester, Dr. Charles Toth, associate professor of biology, led a first-time seminar entitled Human Organoids. The aim of the lab-intensive course was to grow cellular versions of human organs, such as a kidney, pancreas, and a retina.

“When Dr. Toth introduced us to this, I was excited because we were going to be working on something that is happening in research right now,” said Joseph Dowling ’18 (Ronkonkoma, N.Y.), a biology major who worked in a retina group.

The teams of students created organoids — artificially cultivated masses of cells or tissue that resemble an organ — using human-induced pluripotent stem cells, which were made possible through a gift by Dr. John Mullen ’78.

“Stem cell research is so incredibly important, as this might be the true pathway — along with immunotherapy — to cure so many conditions that plague humanity,” said Mullen, an orthopedic physician. “It can’t be stressed how important this is.”

The stem cells used in the PC lab, which are human cells that are reprogrammed into stem cells, were subjected to various tests that were intended to see if the organoids could mimic natural human behavior. In each group, that happened.

In offering the course, Toth said he wanted to create an open-ended, project-based learning exercise that put the students in control. He charged the students with determining which organoid to grow and which research protocols to follow and scientists to contact, as well as performing the cell cultures and analyses.

“I was extremely proud of the students for stepping up to the plate and owning their work,” he said. “I attended an international stem cell conference recently and met up with a kidney organoid scientist that the kidney group was working with. He saw their completed poster and commented that he was surprised it worked. But, he was very impressed with how well the students did on their project.”

While Dowling admitted that there were disappointments throughout the semester, after weeks of tests he said the outcomes were staggering. The group’s data showed that several of the organoids matured into a tissue known as RPE (retinal pigment epithelium), which has several functions, including light absorption.

“Our main goal was to see if what is being done by researchers was replicable in a classroom environment,” Dowling explained. “We were holding our breath trying to keep these organoids alive. When we got the last (cell) line to work, it was super rewarding.”

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For PC’s first Luce scholars, summer is all about science

By Vicki-Ann Downing

A summer of paid research, a full-tuition scholarship for senior year, and the chance to develop a program to encourage young women in the sciences — those are the opportunities enjoyed by Emma Burgess ’18 and Bianca Saliba ’18, the first Clare Boothe Luce scholars at Providence College.

The Luce program is made possible by a $288,538, four-year award PC received from the Henry Luce Foundation to encourage women in the study of science, engineering, and mathematics. Burgess and Saliba were selected based on their academic standing, commitment to the sciences, and interest in pursuing an advanced degree or career in their fields of study.

They each received a $4,000 stipend to spend the summer on campus in research with faculty. Burgess, from Huntsville, Ala., an applied physics major and mathematics minor, works in the lab of Dr. Seth T. Ashman, assistant professor of physics, on computational and experimental projects. Saliba, from Johnston, R.I., is a chemistry major working with beta-Carbolines in the lab of Dr. Seann P. Mulcahy, associate professor of chemistry.

Burgess and Saliba, who are students in the Liberal Arts Honors Program, are among about 70 science students doing research on campus this summer. As part of the Luce grant, they will continue the research for academic credit during the 2017-18 school year and will undertake a service project to encourage young women to study science.

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Koikou ’16 chosen as one of Africa’s most promising young female leaders

Marie-Florence Koikou ’16 of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, who majored in finance at Providence College, has been selected as one of Africa’s most promising young female leaders by the Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa.

Koikou was one of 28 women selected as a 2017 Moremi Initiative Leadership and Empowerment Development Fellow after a competitive process that drew more than 2,500 applicants from 45 African nations. Selection was based on leadership promise, community service, and commitment to the advancement of women in Africa.

Koikou will spend three weeks at an intensive training program hosted by the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana in Legon. She will learn about leadership in the broad African context, cultivate skills to occupy and excel in leadership positions, and explore issues critical to African women and their communities.

The fellowship is for a year. It will include networking, media coverage, career planning, management, and access to opportunities and resources. Each fellow will initiate and lead a community change project on an issue of importance to her community or to African women.

Koikou applied for the fellowship because she noticed that few women from French-speaking countries in West Africa were represented each year.

“I hope to pave the way for more young African women, especially from Francophone Africa, to realize their potential for leadership and impact in their respective communities,” said Koikou. “I would like to use this fellowship to get more tools and resources, and to learn good practices from the other inspiring participants to make my organization more impactful.”

After graduating from PC, Koikou returned home to Abidjan to work for one year with GE Africa. She then applied for the prestigious GE Financial Management Program, which accepts only a few people from Africa each year. The process included a written examination and interviews in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Koikou was one of three people accepted for the program. Employees work in six-month rotations in four different countries over the course of two years. In August, she will move to Johannesburg to begin the first rotation.

Since graduation, Koikou has continued to work on her social ventures, including Ahiman Women (Women of Tomorrow), an empowerment and mentorship program she started for young girls.

“I organized boot camps and shadowing days to give them more resources and visibility to develop their potential,” Koikou said.

She also became deputy secretary of the alumni board of her all-female high school, Lycee Ste. Marie. While attending school there, Koikou was accepted to the African Leadership Academy, a high school in Johannesburg for the top students from 54 African nations. She spent two years learning about entrepreneurship, leadership, and service, 3,000 miles from home.

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