Special 150th celebration offers a sense of place on Providence's East Side
On the lawn of the building at One Young Orchard Avenue on Providence’s East Side, Bryant alumni representing class years 1949 to 2009 gathered Sept. 21 to celebrate Bryant’s 150th anniversary. For those who graduated earlier than 1971, the location held extra significance – it was the site of their old Bryant campus, specifically, South Hall, the main classroom building.
Memories of their college years bubbled to the surface like the sparkling wine that was served in commemorative champagne flutes.
For Frank Delmonico ’62, ’92H (at left), they were memories not only of his alma mater, but also of the place he served as vice president for Business Affairs, treasurer, and secretary. In fact, it was Delmonico’s keen business skills that brokered the sale of Bryant’s campus to Brown University, leaving enough in the coffers to establish Bryant’s first endowment. “My counterpart at Brown and I worked everything out on our own with a handshake deal,” he recalled. “We only brought lawyers in to draw up paperwork when everything was completely decided.”
Proudly proclaiming herself to be the oldest alumnus/a at the event, 84-year-old Victoria (Agsanian) Ovian ’49, who retired just last year from her third career, this one in retail, attended with her daughter Elizabeth (Ovian) Smith ’78. “Bryant was, and still is, a wonderful school,” said Ovian, whose son, nephew, and grandchild also graduated from her alma mater.
Fond Memories of the East Side Campus
Some of those who gathered remembered meeting their spouses. “We met on those front steps,” said Peter Calise, Jr. ’64, pointing to the grand staircase entrance to what is now Brown University’s Orwig Music Building. His wife, Betty (Coray) ’64, Ed.D., added, “We’ve been married 49 years. We were so excited to learn this event was taking place here.”
Bill Squizzero ’63 met his future bride Terry (DeVona) ’65 in speech class, but finally worked up the nerve to ask her to his fraternity banquet in South Hall’s lobby. “I didn’t need any lines,” he says, eyes twinkling, eliciting a laugh from his bride. “I was quite the catch.”
Bruce Vittner ’66, ’68, ’72 MBA, who taught business at Bryant for 30 years, met his wife Carolyn (Clark) ’64 on the front lawn of South Hall. “She came to Bryant to get her 'MRS.' degree,” he bantered. “And I accomplished my goal,” she quipped.
Bryant "can’t take credit for your long, happy marriages,” noted Vice President for University Relations James Damron. “But we do have a lot to celebrate, including the University’s continuous history of innovation and adapting to the needs of people and society.”
President Ronald K. Machtley offered a toast: “From 1863 in downtown Providence to this campus to Bryant now, we have never stopped growing; may we continue for another 150 years.”
A Very Special WaterFire
As the sun was setting, this special 150th anniversary celebration continued in downtown Providence with a U.S. - China Institute-sponsored WaterFire Providence that featured a Chinese opera singer and a performance by the University’s dragon dance team. After a warm welcome, the enthusiastic crowd of about 3,000 people cheered as President Machtley, Kati Machtley, and other dignitaries carried the lit torches that ignited the Ring of Fire torches being held by 150 alumni, faculty, staff, and students.
Among those carrying torches were Donna S. (Barber) Neary '82, of Brockton, MA, Adedayo Kofoworola Adebiyi '16, of Abeokuta, Ogun, Nigeria, and Zhongkai Zhu '13 MBA, who is from Danyang, Jiangsu Province, China. Echoing the sentiments of his fellow torchbearers, Zhu said he was thrilled to participate in “this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
This special WaterFire Providence, said Zhu, “provided me with a strong sense of belonging. I am proud that I lit one of the 150 torches for Bryant. Not only did it symbolize a significant year in the history of the school, but also in memory of my hardworking year at Bryant.”
Neary said, “The excitement of representing Bryant at such a significant event meant the world to me.”
“The experience was phenomenal,” agreed Adebiyi. “ I didn’t expect that being a torchbearer would somehow make me feel like a part of the city itself. It was communal, full of love, passion, talent, and, most importantly, light. It’s an experience I will cherish always.”