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Rhode Island College, Office of College Communications and Marketing, News Release

RIC Announces 2013 Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Rhode Island College has selected two prominent Rhode Islanders to serve as commencement speakers at the graduate and undergraduate ceremonies.

Giovanni Feroce, CEO of Alex and Ani, LLC, will be the speaker for the graduate commencement ceremony on May 16 at 5:30 p.m. in the Murray Center.

Marie Elizabeth Petrarca, an ardent supporter of the arts community in Rhode Island, will serve as the keynote speaker for the undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 18 at 9:30 a.m. on the college’s esplanade.

In addition, the college will present honorary degrees to Feroce, Petrarca and four other leaders in the fields of business, education, philanthropy and science.

Honorary degrees to be awarded during the graduate commencement ceremony:

Giovanni Feroce, CEO of Alex and Ani LLC, will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree. His product lines include the patented signature expandable wire bangles from designer Carolyn Rafaelian, founder and creative director of Alex and Ani. He is also founder of the VIsion OPerating SYstem (VIOPSYS™), a Web-based software program designed to integrate and synchronize ordering and management operations in the optical business.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Rhode Island and an Advanced Management Practice degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School. He was one of the youngest state senators in U.S. history and is a veteran of the United States Army. Today he is a role model for veterans who have transitioned from the military to corporate leadership and is recognized for his success in all aspects of managerial leadership.

Charles Townsend, a national leader in the development of the cellular communications industry, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree.

Townsend made his mark in Rhode Island by founding a number of very successful wireless companies over the past 25 years. His companies were recognized by KPMG five years in a row as one of Rhode Island’s 50 fastest growing companies. In addition, his companies have been included twice by “INC” magazine as being among the 500 fastest growing private companies in the United States.

Townsend founded Atlantic Cellular in 1988, which operated under the Cellular One name and became the fourth largest cellular company in New England before it wassold to Rural Cellular Corp. in 1998. In 2002, Townsend founded Aloha Partners, a wireless communications company specializing in purchasing and developingcellular phone licenses. Aloha Partners was a pioneer in using UHF television channels for high-speed wireless data. In 2008 Aloha sold all its UHF-TV channels to AT&T. Aloha Partners continues to be the eighth largest owner of wireless spectrum in the United States.

Townsend has been a board member of the Cellular Telephone Industry Association since 1988 and received the prestigious President’s Award in 1998. He was chairman of the Wireless Hall of Fame from 2009-2012.

He holds an MBA degree from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia.

Donald Driscoll, a RIC alumnus, will be conferred the honorary Doctor of Education degree. Driscoll earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Rhode Island College and engaged in doctoral studies in public school administration at Boston University. He served as an educator for 17 years and is now a retired teacher, assistant principal and assistant superintendent of Providence Schools.

Driscoll also served for 12 years as assistant commissioner for operations at the Rhode Island Department of Education. After retiring from education, Driscoll worked on the staff of Sen. Jack Reed for seven years as a grants administrator and advisor, and later was a founding partner of Palumbo/Driscoll Associates, amediation, arbitration and consulting service.

Driscoll has given nearly six decades of service to the college. He served as trustee and on the board of directors for the Rhode Island College Foundation. He was also a member of the Alumni Association. In 2001 he was named Rhode Island College Alumnus of the Year. In 2004, during the college’s Sesquicentennial, he was a major fundraiser and served on the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee.

Honorary degrees to be awarded during the undergraduate commencement ceremony:

Marie Elizabeth Petrarca will receive an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree. Petrarca attended the Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y., and the Ellis Hospital School of Nursing in Schenectady, N.Y., from which she earned her nursing degree in 1956. She later worked as a nurse at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Tufts Medical Center in Boston and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., as well as in several nursing homes throughout Rhode Island before her retirement in 1998.

Her husband Robert Horace Petrarca, longtime president of Bald Hill Dodge and Kia Inc., will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree. Robert Petrarca earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bryant College in 1953 and later served in the U.S. Army medical corps for two years. He started working at Bald Hill Realty and Bald Hill Dodge in 1955, and he was president of both from 1975 until his retirement earlier this year. He remains active on the board of directors of both companies.

Marie and Robert Petrarca have been longtime philanthropic supporters of Rhode Island College and of the arts community in Rhode Island. The Petrarcas are benefactors of the 1854 Society, members of the Performing Arts Series Advisory Committee and major donors to the Performing Arts Series. They served on the search committee for the director of the Nazarian Center at Rhode Island College, and they were instrumental in RIC’s Sesquicentennial activities. They also are members of the John F. Custer Lobby Dedication Committee.

The Petrarcas have donated more than 30 professional oil paintings to the college over the past two years, enhancing gathering places on campus. In addition, they have generously donated artwork to a variety of schools, hospitals and other organizations, including Bryant University, Radcliffe University, Save the Bay, Tufts New England Medical Center, Newport Hospital, Women & Infants Hospital, Kent County Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, Our Lady of Fatima Hospital and the Rhode Island Philharmonic

Henry Lesieur, an internationally recognized leader in problem gambling and addictions research and treatment, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree. He earned a B.A. from Providence College, an M.A. and Ph.D.from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a Psy.D. from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. He engaged in a postdoctoral clinical at Brown University’s School of Medicine.

Lesieur was a professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences at Illinois State University and former staff psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry and the Rhode Island Gambling Treatment Program. He also served as a member of the Rhode Island Council on Problem Gambling for 12 years.

He has been a supporter, mentor, consultant and contributor to Rhode Island College’s chemical dependency and addiction studies program. In 2012 he donated his books, professional papers, files and intellectual resources to the Rhode Island College Gambling Studies Project. He also mentors George Ladd, a professor of psychology at Rhode Island College, in the development of gambling studies activities and trainings intended to serve the students and communities of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island College, the first public institution of higher learning in the state, confers about 1,400 graduate and undergraduate degrees annually.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen on the basis of their exceptional leadership qualities or contributions to civic life, or in recognition of high achievement. The nomination, evaluation and selection process, which takes place over a five-month period, receives input and review from a broad representation of the college community.