Retirement Celebration for Vice President Penfield

Colleagues, friends and family of Gary Penfield, vice president for student affairs, are invited to his retirement celebration on Wednesday, June 18, 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the Recreation Center. Guests are invited to make a donation, which will go toward naming a RIC residence hall, now known as New Hall, in his honor. (See photo above of New Hall.)

Sponsored by Rhode Island College; the Providence Performing Arts Center; the Rhode Island College Alumni Association; the Rhode Island College Foundation; the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, Intramurals and Recreation; and Student Community Government Inc., this celebration recognizes Penfield’s 38 years of service to the college.

“A mentor and a motivator, Gary is beloved by many generations of RIC students and many other Rhode Islanders he has met over the years outside of the college,” said RIC President Nancy Carriuolo. “We will miss his hearty laugh and his kind words when he retires, but most of all we will miss his invaluable leadership to Rhode Island College.”

Looking back on his accomplishments – which include overseeing the Campus Store; the Counseling Center; Donovan Dining Center; Health Services; Intercollegiate Athletics, Intramurals and Recreation; Residential Life and Housing; the Office of Student Life/Dean of Students; and Upward Bound – the two accomplishments Penfield said he is most proud of are the founding of Disability Services in 1990 and the establishment of the Unity Center in 1994 while he was dean of students.

Disability services at RIC began after Penfield learned that a car accident had left a RIC student confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak. “Though wheelchair bound, she wanted more than anything to complete her degree,” Penfield said. “And her parents asked if I could find a way to make this happen.”

Penfield appointed the Assistant Dean of Students Dixon McCool to act as liaison for disability services, and together they were able to secure state funding for assistive aids, he said.

“Later we began promoting our services to high school guidance counselors so that they would encourage their students with special needs to consider RIC. And this was long before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and before many higher education institutions were offering these services,” he said. “Within two years, we had enrolled 25 or 30 students with disabilities.”

Penfield also recognized that RIC’s minority student population would increase and diversify. At that time, the population was “two-and-a-half to three percent African American,” according to Penfield. “I saw that the percentage of minorities was going to grow and that we needed to prepare ourselves to provide support for them, so I established the Unity Center, which signifies, by its name, a much broader definition of minority.”

In 2011 Penfield was formally recognized for his support of the Department of Athletics, Intramurals and Recreation and its students. He was inducted into the RIC Athletic Hall of Fame. 

Donald Tencher, director of athletics and recreation, and assistant vice president for administration, said, “Dr. Penfield is not only one of the finest administrators I’ve ever worked with, he is one of the finest persons I’ve ever known. The renovation of the Recreation Center was a direct result of Dr. Penfield’s long-term commitment to providing RIC students with the best possible experience that resources will allow.”

To register for Penfield’s retirement celebration/fundraiser, click here. For more information, contact Barbara Kingston in the Office of Student Life at 401-456-8061 or at