Our History

Rhode College of Education Normal School

Rhode Island College is the first public institution of higher education in the state of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island College came from humble origins, providing opportunities for self-transformation in order to meet the changing needs of the people of Rhode Island – a commitment that continues to this day.

Rhode Island Normal School opened its doors on May 29, 1854 in the same former church hall that was used previously for private normal school instruction.  It was the eighth normal school opened in America.  Its goal was to provide teacher preparation to young people from Rhode Island. Opening speakers included Rev. T.D. Cook of the Second Universalist Church, Governor William Ward Hoppin, and Education Commissioner Elisha Potter, who discussed “…the benefits to the cause of Common School Education to be expected from the establishment of this institution.”  

The first class consisted of 27 students, including three men, although 88 different students attend classes during the first year.  Students range in age from 15-year old Laura M. Steere of North Providence to 25-year old Sarah G. Peavey of Providence.

With the dedication of a new building in 1898, the institution began a period of steady growth, evolving first into a teachers' college, the Rhode Island College of Education. In the 1958-59 academic year the college moved to its current Mount Pleasant campus, and in 1959 was renamed Rhode Island College to reflect its new purpose as a comprehensive institution of higher education. With an enrollment predominantly from Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut, the institution historically has served as a "College of Opportunity" for first-generation college students.

Today, Rhode Island College is located on a 180-acre park-like campus in the Mount Pleasant section of Providence and now serves approximately 7,000 students in courses and programs both on and off campus. This location combines a suburban atmosphere with easy access to the benefits and resources of the metropolitan area.

List of Principals and Presidents

The following men and women have guided the college throughout its history.

Dana Pond Colburn, 1854-1859

Joshua Kendall, 1860-1864

James Carruthers Greenough, 1871-1883

Thomas J. Morgan, 1883-1888

George Abner Littlefield, 1889-1892

William Edward Wilson, 1892-1898

Fred Gowing, 1898-1901

Charles Sumner Chapin, 1901-1907

John Lincoln Alger, 1908-1938

Lucius Albert Whipple, 1939-1950

William Clement Gaige, 1952-1966

Joseph Frank Kauffman, 1968-1973

Charles Borromeo Willard ‘34, 1973-1977

David Emery Sweet, 1977-1984

Carol Joan Guardo, 1986-1989

John Nazarian ‘54, 1990-2008

Nancy Carriuolo (Nancyanne Elizabeth Munzert Rabianski Carriuolo), 2008-2016

Frank David Sánchez, 2016-2022