RIC Mourns the Loss of Legendary Administrator Dolores Passarelli ’74

Dolores Passarelli

Passarelli’s career at RIC spanned more than 45 years.

Dolores Passarelli ’74, whose legendary career of helping Rhode Island College students spanned over 45 years, was tragically killed in an auto accident while visiting California on Tuesday.

California Highway Patrol reported that Passarelli was a passenger, along with her two sisters, in an SUV that ran off Highway 29 near Calistoga and struck a tree. She was pronounced dead on the scene from the accident, which hospitalized both her sisters with serious injuries.  

Passarelli’s career at RIC started in 1970 as a residence hall assistant for women and she rose through the ranks to become the longtime director for the Office of Academic Support and Information Services (OASIS) for students.  

She was selected to become the director of New Student Programs in 1978. In 1980, the college created the Academic Advisement Information Center as a joint venture between the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Academic Affairs. Passarelli expanded her responsibilities, coordinated the work of several faculty members and trained student counselors, who provided advisement support to the hundreds of students who sought help from OASIS. 

In addition, she oversaw the college’s freshman orientation program, coordinated commencement and was a member of many committees along the way.

Since her retirement seven years ago from her full-time duties, she was a key member of the intercollegiate athletic program’s Student-Athlete Success Program and worked closely with student-athletes as a counselor during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She received the Bourget Award of Merit for her exemplary contributions to Rhode Island College Athletics and most notably its student-athletes in 2011. Passarelli was named OASIS' director emerita in 2019.

“Dolores gave her heart and soul to all students but had an extreme affinity for our student-athletes,” Director of Athletics Don Tencher said. “She impacted their lives on a daily basis and she was respected by everyone in the department. Dolores was a wonderful person who deeply cared about students and their well-being and wanted them to succeed. This is a tragic loss for the department and the entire college community.”

“I was stunned and am saddened by the tragic death of Dolores Passarelli,” Vice President Emeritus for Student Affairs Gary Penfield said. “Dolores was a Rhode Island College treasure. She was a graduate who never left the college, a staff member who always gave every ounce of energy she had to making the college great and a professional who always worked tirelessly to help students succeed. There are legions of students who will testify that they trace their success back to the support they received directly from Dolores and OASIS.”

"I ask our entire campus community to join me in mourning the passing of Dolores Passarelli," said Rhode Island College President Frank D. Sánchez. "She was not only a fixture on campus, she was truly a member of the Rhode Island College family. I want to extend my deepest condolences to all who knew and loved her. Her impact on this school, and particularly on the lives of our students, will never be forgotten."

She is survived by her husband, Steve Luther, and her daughter. 

Visitation will be held on Tuesday, June 22, from 4 to 8 p.m. at William W. Tripp Funeral Home, 1008 Newport Ave., Pawtucket. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, June 23, at 10 a.m. at St. Teresa Church, 358 Newport Ave., Pawtucket. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22478, Oklahoma City, OK 73123 would be appreciated. For full information click on the following link: https://www.trippfuneralhome.com/obituary/dolores-passarelli.