by Meaghan Dodson ’17
“Forever” is a powerful word. It is a word that connotes commitment, perseverance, and continuity; in other words, it demands nothing short of everything. To say that something is “forever” is to make a bold and confident assertion about its future. And yet, a century ago the founders of Providence College did make this assertion as they used the word “forever” to conclude the opening sentence of the charter that established the College as an institution of higher learning.
Although PC is a long way from “forever,” it came one step closer to it this past Tuesday, February 14, as the College celebrated the 100th anniversary of receiving its charter from the state of Rhode Island. Members of both the PC and Rhode Island communities gathered at the Statehouse to celebrate this momentous occasion.
Andrew Konnerth ’17, executive president of the 67th Student Congress, served as the event’s MC, greeting PC representatives and government officials alike.
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo began by welcoming the College to the statehouse. She stated that the College “is more than just a premiere liberal arts institution—it is a part of the fabric of the Rhode Island community.” She applauded PC for fostering the value of civic engagement in its students. This duty to the community is so strong, she stated, that 14 out of the House of Representative’s 75 members are former Friars. Indeed, one of the representatives is none other than Evan Shanley— the nephew of Fr. Brian Shanley, O.P. ‘80.
It was Raimondo who then presented Fr. Shanley with the statement declaring Feb. 14 the official “Providence College Day” in the state of Rhode Island.
Next to the podium was Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello. Mattiello echoed Raimondo’s feelings, remarking how PC “adds to our community, and has always been a beacon of light to the city of Providence.”
Also offering her congratulations was President of the Senate Teresa Paiva Weed ’81, another PC grad joked, “Fr. Shanley only has one year on me!” She expressed gratitude for her time as a Friar, stating, “The lessons I learned at PC prepared me not only for law school and my professional career, but also for life.”
Paiva Weed emphasized how “the state [of Rhode Island] and the College have always been closely intertwined.” Pointing to her class ring, she told the assembly that two of the ring’s features are an anchor and the word “hope,” the very symbols on the Rhode Island state flag.
Fr. Shanley was next to address the gathered community. He acknowledged how there is more pressure than ever for institutions of higher education to deliver results in terms of future career paths. And yet, while conferring nearly 54,000 undergraduate degrees over the past century, Fr. Shanley stated how PC’s liberal arts education does even more than that as it “shapes the hearts and minds of students to live good and virtuous lives.”
He took pride in the fact that PC students, through both their academic and extra-curricular efforts, develop into leaders, thinkers, and “go-getters.” He stressed the College’s commitment to service by highlighting its public and community service major, which was the first of its kind in the nation.
Fr. Shanley recognized and thanked the state of Rhode Island for its role in establishing the College. He thanked God for His divine providence, and he eagerly anticipated the next 100 years of serving the Rhode Island community.
The final speaker was Dr. Richard Grace, professor emeritus of the history department and PC’s resident historian. Grace gave a brief historical perspective of the College, recounting how PC’s founders worked to get civil and ecclesiastical approval for the College. A copy of the charter was on display at the statehouse, and Grace revealed how PC’s founders started the College with a mere $35,000. He emphasized how it financed itself thanks to the support of local parishes and immigrant populations who raised money to keep PC’s doors open.
The ceremony concluded with a performance by I Cantori, PC’s premier student choral ensemble. As the students sang the College’s alma mater, they wished the happiest of birthdays to PC as the statehouse reverberated with the words, “Hail Providence! We praise thy name!”