News | Whitcomb: The Real Security Risk; Red Tide Rises; Sober on RI’s Bumpy Roads; Boston, Capital of RI

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Robert Whitcomb, columnist

“Nothing happens in August – except when something really happens in August. World War I began in August, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait began in August, al Qaida was preparing to bring down the World Trade Center in August. August, in other words, is the time when all of us should prepare our backup plans, chart our reversals of course, [and] think through possible paradigm changes.’’

— Anne Applebaum (journalist and historian)

“What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance.’’

— Jane Austen

(I wonder what she meant by “hot’’ in normally mild summer weather in England.)

“This is something that we should underline. What comes out of the White House is not the whole of the United States of America. It’s a great country. We admire America and Americans. We’ve always been friends, and neighbors and allies, and we should be that way again.”

— Quebec Premier Philippe Couilard, at the recent annual meeting of New England governors and premiers of Canada’s eastern provinces.

President Donald Trump

The Biggest Security Risk

Trump’s revocation of the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan — a brave patriot — over Brennan’s criticism of Trump’s treasonous connections with the Kremlin and the seemingly bottomless corruption of Trump and his Mafia-like entourage  — simply serves to remind people that Trump himself might be the biggest security risk in American history.

Perhaps when the long economic recovery that began in 2009 ends (probably late next year or in 2020) as the tax-cut amphetamine high fades and debt more visibly explodes, Trump’s fans will turn off Fox “News’’ and start edging away from the sewer  he presides over, after decades of sleaze for all to see if they’re willing to read. (As a former business editor and former New Yorker, I have followed the great con man/grifter Trump and his gang for decades.)

Reminder: The Great Crash of 2008 and the deep recession that followed came after big tax cuts for the rich and looser financial-sector regulation.

Meanwhile, readers might want to listen to John McLaughlin, acting CIA director under George W. Bush, to get his reaction to Trump’s behavior. Hit this link:

And this:

Then there’s a letter last week to Trump from Retired. Admiral William H. McRaven, who commanded the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. It begins:

“Dear Mr. President:

“Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

“Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.’’

To read his whole letter, please hit this link:


The Trump gang will stop at nothing to try to prevent the impeachment of their capo dei capi, which will almost certainly happen if the Democrats take back the House in the mid-term elections.  So I hope that state election officials are prepared for massive attempts to steal the elections, aided by the very finest hackers that Russia can provide.

Meanwhile, let’s stop calling Trump “a conservative.” Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan would roll in their graves to hear this Banana Republic-style thug called that.

As for Trump’s propaganda princess, chief Sarah Huckabee Sanders, her father, Mike Huckabee, must have given her rigorous lessons for success in the con-artist industry. Please hit this link to learn more:

As they used to say, “What a country!” If only H.L. Mencken were alive to revel in it. But why whine? American democracy and civic culture have been in decline for a long time as a large minority of the population slides deeper into Fantasyland.

U.S. Capitol

Ignoring the Debt Demons

Federal, business and household debt have been surging. So why so few signs of economic distress because of it?

Clinton Treasury Secretary and former Citigroup chairman Robert Rubin did considerable damage to the long-term health of the economy himself through pushing irresponsible Wall Street deregulation that of course benefited him. But he explained the burgeoning debt crisis well the other day in The Washington Post:

“Despite rising debt, interest rates have remained low, and a fiscal crisis has not occurred. That is because private demand for business investment has been sluggish in a slow recovery, the Federal Reserve has provided liquidity through its unconventional monetary policy, and financial markets often ignore unsustainable fiscal conditions for an extended time…. ‘’

“Similarly, our diminished fiscal resilience hasn’t mattered because of the absence of economic or geopolitical emergencies. Business confidence has not been affected because businesses often ignore unsustainable fiscal conditions for a lengthy period before losing confidence. Vitally needed public investment — everything from infrastructure to education and lifelong learning — might be deficit-funded, like the misguided 2017 tax cuts, but ultimately the fiscal pressure to scale back investment will be intense.…{T}he longer we wait (to address the debt}, the greater the damage – and the harsher the response needed.’’

To read his essay, please hit this link:

Red Tide Moves Higher

Florida is sending us a warning about the fragility of coastal and other watery places in the face of over-development. Narragansett and Buzzards bays are particularly vulnerable.

On the southwest coast of the Florida peninsula, a highly toxic bloom of red algae – aka, red tide — is killing sea life, making breathing very difficult for humans and scaring away the tourists who fuel much of the region’s economy. The beaches are covered with rotting fish.

I’ve been on that very coast during a red tide, and it’s appalling. Residents flee indoors to get away from the aerosolized toxins from the algae, hoping that air-conditioning will clean out most of them.

Meanwhile, a different kind of algae – green stuff – continues to befoul inland lakes and canals.

Man is the main culprit. The vast quantities of fertilizers and other chemicals dumped on the state for agribusiness, housing-development lawns and golf courses end up in the water, where algae feed on them. Wetlands are filled in, land is paved over and innumerable canals are dug. All this means that much less of this polluted water can be absorbed and filtered by undeveloped land.

Rick Bartleson, a research scientist with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (named for two barrier islands along the southwest Florida coast known for their lovely beaches and seashells), told The Washington Post that the region’s Lee County used to be 50 percent wetlands (and close to the Everglades). Now it’s 10 percent.

Warming water temperatures also play a role; the Gulf of Mexico now averages about two degrees warmer than it was in the late ‘70s.

Out-of-control development aided and abetted by local and state politicians well taken care of by those businesses has turned much of Florida, with its famous fresh-water wetlands, into a vast sprawl of unrestrained exurban and suburban development. Strip malls in the sunset.

The environmental devastation of this gold rush is unlikely to decrease anytime soon.

Surprisingly Sober – or Lucky – Drivers?

Happy news:, which studies community safety, shows that Rhode Island has the fourth-lowest driving-while-intoxicated fatality rate among the 50 states, despite its reputation for having bad drivers. Just three states – New Jersey, Utah and New York – had lower rates. Massachusetts was the sixth lowest, but Connecticut was only 15th best. Thank good public-education campaigns on the perils of drunk driving, strong policing and in the case of Utah, the fact that Mormons aren’t supposed to drink!

Governor Gina Raimondo

Debate! Debate!

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo really ought to debate on TVher Democratic primary foes, Matt Brown and Spencer Dickinson. These are three very smart people. The public deserves to see and hear them taking on the issues. Republican rivals Rep. Patricia Morgan, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and businessman Giovanni Feroce should also duke it out on the bozo box.

Handle with Care New England

Brown University says it will continue its links with Care New England (CNE), which has medical school teaching hospitals, even if Boston-based behemoth Partners HealthCare takes it over. Well, of course, Brown would have to: It needs nearby teaching hospitals!

The PR on this is that the medical school would remain Care New England’s primary research and teaching affiliate. Well, maybe. The financial and research clout of Partners (with such world-renowned hospitals as Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals) is such that we can expect a lot of CNE stuff now being done in Rhode Island – much of it administrative but some of it clinical work and research — will end up being done in Boston. A lot of jobs will disappear around here, but some might be added, too, maybe even from Boston:

Greater Providence will continue to have the advantages of being a cheaper and easier place to work in.

Self-inflicted Bumpy Roads

Wall Street 24/7 reports that Rhode Island has the highest percentage of poor roads in the country, at 24.6 percent, and the highest percentage of states with deficient bridges, at 23.3 percent. And perhaps not coincidentally the 16th lowest percentage of state highway spending per driver a year: $408.

Years of state underfunding have led to this situation, exacerbated by the usually Republican-controlled Congress’s refusal to increase the federal gasoline tax since it was last raised, in 1993, to 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. That money is supposed to go to build and repair transportation infrastructure.

This anti-tax mania has reduced federal money available to the states for transportation, as have better fuel efficiency and, in the past few years, the arrival of electric cars.

But anti-tax mania when it limits public-infrastructure building and repair ends up costing individuals and businesses a lot, in travel delays and broken equipment.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s Rhode Works program, which includes new truck tolls – commercial trucks do the lion’s share of damage to roads and bridges — to help pay for it, is much appreciated. Governors for decades have tried but failed – and then surrendered in efforts to address this serious threat to safety and the state’s economy.

‘Domestic Protectionism’

The National Review is running a superb piece – “The Scourge of Domestic Protectionism’’ — by George Will about how local and state laws burden consumers to protect entrenched economic interests. Rhode Island and Massachusetts have plenty of such laws.

Will concludes:

“First, domestic protectionism that burdens consumers for the benefit of entrenched economic interests (e.g., occupational licensing that restricts entry to professions for no reason related to public health and safety) is even more prevalent and costly than are tariffs and import quotas that interfere with international trade. Second … modern government — that recognizes no limits to its competence or jurisdiction is inevitably a defender of the entrenched, and hence a mechanism for transferring wealth upward. Third, only courts can arrest the marauding of the political class when, with unseemly motives, it pretends to know more than markets do about society’s needs.’’

To read it, please hit:

Defunding the Confucius Institutes

Every day there’s some good news! Finally, the Feds are acting strongly to curtail the Chinese government-controlled Confucius Institutes that all too many public and private colleges and universities have invited on campus to – officially – promote Chinese language and broader cultural instruction.

The new defense bill signed into law bars any U.S. college or university from using any defense-related funds for anything involving Confucius Institutes. The move comes after Arizona State University lauded itself for getting money from both the Defense Department and the Chinese-funded Confucius Institute for Chinese language programs.

Not very well hidden behind the soothing words about cross-cultural understanding is that the Confucius Institutes are vehicles for espionage – including industrial espionage involving scientific research being done in university labs, etc. – and surveillance of Chinese students by Big Brother in Beijing.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz put it well:

“Confucius Institutes are a key way the regime infiltrates American higher education to silence criticism and sanitize education about China.’’

The U.S. House’s Open Invitation to Corruption

The indictment of New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins on insider-trading charges publicized something that I suspect that most people hadn’t known: That members of the U.S. House, unlike senators, have been allowed to sit on corporate boards! An open invitation to corruption.

Federal prosecutors got a federal grand jury to charge that Collins illegally shared negative inside information, including with his son, about Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech company where Collins was on the board for years until this spring. The tip, asserted prosecutors, saved his son Cameron about $571,000.

Consider that Collins had a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health-care companies like Innate, while he was on the Innate board. The House Ethics Committee has been investigating Collins for promoting Innate. 

Of course, the two-way information access is particularly powerful for a congressman sitting on a board, especially those like Collins, on committees where they can say things or vote in ways that can directly help or hurt a company. Consider a congressman or congresswomen who serves on a defense-related committee and has stock in a Pentagon contractor, which in fact has not been uncommon.

The best – and most obvious – way to reduce the chances of economic conflicts of interest in such cases is to compel all incoming federal legislators – and the president – to put their investments into a blind trust.

Mustang Summer

This year’s anniversary of the movie Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen and his famous chase through San Francisco, brought back to me memories of the summer of 1965, when a next-door neighbor friend was given a Ford Mustang convertible, then a brand-new creation. We’d drive along the shoreline of our town on Massachusetts Bay with the Beach Boys on the radio and in a kind of sun-soaked bliss, as if we were at Malibu. Few things were so pleasant then as to have easy access to a car in the summer. With gasoline at 30 cents a gallon,  and summer jobs plentiful, cost seemed a minor concern. And I didn’t hear about global warming from burning fossil fuel until three years later when I heard a young assistant professor from MIT give a lecture.

The Unraveling Continues

Turkey is a major country, with more than 80 million people and the second-largest military in NATO. It’s now in a trade war with America, or at least with Donald Trump, and a related currency crisis. In past years its economic problems would have been addressed at least partly – and quickly – by the likes of the International Monetary Fund and other organizations essentially led by the United States. But now with the U.S. partial withdrawal from the leadership and coordinating role that it has had in the world economy since World War II, more countries will be on their own. That means more protectionism and more crises, and the increasing tendency to follow the lead of China – a more disciplined player than the increasingly unreliable United States.

As More Forget

I’m haunted by my visit a few weeks back with a friend, now in her early seventies, of about half a century.  She’s suffering from dementia and living in a place for people most of whom look like they’re part-way into the realm that we will all enter soon enough. She has little short-term memory but can recollect stuff from decades ago, and retains her cheery disposition. She has come sort of full circle – back to childhood. 

How will the country deal with millions more like her as Baby Boomers age, especially since few of them have the financial resources to pay to stay in a place as nice as where she will probably live out the rest of her life?

The Tough Work Behind Environmental Agreements

I had lunch the other day with Curt Spalding, who used to run Save The Bay and the New England branch of the Environmental Protection Agency.  I came away impressed again by the complexities and difficulties that such people face in negotiating environmental-protection agreements that usually include a variety of federal, state and local agencies as well as assorted contentious private-sector players. Hard work, challenging compromises.

Modern Necessities?

A conservative friend sent me the link below, asking: “If They Can’t Afford Food, How Can They Afford A Smartphone?’’

It reminds me of Will Rogers’s line during the Great Depression: “We are the first nation in the history of the world to go to the poorhouse in an automobile.’’ Cellphones are now essential.

And then passed on from another conservative (and kindly) friend:

 “Subject: Lesson in Irony

“This is a great example to use in a political speech.  Once in a while we just 
have to stand back in awe of government.

  The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of
  Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free
  Meals and Food Stamps ever – 46 million people.

  Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S.
  Department of the Interior, asks us ‘Please Do Not Feed the Animals.’
  Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow
  dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.”’

  Thus ends today’s lesson in irony.’’

Actually, most working-age folks on Food Stamps work, albeit many in unreliable and all in low-wage jobs.  Two-thirds of the participants are children, elderly and disabled people. Food Stamps are very good things indeed! As with all human enterprises, there are always some cheaters.

The Diffuse “Media’’ Protect the Public

(With some hesitation I cobbled together a variant of this for The Boston Guardian to run last week. News media should be as autonomous as possible.):

Hundreds of news publications around America are joining in a defense of freedom of the press, which is supposed to be protected by the First Amendment. One of the project’s participants is The Boston Guardian.

The initiative is, of course, in response to President Trump’s relentless attacks on “the media’’ some of which, among their innumerable other duties, report almost daily on various scandals involving him and others in his administration because those scandals keep coming. He gives a few outlets a pass, most notably Fox News, which is basically an extension of the Trump administration; many of the president’s fans get virtually all their “news’’ from Fox.

Of course, the phrase “the media’’ is close to meaningless. “The media’’ include a vast and varied collection of outlets, from such weeklies as The Boston Guardian to newsletters to big metro newspapers to thousands of broadcast, cable and Internet outlets. The best adhere to such professional standards as rigorous, fact-based (and sometimes brave) reporting and editing.  And they run corrections. Others put out sloppily reported and edited (or unedited) stories. And/or some owners and editors seek above all to promote certain agendas, economic and/or political (from far right to far left), rather than publish the news without fear or favor.

So some media are highly responsible, some the opposite. But what is clear is that vibrant news media are essential to hold the powerful to account, to report on and explain events – in science, economics, politics, the arts and everything else —  as  the years roll by, recording, as the old line has it, “history on the run.’’ Democracy depends on the free flow of information and opinion. Without it comes tyranny.

Of course, “the media” are messy, as is democracy, about which Winston Churchill said:

“Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’’

You can’t have democracy without a free press. Rather than being “the enemy of the people,’’ as Trump alleges, the news media are protectors of their liberty and long-term prosperity.

August Insect Friends

 “A shaded lamp and a waving blind, 
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor: 
On this scene enter–winged, horned, and spined – 
A longlegs, a moth, and a
While ‘mid my page there idly stands 
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . . .

Thus meet we five, in this still place, 
At this pointof time, at this point in space. 
– My guests parade my new-penned ink, 
Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink. 
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why? 
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.’’ 

— “An August Midnight,’’ by Thomas Hardy

“We are the first nation in the history of the world to go to the poorhouse in an automobile.”

— Will Rogers

 “We are the first nation in the history of the world to go to the poorhouse in an automobile.”

— Will Rogers



Richard Grosvenor 


Born in France, educated at Harvard, Grosvenor has been the head of the art department at St. George’s for decades. 

A brilliant water colorist, Grosvenor was selected by the White House Historical Society to paint a scene of the White House for their bi-centennial calendar for the year 2000. That same year, the Newport Art Museum honored Grosvenor with a 50-year retrospective of his artwork. Grosvenor was also commissioned by the Tall Ships Committee to create an oil painting commemorating the Tall Ships’ visit to Newport in 2000.



Vinnie Paz

Professional Boxer

Paz, formerly Pazienza, fought 60 professional bouts at the Lightweight, Light Middleweight and Super Middleweight weight classes. 

He won the IBF World Lightweight Championship. His overall record was 50 and 10, and he fought in one of the golden ages of boxing. He fought Roberto Duran, Roy Jones, Jr., and Joe Frazier, Jr.. 

Far from perfect, he has been arrested a number of times on a range of charges. His colorful life story is the subject of a feature movie, “Bleed for This,” developed by Executive Producer Martin Scorcese.



Howard Ben Tré


Ben Tré is a world leader in innovating cast glass as a sculptural medium, and his work has been exhibited at more than 100 museum and public collections worldwide — and his studio is located in Pawtucket, RI. 

His works have been at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Art, Houston; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice.



Bill Reynolds


Reynolds’ books use sports as the framework, but are deeper examinations of poverty, race, and addiction.

His book “Fall River Dreams” defined him a leading American writer who uniquely captures the intersection of sports and culture. 

“Bill Reynolds is one of the best writers around, and this book is the Friday Night Lights of high school basketball,” said Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe.

“Success is a Choice,” which he co-wrote with Rick Pitino, is a business “how to” book that was a New York Times best-seller.

Reynolds has written 11 books and is a sports reporter for the Providence Journal.




John McCauley (Deer Tick)


McCauley has been a leading voice in the alternative, indie rock sphere for more than a decade. His work is a mix of rock with folk, blues, and country influences.

Along with his band, McCauley won Rock Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards (beating out Aerosmith) in 2013. He is married to fellow musician Vanessa Carlton — Stevie Nicks officiated their wedding.

With Deer Tick he has produced five albums. 



Ira Magaziner

Business Consultant

He created one of the most innovative university curriculums in America while he was an undergraduate at Brown, and went on to a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford.

Magaziner founded a leading business consulting firm – Telesis — and then sold it to Towers Perrin. He served as the policy point person in President Bill Clinton’s Health Reform initiative that was led by Hillary Clinton. The effort failed and Magaziner was sued and fined — it ultimately was overturned

Today, he serves as the vice chairman and chief executive officer of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). His son Seth is RI’s General Treasurer.



Angus Davis


Few business innovators in America have had the success of native Rhode Islander Davis. 

He co-founded Tellme, raised raised more than $200M in capital, and helped to lead the company to more than $100 million in sales and 300 employees. Tellme was acquired by Microsoft for nearly $1 billion.

Now, he is trying to do it again with Upserve, formerly Swipely. The company is “the smart management assistant serving up clear guidance that makes your restaurant thrive” – a tech firm that creates an information infrastructure for restaurants. He has raised upwards of $50 million for Upserve. Davis is a leading American business thinker — all before the age of 40.



Terry “Mother” Moy


If the Navy SEALs are the best trained and most respected in the United State Armed Forces, Moy is the “Mother” of the SEALs.

The Newport native is the embodiment of military lore. He was a famous SEAL instructor and one of his most infamous trainees was Jesse “The Body” Venture – Seal, professional Wrestler and Governor of Minnesota. 

While most SEAL activity is undisclosed, his effort to recover Apollo 17 was globally broadcast.



Phil West

Government Reformer

Once dubbed the Godfather of Ethics Reform, West has been the driving force in reforming governmental ethics for three decades in Rhode Island. 

His successes include a then-record fine against Governor Ed DiPrete, Separation of Powers, downsizing and modernizing the legislature, and the requirement of electronic filing of bills and making hearings accessible to the public.

He was the head of Common Cause RI for eighteen years and retired in 2006, but still remains a guiding force in reform. Two years ago, the master lever was eliminated and this year major ethics reform is moving through the General Assembly — all under the watchful eye of West.

West has taken on the most powerful forces — sometimes alone — and made Rhode Island a better place as a result.



Richard Jenkins


Jenkins is the consummate American actor. His work ranges from everything from “The Witches of Eastwick” to “Hannah and Her Sisters” to HBO’s “Six Feet Under” to his award winning role in “Olive Kitteridge”

His formative acting years took place at Trinity Repertory Company (now Trinity Rep). Jenkins then returned later in his career to help save the financially struggling theater.

He has starred and appeared in more than 80 movies and television series or movies. In 2014, Jenkins and his wife Sharon received the Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence.



Alan Hassenfeld


The former CEO and Chairman of Hasbro was a driving force in transforming the company from a toy manufacturer to an entertainment company.

Michael Jackson and slews of others came to Rhode Island to tour the company and negotiate licensing deals.

In the early 1990’s he became a force in initiating ethics reform in Rhode Island. More recently, he endowed the creation of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University.

The Rhode Island-based Hassenfeld Foundation gave out roughly $4.7 million in donations in the most recently reported year. 



M. Therese Antone, RSM, Ed.D


Sister Antone was born in Central Falls, and educated at Salve Regina University, Villanova University, Harvard University and MIT Sloan School of Management.

Correspondingly, she has taught almost every level of education, rising to President of Salve Regina. There, she transformed the school, and Salve Regina’s national rankings and student profile vastly improved under her leadership.

During her tenure, the University’s endowment grew from $1 million to more than $50 million and the University invested $76 million on renovations and expansions and has received numerous awards for restoring the historic mansions, cottages, and gatehouses on its campus. She transformed the University and correspondingly has won countless awards for her service.



Umberto Crenca

Artist and Entrepreneur

Artist, visionary and business leader, Crenca took a crazy idea of developing a sustainable art cluster in Downtown Providence and made it the most unimaginable success, and has become a national model. 

AS220 was founded in 1985 to “provide a local, unjuried, and uncensored home for the arts,” and has grown to own and operate multiple facilities, currently providing fifty eight artist live and/or work spaces, four exhibition spaces, a print shop, a media lab including a black and white darkroom, a fabrication lab, a stage, a recording studio, a black box theater, a dance studio, and a bar and restaurant.

In 2016, Crenca was awarded Honorary Degrees from two different Rhode Island Universities.



Flynn Brothers

U.S. Army

In the history of the modern U.S. Military, there are only a handful of brothers that served as Generals simultaneously — Charlie and Michael Flynn of Middletown were one such case.

Michael Flynn recently retired from service, and has been seen on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC — not surprising, given the latest news. 

On Tuesday, GoLocal cited a story in the The New York Post that Michael is on the short list of Vice Presidential candidates for Donald Trump The Post wrote:

“A surprise name on the list is retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a national security adviser to Trump who has emerged as one of the most buzzed-about veep contenders, sources familiar with the deliberations said.

Regardless of his national political future, these two brothers are two of America’s most accomplished military leaders in the past half century.



Louise Durfee

Environmentalist and Attorney

When one talks about trail blazers in Rhode Island, Louise Durfee’s image should be the first thing that comes to mind. She was the first female partner at a major Providence law firm at a time when most law firms did not employ women attorneys. She was one of a small group of Tiverton residents who joined together in the early 1970’s to oppose a proposal to build a major oil refinery. 

The fight was so profound that it was featured in 1971 in Life Magazine and resulted in the founding of an organization that ultimately became Save the Bay. Again, Durfee the trail blazer.

In the 1980’s she helped to clean up the aftermath at Rhode Housing after widespread corruption was found. In 1991, Governor Bruce Sundlun named her Director of the Department of Environmental Management and just three years later, he fired her.

So she ran against him in the Democratic primary for Governor. 



Ron Machtley 

Politician and University President

Rhode Islanders were first introduced to Ron Machtley in 1988 when he traveled around Rhode Island with a pig named Lester “Less” Pork to point out the wasteful spending of then-Congressman Fred St. Germain.

Machtley upset the 28-year veteran and Chairman of the House Banking Committee to take the Congressional seat. In 1994, he was the odds-on-favorite to win the Governorship, but was upset in the GOP primary by Lincoln Almond, who went on to serve eight years as Governor.

After his defeat, he was the surprise choice to serve as President of then-Bryant College. At first appearances it was a strange choice, but Machtley could not have turned out to be a better selection.

Under his leadership, the college transformed to a University, with massive improvements in the University’s campus, an elevation to Division I Sports, and an overall improvement in Bryant’s academic position. 

When he assumed office Bryant had a $1.7 million operating deficit and a tiny endowment. Today, the University’s endowment is nearing $200 million. Over the past 20 years, Bryant has become one of the most improved higher education institutions in America.



U.S. Senator Jack Reed


If this list of greatest living Rhode Islanders had been developed twenty years ago, it might have been rich with elected officials – the likes of Senators Claiborne Pell and John Chafee, the retired John O. Pastore and Bruce Sundlun, but today there are few with the gravitas of achievement of those politicians. 

However, there is the now-senior Senator from Rhode Island, who has a national reputation as an expert on issues of national defense and is a constantly rumored to serve as the Secretary of Defense.

The former Army ranger worked his way up the political ladder as a State legislator and Congressman before winning the Senate seat of the retiring Pell.

In a time of great diverseness, he is a rare member that has conversations across the aisle.



Trudy Coxe

Environmentalist and Historic Preservationist

Coxe has now headed three of the most most important preservation organizations in New England. As the long-time Executive Director of Save the Bay in the 1980’s and 1990’s, she was a powerful force in driving the preservation of Rhode Island’s open space and improvements to Narragansett Bay.

Coxe lost a close race for Congress against Jack Reed, but was later appointed head of the largest Environmental Agency in New England when then-Governor Bill Weld named her head of the Massachusetts environmental agency – the Department of Environmental Protection.

After a multi-year stint in the Commonwealth, she came back to Rhode Island to lead and transform the Preservation Society of Newport.  In that role she has helped to recpaitalize and modernize the non-profit that stewards the mansions and other assets in Newport and across Aquidneck Island.



Ken Read


No one on this list may be more accomplished in their individual field than Ken Read is to sailing. Twice the Rolex United States Yachtsman of the Year, three times leading America’s Cup yachts, and dominant in the Volvo Ocean Races for decades.

One could argue Read may be the most accomplished sailor in the world. He was a three-time college All-American at Boston University.

Today, he sails leading privately owned yachts and has been involved with the North Sail company. 



Michael Littman


There are few computer science professors that get tapped for their celebrity for a national television commercial (see below), but Brown University’s Littman is an academic rock star.  After ten years at Rutgers he left to join the faculty at Brown 

He leads an effort called Humanity-Centered Robotics Initiative (HCRI) in which Brown University aims to become a global leader in the field of creating robots that benefit, learn from, teach, support, and collaborate with people.

One of his recent journal articles he co-wrote was titled, “Learning behaviors via human-delivered discrete feedback: modeling implicit feedback strategies to speed up learning.”

His commercial was easier to understand — it has been viewed 550,000 times. 

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Johanne Killeen 


For decades the nicest restaurant in Providence might have been the old Rusty Scupper, but in the 1980’s, Johanne Killeen and George Germon not only transformed the restaurant scene in Providence, but also proved that small cities with brilliant chefs could compete.

Food & Wine honored Al Forno for launching ‘a new era of ambitious cooking in Providence [in 1980] with their thin-crusted grilled pizzas topped with superfresh ingredients.’ The editors singled out Al Forno’s Margarita Pizza (with house-made pomodoro, fresh herbs, two cheeses and extra virgin olive oil) as the signature item.

John Mariani, the food writer for Esquire put the new restaurant, Al Forno, on the national map by naming it the best new restaurant in America. Other food and travel magazines followed and the recognition transformed Providence, and as a result other mid-sized cities.

Al Forno put Providence on the food map and sparked many other creative and smart chefs. George Germon passed away in October of 2015. 



Terry Murray 


It has been a number of years since Terry Murray ran one of the biggest banks in America. In 2004, Fleet Bank was acquired by Bank of America. Even today, Bank of America is headed up by a former Fleet executive — Brian Moynihan.

In the 1990’s, Fleet was a superstar financial service firm — it gobbled up bank after bank in the U.S. and in 1999 Murray and Fleet made the biggest buy – acquiring BankBoston. The new FleetBoston was a megabank. 

FleetBoston was the seventh-largest bank in the United States, as measured by assets (US$197 billion in 2003). It employed over 50,000, served more than 20 million customers globally, and revenues of $12 billion per year.

Murray grew Fleet from a small RI community bank to a global player.



Farrelly Brothers

Movie Producers

The Cumberland brothers – Peter and Bobby – are two of the most prolific comedic movie makers in Hollywood. They created a genre of politically incorrect, slapstick humor that has generated billions in box office sales.

Their movies include Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber —  to name a few of their 15 movies.

The Farrelly Brothers also co-wrote one of the all-time great Seinfeld episodes — titled “The Virgin.”



Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson


In 1965 Thompson came to Providence from South Carolina to attend Brown University and never went home. Today, she serves on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals – one of the highest federal courts in America.

She was elevated to the seat previously held by Judge Bruce Selya.  Before serving on the court she served on the District and Superior Courts in the Rhode Island Courts.

Today, she serves on the Brown Corporation, the Board for College Unbound and Save the Bay.

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Sid Abruzzi (Johnny Morocco)


Abruzzi is known as the “godfather of the New England surf/skate mafia.”

“With a face that launched a thousand spliffs, ‘The Package’ has skated, surfed, and partied over the last 50 years with no end in sight. After reaching rockstar status with Big World in the mid ’80s, Sid’s infamous Water Bros. Surf shop brought vert skating to the beaches of Newport, RI,” wrote Jim Murphy in Juice Magazine.

Before ESPN’s X Games (Extreme Games) or the Gravity Games were envisioned, Abruzzi was an innovator helping to create a movement and industry that was primarily a West Coast phenomenon.  



Duke Robillard


The blues guitarist and Woonsocket native is well-known locally for co-founding Roomful of Blues, but his presence on the national stage, performing with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and recording with the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits has helped make Robillard a bona fide star in American music. 

He is a two-time Grammy nominee, won the W.C. Handy Award in 2000 and 2001 for Best Blues Guitarist, and in 2007 received a Rhode Island Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts.   But don’t take our word for it — Tom Clarke with Elmore Magazine extolled Robillard’s virtues when he reviewed “The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard” in 2015.”

“A jazz man, a front porch pickin’ blues man and one-time guitarist for Dylan. A string band, jug band, ragtime, delta, Louisiana, Appalachian folk and Jimmie Rodgers-country aficionado. A backwards traveler, but forward thinker. A writer and singer with distinct style, and a studio owner and in-demand producer. Did I miss anything? Duke Robillard may wear a handsome, if nondescript, lid lounging on the cover of The Acoustic Blues,but he almost literally wears a hundred hats—all of them damn well. It’s hard to believe any one man can be as prolific as this Rhode Island Duke of the blues,” wrote Clarke. 



John Ghiorse


Ghiorse may be Rhode Island’s most trusted and beloved television and digital news personality of all time. The Air Force Veteran and Harvard educated weatherman studied Meteorology at Penn State. He transformed weather reporting in Rhode Island and created his own branded measure — the Ghiorse Factor.

He first joined WJAR-10 in 1968, then moved to Channel 6 for nearly a decade and then back to WJAR. He retired from Channel 10 in 2009 and joined GoLocal and helped the digital media company launch its first site in 2010. He has delivered the daily Ghiorse Factor to GoLocal for the past five plus years. 

Ghiorse continues to be one of Southeastern New England’s most beloved news personalities.



Eugene Lee

Set Designer

If you have watched Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon or many a production of A Christmas Carol at Trinity Rep, you have seen the work of Eugene Lee. He is one of America’s most creative and accomplished set designers.

The Providence resident has won three Tonys for Wicked, Sweeney Todd, and Candide. He has won multiple Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Set Design and has won an Emmy for the design of the set for Saturday Night Live.

He is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.



Claire Andrade Watkins


Rhode Island has always been one of the top destinations for Cape Verde emigres — and next month, Emerson College Professor and Brown University Fellow Andrade-Watkins, who grew up in Fox Point, will have a thirty year retrospective of her work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

The subject? “Our Rhode: 30 Years of Cinema by and About Cape Verdian Rhode Islanders.”

Andrade-Watkins, a PhD, is Professor of Africana and Postcolonial Media Studies at Emerson, and is a Fellow at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown (as well as a visiting scholar). She is the Director of the Fox Point Cape Verdean Project, President, SPIA Media Productions, Inc., and a pioneer of global, intercultural media, marketing and distribution.  Her CV of work and accomplishments is 17 pages long. 

In 2006 Dr. Andrade-Watkins released “Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican?” A Cape Verdean American Story” (SKFPR), the “popular and critically acclaimed feature documentary about the Cape Verdean community in the Fox Point section of Providence, RI, and the first in a trilogy of documentaries about this unique and important community of the Africana Diaspora,” states her Emerson bio. 

She’s won numerous awards including the 2008 Community Service Award from Fox Point Boys & Girls Club Alumni Association.



Freidrich St. Florian


St. Florian is one of the most accomplished and varied architects in America. At one extreme he was the architect of the critically acclaimed World War II memorial in Washington, DC and on the other he designed the Providence Place Mall.

St.Florian has won numerous awards for his architectural achievements. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. His drawings are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. In 2006 he was an awarded an honorary degree from Brown University.



Brad Read


Over the past few decades, Brad Read has built Sail Newport into a leading world class sailing education organization. Their programs vary from a partnership with the MET school  that introduces urban children to sailing to running world class sailing events. 

In 2015, Read was the driving force to bringing the Volvo Ocean Race to Rhode Island and then followed it up by leading the state’s effort to successfully bring the Volvo race back in 2017.

Read is a leading sailor, educator, facilitator, organizer and leader. His impact on Newport — and Rhode Island — has been remarkable. 



Gordon Wood


In a scene in the movie Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon humiliates a Harvard grad student by picking apart the student’s thesis regarding Wood’s “pre-revolutionary utopia.” (see scene below)

Matt Damon aside, Wood is one of America’s most accomplished scholars on the American Revolution — he won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for his work The Radicalism of the American Revolution. In 2010 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

He is the Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. His list of academic awards over the past 50 years is unmatched – he is the leading Revolutionary era historian.


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Barrett Hazeltine

Business Mentor

For the past 60 years Hazeltine has been one of the most important educators at Brown University. While Brown does not have a traditional B-School like Penn’s Wharton, it does have one of the top American business mentors. According to many of the top business leaders in America, Hazeltine was a guiding influence on their careers.

A 2000 article in Brown Alumni Monthly unveiled in 2000 that 10% of the freshman class at Brown University took his “Engin. 9” class — short for Engineering 9.

Entrepreneurs as diverse as “Tom and Tom” (First and Scott, who met at Brown), Founders of Nantucket Nectars to John Koudounis, the CEO of Calamos Investment to Marques Coleman at Carlyle Group all identify Hazeltine as being a driving force in their business careers.



John Donoghue

Brain Scientist

Donoghue is one of the leading brain science researchers and entrepreneurs in the world. At Brown, he led the enhancement and growth of the Brain Science Center and his work to develop BrainGate, a mind-to-movement system developed in Donoghue’s lab.

Donoghue has published over 80 scientific articles in leading journals including Nature and Science. His work was featured on 60 Minutes and he has served on advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Presently, he is on sabbatical in Europe.



James Woods


The Warwick native is a two-time Academy award nominee and winner of a Golden Globe, and three time Emmy Award winner. His acting career ranges from The Onion Field to Casino and Nixon. 

More recently his voice work has been featured on The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Stuart Little 2.

Between TV, voiceover work and movies he has played roles in more than 100 productions.

Once dubbed as a genius by Business Insider for his attendance at MIT and his reported near perfect SAT score and IQ of 184.

Today he is a Republican activist and supported Ted Cruz for President.  



Arlene Violet


Violet was one of a group of pioneering women who changed the face of politics in Rhode Island.

Claudine Schneider had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 in the 2nd Congressional District.  Susan Farmer won the Secretary of State post two years later in 1982. Violet was the first female Attorney General in the United States when she was elected by Rhode Island voters in 1984. The new decade had ushered in a new era in Rhode Island politics. All three were Republicans.

It was her work and the work of other women that set the stage for Governor Gina Raimondo to be elected Rhode Island’s first woman Governor in 2014.

Violet was beat in her re-election bid in 1986, but her political presence continued in the state.

She was a talk radio host.

She penned two books, Convictions: My Journey from the Convent to the Courtroom and Me and the Mob, a book about the witness protection program. Violet was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1996.



Meredith Viera


A native Rhode Islander, TV-journalist Vieira is one of the leading Portuguese Americans in the United States. She attended Lincoln School and Tufts before landing her first job in Worcester in radio and on television as a reporter at WJAR-TV in Providence.

Her hard news journalism bona fides were earned while working on the CBS news magazine West 57th, then as an investigative report for 60 Minutes.

Then in the late 1990s she shifted to more entertainment focused broadcast as a co-host to The View, hosting the game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” co-hosting the Today Show and Dateline NBC. She hosted her own show, The Meredith Viera Show for two years.

More recently she has been involved with a range of event and initiatives in Rhode Island including speaking at RIC regarding her heritage — all four of her grandparents were born in the Azores. Last year, URI’s Harrington School of Communication traveled down to Viera’s show at NBC Universal.



Leon Cooper


Leon Cooper is Brown University and Rhode Island’s only Nobel Prize winner. 

Cooper won the Nobel Prize in 1972 for Physics (along with J. Bardeen and J.R. Schrieffer) for his studies on the theory of superconductivity. The winning work was completed while still in his 20s.

He has received seven honorary degrees from leading academic institutions from across the globe.

In the past few years, his work at Brown has focused on neural and cognitive sciences and has been “working towards an understanding of memory and other brain functions, and thus formulating a scientific model of how the human mind works.”



Ernie DiGregorio


There are certain athletes who transcend the game and elevate it from sports to a higher level of entertainment.  Ernie D. was one of those rare athletes. He was am epic story, the 6 foot guard from North Providence who helped to take the beloved Providence College Friars to the final four. His skills and showmanship helped to transform the game from fundamentals to entertainment along with players like Connie Hawkins, Pistol Pete Maravich, Dr. J, and then Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. They all may have had better and longer careers, but none of them put on any better a show.

His NBA career was cut short due to injury but in his first year in the league he dazzled and won the NBA Rookie of the year. He was the third pick in the NBA draft.

For Rhode Islanders at the time his achievements were mythical. He teamed with fellow local boy Marvin Barnes and put little Providence College in the same sentence with powerhouse programs like UCLA.



Elizabeth Beisel


Arguably the best swimmer to come out of Rhode Island, the Saunderstown native and North Kingstown high school grad first competed in the 2007 World Championships at the tender age of 14, placing 12th in the world in the 200 meter backstroke after advancing to the semi-finals. 

Beisel was the youngest member of the U.S. swim team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, finishing just out of medal contention with a fourth place in the 400-meter individual medley and fifth in the 200 meter backstroke.  Four years later in London, Beisel made it to the Olympic podium with a silver in the 400 meter individual relay and a bronze in the 200 meter backstroke. 

The SEC Female Swimmer of the Year in 2012, Beisel won two individual national titles and was an eighteen-time All-American at the University of Florida, and a first-team Academic All-American.  According to her USA Swimming bio, the college communications major had dreams as a child of being an actress, but now has professional aspirations of being a news anchor.  As someone accustomed to being in the headlines, it’s not hard to imagine we’ll be seeing more from Beisel in the future. 



George Wein


The Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals would not be among the top American music festivals were it not for Wein, who celebrated his 90th birthday last year. 

Trained as a jazz pianist, Wein might be Boston-born and educated, but it was the Newport Lorillards who invited Wein down in 1954 to the City by the Sea to establish the first outdoor jazz festival in the country.  Wein went on to form Festival Productions to promote large-scale jazz events, and has been well-lauded for his efforts — both nationally, and internationally.

In 1995, Wein received the Patron of the Arts Award from the Studio Museum of Harlem, and in 2004 given an Impact Award from the AARP. He was decorated with France’s Légion d’honneur and appointed a Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Commander of the Order of Arts and Literature) by the French government, and has been honored at the White House twice, by Jimmy Carter in 1978 and Bill Clinton in 1993. In 2005 he was named a “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received honorary degrees from the Berklee College of Music and Rhode Island College of Music.

GoLocal’s Ken Abrams sat down with Wein for a one-on-one last summer — read more here.



Jeffrey Osborne


Grammy Award-winning Osborne, born and raised in Providence, came from musical lineage. His father, Clarence “Legs” Osborne was a trumpeter who played with the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie.  And the Osborne roots are firmly planted here — in 2012, the city named a portion of Olney Street “Jeffrey Osborne Way,” to honor him. 

Osborne’s biggest hits include “On the Wings of Love” and a duet with Dionne Warwick, “Love Power.” He wrote the lyrics for Whitney Houston’s “All at Once,”  appeared in the fundraising “We Are the World” video in 1985, and has sung the national anthem at multiple World Series and NBA finals games.

While Osborne is an international legend in his own right, his star status continues to grow and impact the community here through his charity work.  He’s done golf and softball classics, comedy nights, celebrity basketball games. And he brings in the big names, from Magic Johnson to Smokey Robinson to Kareem Abdul Jabbar — the list is extensive.  Osborne is the epitome of a “greatest Rhode Islander” — one who’s gone on to make the state proud, and keeps coming back to help use his celebrity to benefit the community. 



Tom Ryan


Ryan helped to build one of America’s Fortune 500 top 10 companies, as CVS is a leading retail and healthcare force in America. 

More recently, the URI pharmacy grad has been involved with two of the biggest initiatives in Rhode Island in the past few years.

He and his wife Anne donated $15 million to fund the George and Anne Ryan Center on Neuroscience at URI. The effort is one of the key elements in bringing together major educational and health organizations in a broad-based neuroscience initiative in Rhode Island.

Ryan’s neuroscience gift coupled with his fundraising leadership and donations to build the Ryan Center have made him the single biggest individual donor to URI. 



Ann Hood


Born in West Warwick and a URI grad, Hood is a best-selling novelist and short story writer; and the author of fifteen books, with her latest, The Book That Matters the Most, due out this August.

Hood has won two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, Best American Spiritual Writing and Travel Writing Awards, and a Boston Public Library Literary Light Award. Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Tin House. Hood is a regular contributor to The New York Times’ Op-Ed page, and is a faculty member in the MFA in Creative Writing program at The New School in New York City.  Hood’s “An Italian Wife” was recently featured as a play at the Contemporary Theater Company in South Kingstown. 

Of Hood’s The Knitting Circle, The Washington Post wrote, “A wondrously simple book about something complicated: the nearly unendurable process of enduring a great loss.”  Fellow best-selling writer Jodi Picoult even asked if anyone could top Hood. “Is there anyone who can write about the connections of ordinary people better than Ann Hood?” posed Picoult. 

While her reach is worldwide, Hood, who is married to businessman Lorne Adrain, lives in Providence and is a fixture in the Rhode Island community.



Bob Ballard


Ballard found the Titanic.  And yes, he was a URI undergrad and now serves multiple leading roles at URI as a Professor of Oceanography; Director, Center for Ocean Exploration; and head of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography.

Today, the Archeological Oceanography, which he started in 2003 is a unique institute “combines the disciplines of oceanography, ocean engineering, maritime history, anthropology and archeology into one academic program.” The institute involves a broad cross section of URI faculty and includes faculty from Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Florida State University, MIT and Woods Hole.

He is the rockstar face of oceanography in the world.



Jonathan Nelson


Nelson is one of America’s leading investors. In an era of Wall Street mega firms, Rhode Islander Nelson has built in Downtown Providence a $40 billion private equity fund  Providence Equity Group. 

Once the golden boys of private equity and lauded for putting together “the biggest deal in the world,” he and the firm have had a series of set backs.

The highest profile bump was the firm’s loss of nearly $800 million in the firm, Altegrity, that was contracted to review federal contractors like Edward Snowden.

As GoLocal previously reported, the domino effect of Snowden’s absconding with federal data bases exposed the deficiencies of Altegrity’s vetting process.

He has become more active as a philanthropist and is listed by Forbes richest in Rhode Island.



Dennis Littky


Littky is a rebel, a disruptor, an innovator, a trouble maker, and an educator.  They made a movie about him, Newsweek has featured his schools, President Obama talks about his schools and Bill and Melinda Gates gave him millions to grow, refine and scale is model of disruption.

In 2009, Littky defied all and created an alternative college and by 2015 the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education approved College Unbound as a degree-granting postsecondary option in the state.

In Rhode Island, The Met School celebrated its 20th Anniversary this past week. Thousands of students who would not have finished high school have graduated and moved on to college, business and beyond.

There may be no more accomplished innovator than Littky.



Bill and David Belisle


Bill and David Belisle may be the best high school and youth coaches in history. Going by the statistics, the record of twenty-six consecutive state hockey championship (1978 to 2003) and a total of 32 may be a record never to be matched. Bill Belisle (the father) has coached at Mount for 42 years and his son David has been his assistant for years.

The younger Belisle made national headlines with his post game speech to the Little League team he was coaching was defeated in the Little League World Series.

Twice their players have been selected #1 in the NHL Draft, countless others played in the NHL, and dozens played college hockey. There are movies and books on the exploits of Mount Hockey under the Belisles. 

Photo courtesy of Dave Belisle



Nick Benson


There are few people in the world that are recognized as the very best in their craft, but Nick Benson of the John Stevens Shop in Newport is globally recognized as the best stone cutter in the world. 

Founded in 1705, The John Stevens Shop specializes in the design and execution of one-of-a-kind inscriptions in stone — the MLK Memorial, FDR’s Four Freedoms Park, and the inscription for the John F. Kennedy Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, to name a few. 

Benson won a Genius Fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation, and was recently featured on CBS news. The John Stevens Shop is one of America’s longest continuously running businesses.



Viola Davis


Davis is one of the most accomplished actors in the United States. She is the winner of two Tony awards, an Emmy and a SAG award as well as being nominated for an Oscar.  With regards to her Emmy, she became the first African-American to win the Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015. Amazingly, she did not earn her SAG card until she was 30 years old.

Davis self-describes that she grew up in abject poverty in Central Falls and worked her way to Rhode Island College and now beyond but has been a constant force in helping Central Falls to recover from its bankruptcy and rebuilding its spirit.

She is a leading fundraiser for a range of Rhode Island causes.  Davis is the embodiment of the Rhode Island spirit and a model of how to overcome the greatest challenges to reach greatness.

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