On Oct. 31, the University of Rhode Island Foundation elected Lorne Adrain as its executive board chair. You may have heard of him from his recent candidacy for mayor of Providence, but did you know that he is a URI grad who was also a member of Theta Chi fraternity?
In an interview with the Cigar, Adrain shares his goals for his upcoming term as the Foundation’s board chairman and talks about his own experiences at the University.
How did this all come about? Dave Dooley called me [a few] months ago after hearing from the leadership of the Foundation, [and asked] if I would consider doing the job. When he called to ask I just came off running for the mayor of Providence, and I just saw this as an opportunity to continue to give to the University in a new way.
What do you have planned for the Foundation during your term as Executive Board chair? I see our primary mission being twofold. One is to support the President and their leadership team, and that leadership team’s current vision, and [two] is being stewards of the longer term interests of the University. Presidents come and go but they need our support to advance their agenda.
Are there any specific areas you’d like to work on within the Board?Â I’d like to see us work on understanding first, how well are we doing, relative to our peers and relative to best performing university foundations in the country and in the world. Given the demographics of our alumni and community, what kind of objectives or goals should we have for alumni and community engagement. Third, how do we develop the most effective strategies and skills for accomplishing those goals.
Do you foresee any challenges? We are in the process now of established a new task force, which I call the Strategy Innovation and Continuous Improvement task force. It will identify the critical success factors for our foundation and identify the ways in which we might perform better in each of those factors, which might mean thinking very, very differently about the work that we do. It really is about reimagining and rethinking how we might do our work better in support of the university.
How does it feel to give back to URI after your time there? It’s a great gift. None of us live very long, and to have opportunities to do something in one’s life to make a material difference in an institution and all the people to make all their experiences more rewarding and more impactful in the world, that’s pretty cool.
What drew you to URI in the first place? My dad didn’t graduate high school, and my mom didn’t go to college. [I’m] one of eight kids, and college was not a discussion around the dinner table, nor was it something we got a lot of coaching on in high school. As late as the fall of my senior year, I didn’t think of going to college. I finally started looking at things when friends were looking into it. Some of my older friends helped me think about college, and I only applied to two schools, Providence College and URI. I got into both schools, but I couldn’t afford Providence College, and I could afford URI. [I think] it offered a much broader platform of resources.
How do you think the University has changed since you were a student? URI is much more worldly. Students are thinking more broadly, more expansively, well, larger than I and my fellow students thought 40 years ago. Students that are there now today have a broader perspective, they’re more focused, more intentional, I think they think bigger, but that’s just the difference in the people.
How have your experiences at URI helped to get you to where you are now? I continue to see and believe that the students who go to URI are good, solid people. And they’re gritty. They find ways to make stuff happen. They are as a rule not entitled or supported as some other students in other institutions, and I think they generally think they have a life history of making stuff happen for themselves at URI and [throughout] the rest of their lives. URI gives them tools and skills to turn their scrappiness and adventureness and turn it into something big.
Do you see that as true for yourself as well? Absolutely. Everyone has their own ‘big,’ and for me it was finding a balance in life about career, community, friends and experience that I have been extraordinarily lucky to find that balance in my life. I’m married to a URI alum. Ann Hood, class of 1978, is URI’s most famous fiction writer. Together we have four kids.