This Wednesday, the University of Rhode Island Alumni Foundation held a virtual celebration for the 50-year anniversary of The Good Five Cent Cigar.
The event was hosted by Michaela Crimmins, program manager for alumni engagement, and URI Journalism Department chair John Pantalone, the first editor-in-chief of the Cigar.
Also in attendance was the new Director of the Harrington School, Ammina Kothari, who spoke shortly at the beginning of the event.
“Technology is changing and so is how journalism is done,” Kothari said, summing up the changes that the journalism department and Cigar have had to face over the past 50 years.
Other featured speakers in attendance included many of the founding editors of the Cigar that left The Beacon alongside Pantalone in 1971.
One such Cigar alum Bill Loveless, ‘73, remembered his time at the Cigar fondly.
“[The Cigar] meant a lot to me,” Loveless said. “It gave me a foundation in journalism. I worked in the journalism field for 35 years, and still work doing podcasts and things like that.”
Two more editors from the class of 1972 in attendance were Anne Foster and John Levesque, who met while working for the Cigar and eventually got married. Levesque recently retired from his jobs in journalism.
“Joining the Cigar was probably the best decision I ever made when I was at URI,” said Levesque.
Levesque also recounted publishing the first edition of the Cigar and explained the symbolism behind the name.
“I was assigned to research who Thomas Riley Marshall was,” Levesque said. “We all knew that Thomas Riley Marshall had once said in 1914, ‘What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar,’ but I called the library, and I couldn’t get anyone so I ended up calling my mom who had a nice set of world encyclopedias. She told me he was the vice president under Woodrow Wilson. The point of the quote was to say that we needed something good, and reliable and accessible, and we loved the name Cigar because we knew it was a bit silly and was a poke in the eye to the establishment.”
According to old Cigar members, the paper was formed in the wake of the failure of The Beacon to be a reliable and accessible news outlet that represented the student voice at URI. The alumnae also spoke about how important this was, especially in 1971.
“What happened with The Beacon, I think it was a product of the times,” Foster said. “It was sputtering on as a vanilla publication. The social issues like protesting and the Vietnam War made us think as a student body. We didn’t really need to do things the way they had been done. The group that became ‘The Cigar Band’ thought this was our time to speak up. We thought, ‘let’s push the agenda, let’s go do something’ and that’s what we did.”
Susan Roy, ‘73, said that she joined The Beacon in the fall of 1970, and brought her favorite issues to the Zoom event.
“When I look back at my Cigar experience, I still think [the] experience was so invaluable because we had more freedom of the press than I’ve ever had,” Roy said.
Roy said that she was most proud of creating a women-focused paper and a four-page LGBTQ+ insert edition 50 years ago.
Dave Lavallee, URI’s assistant director of external relations and communications, was a part of the Cigar as a student. He related the issues he dealt with as an editor to the ones he deals with today in his current position.
“I’m still so proud of my Cigar roots,” Lavallee said. “I’m not sure there’s anything that’s challenged this school like COVID-19. The Cigar did it right and we owe them a tip of our hat.”
An in-person Cigar reunion will be held on Oct. 2 on the Alumni Center Lawn. Those interested in attending can register through the Alumni Center’s website.