Residence Halls

An important part of the Mount Pleasant campus, far larger than the college’s ear­lier homes in downtown Providence, was the addition of six residence halls be­tween 1961 and 2007.  The first, Mary Tucker Thorp Residence Hall, provided a new type of college experience and enticed out of state students to enroll.  As the college population grew dramatically, so did the need for more housing  Five residence halls joined Thorp Hall at the southwestern portion of campus, with the most recent con­structed in 2007.

Mary Tucker Thorp Residence Hall (1963)

Mary Tucker  Thorp,  a distinguished  Profes­sor  of  Education, served  the  college  from 1926-1967.   Educated at  Boston University, Thorp taught  in Rhode Island  schools before accepting  a  position  at  the  Henry  Barnard School    where she  served  as the  director  for over twenty  years. She also authored  a num­ber of  publications  and was  named  the col­lege’s first Distinguished Professor. In recognition  of  her  community   involvement, she  received  the  Roger  Williams  Medal    of the  Greater   Providence Chamber  of  Com­merce as well as commendations from Brown University and Rhode Island College.[1]

Thorp  Residence  Hall was a milestone  in the College’s development. As the first dormitory, it symbolized a majo r shift away from a fully commuter  school.  At the building’s dedication, George W. Kelsey, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of State Colleges, stated that the new residence  hall would  “add opportunities galore to future stu­dents. [2]

Aerial view of Thorp Residence  Hall  (photo: RIC Archives)

Aerial view of Thorp Residence Hall (photo: RIC Archives)

Designed  by Lamborghini,  Christoph  and  Pipka and described  by President  Gaige in 1961  as “a truly  brilliant  piece of architectural  thinking,” Mary  Tucker  Thorp  Residence  Hall  is a  geometric building with a central courtyard.    A single  story lobby  faces  College  Road and is flanked  by  offset three-story  wings, all to­gether   creating a square that shelters  the courtyard. Light  colored brick  and  a flat roof provide  harmony with  other  campus build­ings. Originally created to house 144 women;  it is now coeducational.

Mary A. Weber Residence Hall (1965)

For 28 years Mary A. Weber taught mathematics at the Rhode Island College of Education. Born in rural Illinois in 1882, she attended the Illinois Normal School and began her career at the age of 18. While teaching, in several states, she took courses and also earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.A. from Teachers Col­lege, Columbia University.  In 1922 she accepted a posi­tion at the Wheeler School in Providence, and 2 years later she joined the Rhode Island College. Known for her self­ sufficiency, thrift, and empathic approach to life, she con­tinued to oversee from Rhode Island the operation of her farm in Illinois.  During the summers of 1943 and 1944 she contributed to the war effort by operating a lathe at Browne and Sharpe. At her death in 1965, Mary Weber willed to the college more than $125,000, the largest be­quest it had yet received . Upon the recommendation of President Gaige, the College honored both her service and her generosity by naming after her its newest building[3]

Weber Residence Hall (photo: RIC Archives)

Weber Residence Hall (photo: RIC Archives)

Mary A. Weber  (photo: RIC Archives)

Mary A. Weber (photo: RIC Archives)

Weber Residence Hall was designed by Christoph Associates – led by Frank H. Chris­toph of Lamborghini, Christoph, and Pipka – and constructed by M.G. Allen and Associ­ates Builders of Warwick.  Similar in design to Thorp Hall, but larger, Weber is composed  of a  s in gl e story lobby  area  facing  west with three storied resi­dence  w in gs  encasing a central courtyard in  a square formation. Its 18 suites, each made up of I 0 private rooms, a lounge, and bath facilities, could accommodate 180  stu­dents, and, by designating a few for men only, the College for the first time allowed men and women to be housed in a single building, though in sepa­rate and independent areas.

Rose Butler Browne Residence Hall (1969)

Rose Butler Browne, a pioneer in American education , was born in Boston and raised in Newport, Rhode Island. ln  1 91 9 she received her teaching certificate from the State Normal School, and, as the first graduate to enro ll in a cooperative program with Rhode Island State College (now the University of Rhode Island), she completed the bachelor’s  degree  program two years later.  She later received a master’s degree from Rhode Is land College, and in 1937 she became the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in education from Harvard Uni­versity. For 47 years Dr. Browne taught at traditionally  black colleges in the South. She drew national attention during her tenure at North Carolina College when she refused to send her students to teaching positions in West Virginia, a state known at the time for significant wage gaps between white and black employees.[4] Her actions and the publicity surrounding the cases led to policy changes in West Virginia. After retiring in 1963, Browne ran a daycare center in North Carolina, taught part time, and served as an educational consultant and board member, among other ac­tivities. Returning to Rhode Island she ran a summer school intended to enrich the lives of black children. In 1969, at the age of 72, Browne published her autobiog­raphy, Love My Children, detailing  the  influence  of her great-grandmother and her dedication to fighting prejudice and engendering change. She was the recipi­ent of many honors, includ­ing honorary degrees from Rhode Island College (1950), Roger Williams (1977), and URI (1984). Browne died in 1986 at the age of 89.

Rose Butler  Browne (photo: RIC Archives)

Rose Butler Browne (photo: RIC Archives)

Rose Butler Browne Residence Hall was dedicated on September 28, 1969, and Dr. Browne, present for the occasion, said that it symbolized for her the opportunities that Rhode Island College made available to all, without regard to their status. Designed by Lamborghini and Pipka to house 156 women, Browne Hall precedes Lamborghini and Pipka’s design for the Craig-Lee Hall addition, and the two buildings are similar in form. The main entrance to the building is through a two-story ell that fronts a large, seven­ story residence tower. Narrow columns of windows punctuate smooth facades of light colored brick. The building’s edges are clad in concrete.

Browne Residence Hall (photo: RIC Archives)

Browne Residence Hall (photo: RIC Archives)

Charles B. Willard Residence Hall (1971)

Charles B. Willard served as the President of the College from 1973-I 977. An alumnus of LaSalle Academy, he graduated from Rhode Island College of Education in 1934 and went on to earn a doctorate at Brown University.  During and after WWII, Dr. Willard served in the Army and Ar­my Air Forces where he trained pilots with air­craft simulators. [5] Following the war, he taught English , Social Studies, and  French in Provi­dence schools,  then returned to Rhode  Island College  in 1958 as the Dean of Professional Studies.[6] During his tenure, he also served as the Dean of the College,  Vice President for Academic Affairs, and acting President ( 1966-1968) before accepting the pres­idency in 1973. For his inauguration,  Professor of  Art Curtis K. LaFollette designed the ster­ling silver and enamel Willard Medallion that is now the offi­cial symbol of the Office of the President.

Joseph Kauffman (left) with Charles Willard (right) at the dedication of Willard Hall (photo: RIC Archives)

Joseph Kauffman (left) with Charles Willard (right) at the dedication of Willard Hall (photo: RIC Archives)

Willard Residence Hall, (photo:  RIC Archives)

Willard Residence Hall, (photo: RIC Archives)

Charles B. Willard Residence Hall was designed by Lamborghini and Pipka to house 144 students; the residence hall was coeducational from its opening, indicative of the social  changes taking  place on the Rhode Island College campus. [7] At the time of Willard Hall’s dedication, President Kauffman remarked, ” We say to our students that the qualities of Charles Willard are worthy of emulation and that his devotion to learn­ing is a model for all of us. “

David E. Sweet  Residence Hall (1991)

David Emery Sweet was President of Rhode Island College from 1977-1984. Born in Holyoke, Mas­sachusetts, Sweet  attended Drury College  and Duke  University before  beginning his  teaching career in political science at Ohio State University. He went on to teach at Illinois State  University before  being  appointed Vice Chancellor of the Minnesota State College System.  His career  in higher  education administration flourished when he became the founding president of the Metropol­itan State College in Minnesota. He  returned  to New England  to become the President of Rhode Island College, a position he held until his sudden death in September 1984.  His many accomplish­ments  included the championship of Leadership Rhode  Island as well  as the continued development of the College.  During his presidency, Dr. Sweet advocated for the construction of a new residence hall, a plan that was not carried out due to budget constraints.  Following his death, his friends and colleagues created an endowed professorship in his name.

David E. Sweet  (photo:  RIC Archives)

David E. Sweet (photo: RIC Archives)

Sweet Residence Hall  (photo: Liz Warburton)

Sweet Residence Hall (photo: Liz Warburton)

In 1991 a new residence hall designed by David Presbrey Architects was named in Sweet’s honor. The five-story building sits close to College Road, facing north. Signifi­cant space between the slightly recessed windows and a sunken full-length entryway give the building a horizontal quality. Speaking at the dedication, his widow Arlene stated, “David believed the best collegiate experience a student could have included living on campus …because it provides continuity and a sense of home …. David would thank you.” [8]

New Residence Hall (2007)

Completed  in 2007  but yet unnamed, Rhode  Island College’s newest residence  hall was designed  by Robinson, Green, Beretta (RGB) to house 367 students. It is the first LEED (Leadership  in Energy  and Environmental  Design)  certified  residence  hall in Rhode  Is­land.   The  building  is shaped  in a deep-U,  with light colored  brick contrasted  with red brick courses and recessed vertical sections of concrete.

New Hall (photo: Liz  Warburton)

New Hall (photo: Liz Warburton)


  1. "Thorp," Buildings and Named Places Binder.
  2. Ibid.
  3. M. Augusta Clay. "Mary A. Wheeler Brought 'Pioneer Spirit' to RIC." Providence Evening Bulletin. October 18, 1965, p.24; Michael Smith. "Remembering Mary A. Weber." http://www.ric.edu/ric150/memories/archv04.html (accessed June 29, 2012).
  4. "Scholarships." The Unity Center. http://http://www.ric.edu/unitycenter/proorams scholarships.php (accessed June 29, 2012).
  5. ""Willard Hall Dedicated." The Anchor. Vol. LXIII, Issue 7. Nov. 10, 1971. Rhode Island College. James P. Adams Library, Special Collections; "Charles B. Willard dies at 74; President-emeritus of RIC." The Providence Journal. January 11, 1986. A-06.
  6. Ibid.
  7. 30
  8. "New Residence Hall Dedicated in 'Kind Remembrance of a Good Man." What's News at RIC? Vol. 12, No 16. Nov. 11, 1991 Rhode Island College.  James P. Adams Library, Special Collections.