Bryant Campus Turns 50

Bryant Campus Turns 50

By Jim Ignasher


The Bryant Archway

     It was fifty years ago, September, 1971, when Bryant College (Now University) officially opened its new Smithfield campus to students, an event that began a new chapter in the history of the institution as well as for Smithfield.

     Bryant University can trace its origin to 1863 when Henry Bryant and Henry Stratton established the Bryant and Stratton National Business College on Westminster Street in Providence. In1935 the name of the college changed to Bryant College of Business Administration, and the campus relocated to Providence’s east side.

     The land which the university presently occupies has been in use since the 18th century. In 1730 Captain Joseph Mowry built a house which once stood where the dome of the “Unistructure” is located today. Another house was constructed next to it in 1820, and the two were later joined together.

     In 1894 the property was purchased by Jonathan and Eugenia Emin. One of their sons, John Arthur Emin, later took on the property and established the Smithfield Heights Farm, and raised dairy cows. The business eventually grew to be the second largest dairy farm in Rhode Island. He also grew 78 different varieties of apples, and a few apple trees can still be found growing on the campus today.   

Map of Bryant College – 1980
Click on map to enlarge.

     The property later passed to John Arthur’s son, John F. Emin, who continued farming the land, and is credited with establishing Smithfield’s first airport. In 1931 he purchased a Curtiss Pusher airplane which he kept at What Cheer Airport in Pawtucket. The following year he found an aircraft hangar for sale, and had it dismantled, brought to his farm, and reassembled. After clearing a cornfield for take-offs and landings, the Smithfield Airport was open for business.

     Although not in the history books, it could be said that the airport played a role in WWII history. In December of 1932, barely a month after the airport opened, William Benn, a young Pennsylvania Air National Guard lieutenant encountered a blinding snowstorm while piloting an open cockpit bi-plane from Boston to Philadelphia. As ice formed on the wings the aircraft began losing altitude and Benn was certain he was going to crash, but then he looked down, saw the Smithfield Airport below, and made an emergency landing. Years later during the height of WWII, (Then) Major Benn invented and developed a technique known as “skip bombing” designed to sink enemy shipping with bomber aircraft. It turned the tide of the war in favor of the allies in the Pacific Theatre. Had it not been for John Emin’s airport Benn might never have lived to fulfill his destiny.     

     William Benn – Footnote to History

     Eventually the land came into the possession of Earl S.Tupper, president of Tupperware Co. He later donated the property, which at that time consisted of 220 acres, to Bryant College. Thus the Smithfield campus became known as the “Tupper Campus”.

     Ground breaking ceremonies took place in 1970. The focal point would be the “Unistructure”, a large dome-topped building designed to include classrooms, a dining hall, administrative offices, a radio station, swimming pool, barber shop, and bookstore, all under one roof, which was very innovative for the time. Prior to its construction, the Mowry house and the 1820 house were relocated elsewhere on the campus, and both have survived to this day.

     Perhaps Bryant’s most recognized symbol is a wrought-iron gate known as “The Archway”, which has stood on a walkway leading to the Unistructure since being brought to the campus in 1971. It had originally stood at the entrance to South Hall on the Providence campus, and one legend associated with it says that a college professor and a handful of students surreptitiously removed it under cover of darkness and secretly brought it to Smithfield – a legend that’s fun to contemplate, but likely a myth. A superstitious tradition states that it’s bad luck to walk through the arch before graduation day, and if one dares to do so they won’t graduate. While some ignore the warning, others pass to either side – just in case.

     Most are probably unaware that John Mowry Road once ran from Washington Highway to Brayton Road, but that changed with development of the campus. Residents complained about traffic, so it was decided by the town to abandon the portion of road that crossed the campus, and create cul-de-sacs at either end. This left only one entrance to the campus, which allowed for better campus security.

     In the 1970s, there were those who envisioned Bryant eventually becoming a university, and that happened in 2004.

     When the campus first opened portions of it had yet to be completed, and in the ensuing years construction continued off and on, ultimately doubling the size of the campus and creating the educational institution we know today.

     Good luck Bryant. Here’s to the next 50 years!

Bryant University Views – August, 2021

Images taken August, 2021.

Click on images to enlarge.

50 years Ago – February, 1970

50 Years Ago – February, 1970  



    The Bryant University campus is home to one historic barn and two 18th century houses which in February of 1970 stood exactly where the dome of the Unistructure is located today.  As construction preparations for the Unistructure were underway the buildings became the center of some local controversy.  The school had originally planned to move the structures to another location on campus so as not to look out of place amid the modern architecture, but some felt they should remain where they were.  Then the possibility arose that they might be sold at auction and removed from Smithfield all together.

     On February 5, members of the Smithfield Town Council and representatives of the historical society met with Bryant officials at the Town Hall, where an agreement was reached to retain the buildings on campus, but not at their original location.

     Today the buildings can be found on the campus portion of John Mowry Road.   

     1st Lieutenant Anthony J. Fascitelli, Jr., of Greenville, was serving in the U. S. Air Force.

    Airman 1st Class James P. Coupe of Greenville, was serving at Da Nang Air Force Base in Vietnam.

     PFC Howard R. Turner, Jr., of Esmond, was serving with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam.

     Sergeant Lea T. Lariviere of Georgiaville, had finished a tour of duty in Germany and was home on leave.  

     The Junior Naval Cadets of Smithfield announced the following promotions:

     Thomas Howarth to full lieutenant.

     Stephen Votolato to Distinguished Cadet.

     Dennis Straight and Paul Arella to Senior Cadet 1st Class.  

     Robert Varr to Senior Cadet 2nd Class.

     Keith Straus and Dennis Henlin to Senior Cadet 3rd Class.

     Gregory Straight to Cadet 1st Class.

     Richard Cardarelli and James Bicknell to cadet 2nd Class.

     Thomas Straus, Michael Barfato, and Robert Ferguson to Cadet 3rd Class.   

     Esmond Girl Scout Troop 894 held a meeting at the Esmond Recreation Hall where the following girls were made official Girl Scouts: Pamela Shaw, Karen Despres, Deborah LeBlanc, Danielle Desautel, Kathy Richardson, Diane DeCessere, Donna Cooke, Marilyn Maltais, Mary Sward, Beth Cerroni, Linda Parks, Marion Passano, Julie Cerroni, Laura White, Mary Webster, and Melony Sheppard.    

     The Smithfield Golden Agers held a meeting over which Mrs. Albina Whitecross presided.  Hostesses included Stella Hill, Mary Cardello, Ann Ethier, Blanche Belhumer, and Mae Creighton.    

     The Apple Valley Chorus placed 2nd in the annual Division IV Competition held in Norwood, Massachusetts.  The win made them eligible to compete in the Northeast District Competition in October. 

     The Apple Valley Chorus was directed by Roger Jordon. 

     One local car dealer was offering for sale a 1966 Ford “Country Squire” station wagon – remember them?  The vehicle was equipped with a luggage rack, 2-way tailgate, radio and heater, power steering and a V-8 engine with automatic transmission, all of which were dealer options at the time.  The price, a mere $1,495. 

     The same dealer was also offering a ’67 Mustang for $1,595, and a ’68 Lincoln for $3,395.

     A local oil company was advertising 200 gallons of heating oil for $30, plus tax, and cash on delivery.  For those doing the math, that came about seven cents a gallon.       




50 Years Ago – December, 1969

50 Years Ago – December, 1969

    U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Wilfred L. Noiseux of Esmond was honorably discharged and returned home after serving two-and-a-half years in Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Division.

    PFC Allen H. Uttley of Greenville was home on a14-day furlough. 

     On November 29 a fire of broke out at the Greenville Grange Hall which was located on Austin Avenue just in from Putnam Pike.  Thanks to the quick actions by firemen the building was saved, but it had suffered significant damage to its interior.    

     The building had once been a school, and one item of historical interest that was rescued while flames still threatened the structure was the large bronze school bell still hanging in the belfry.   

      While it served as a school, classes for grades 1 – 4 were held on the first floor, and grades 5 – 8 were held on the second.  The classrooms were heated with wood stoves.        

     Graduations were simple affairs as the classes seldom numbered more than five or six.  The school closed when the William Windsor School on Route 44 opened in the 1930s.

     The former Grange Hall remained standing into the early 1980s before giving way to “progress”.  Today a row of small businesses occupies the land.

     As for the historic school bell, it has survived, and is today displayed at the Winfield Funeral Home in Greenville.  If one looks closely at the bottom rim they will notice a few chips – “battle damage” suffered during its rescue as it was dragged from the fire.

     On December 12 the Reservoir Rangers Drum and Bugle Corps held their third annual Christmas party at the Balfour-Cole American Legion Post.  Sixty members of the corps and their parents attended.    

     Two DJ’s, Jim Pride, and Mike Sands, from radio station WICE broadcast their show live from the party, and gave away twelve long playing records, (Known as “LPs” in the 1960s) as prizes.

     On December 13 several inches of snow fell over the area, clinging to trees and creating a “winter wonderland” lending to the look of Christmas.  

     On December 14 the town held two events in celebration of the Christmas Season.  The first was the annual tree lighting ceremony held at 4:45 P.M. on the Greenville Common where a Nativity had been erected by the Apple Blossom Club.  The program included short addresses by church leaders from St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Greenville Baptist Church, and St. Philips Catholic Church, followed by Christmas carols and refreshments.  The tree was lit by Senator F. Monroe Allen.

     The second event was held at 7 P.M. at the Town Hall which had been decorated with lights and wreaths, as well as a Nativity on the front lawn.  Santa arrived on the back of a Georgiaville fire truck and distributed small gifts to children while adults sang Christmas carols and enjoyed refreshments. 

     Both events had been timed so that citizens from both sides of town could attend each of them.

     A meeting of Slack’s Pond residents was held where it was voted that the name of their association be changed from the Blue Gill Derby Association to the Slacks Reservoir Improvement Association. 

     Bryant College, (Now Bryant University), unveiled its plans for the new Tupper Campus to be built on “Memory Hill” on Douglas pike. The public was invited to view architectural drawings and models of the Unistructure and dormitories that were to be constructed.      

     On December 19 and 20, the Smithfield Drama Club presented “Kaleidoscope 70”, a song and dance variety show, at the Smithfield High School.  

     On the night of December 24th, NORAD radar control reported tracking a strange aerial object circling the globe while stopping briefly at every home. Military jets were scrambled to intercept and identify, but the mysterious aeronaut seemed to keep one step ahead, and was never sighted. One doesn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to solve this X-File.

    Merry Christmas.   




Map of Bryant College – 1980s

Map of Bryant College – 1980s

Click on image to enlarge.

50 Years Ago – September, 1968

50 Years Ago – September, 1968

     Incoming freshmen at Bryant College were invited to a “down on the farm’ barbeque at “Memory Hill”, the future site of the Bryant Unistructure. Students were introduced to faculty and administrators. These students would graduate in 1972, the year the Smithfield campus opened.

     Army Specialist James J. Motta of Georgiaville was discharged from the army after completion of his service in Vietnam.

     Staff Sergeant David M. Balfour Jr. of Esmond was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service as a crew chief aboard an F-4C aircraft in Vietnam.

     Angus Bryant of Mountaindale Road completed his tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force.

     Army Specialist John M. Cullen of Greenville was serving in Vietnam.

     Airman Jeffrey R. Sweet of Greenville completed basic training for the U.S. Air Force, and would be assigned to Logistics Command at Chanute Air Base in Illinois.

     Seaman Apprentice Ernest F. Littlerick, Jr. of Greenville completed basic training for the U.S. Navy.

     A carnival to benefit muscular dystrophy was held at 103 Dean Avenue in Esmond by Karen Shea, Joann Cunningham, Jeris and Cheryl Noducci, Kathy Wyatt, Polly and Marie Parsakian, and Bill Kerwin. A total of $48 was raised.

     The Maplewoods neighborhood in Greenville was still under development. A two-story garrison colonial on Peach Blossom Lane was advertised at $25,600. The home featured a two-car garage, fire place, 1.5 baths, and a walk out basement.

     Speaking of construction, two Greenville youths, Robert Lyons and Donald Morse, built a five story tall tree house behind a home on Beverly Circle. A photo was featured in a local newspaper.  

     In September of 1968, the television shows 60 Minutes, Adam-12, Julia, and Hawaii Five-O aired for the first time.    

     On September 15 the Smithfield Raiders pre-teen football team went to North Attleborough to play the Plainville Packers. The Raiders won, 27 to 13.  

     On September 17 the St. Michael’s Ave Marie Guild elected new officers. President: Mrs. Rose Farnsworth, Vice President: Mrs. Jemny Arruda, Recording Secretary: Mrs. Ann Tobin, Treasurer: Mrs. Joanne Serapiglia, Corresponding Secretary: Mrs. Marion Drummond.

     On September 18 People’s Bank at the Apple Valley Mall held their grand opening. The public was invited to stop in and receive a free lollypops and balloons, and to register to win a color television. (The TV was won by a couple from North Providence.)

     The bank also offered the choice of “a rugged all purpose lantern”, a wool blanket, or a “handsome” 21-inch plaid suitcase, to anyone who opened a new account.    

     On September 20 Cub Scout Pack 43 of Greenville held a meeting.

     On September 26 the East Smithfield Homemakers held a meeting at the Esmond Recreational Hall.

     On September 28, Smithfield launched a “town wide cleanup” spearheaded by the Conservation Commission. The program was scheduled to run through November 9.

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