Vincent A. Cianci

During his tenure as Mayor of Providence, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was a controversial figure, synonymous with change, charisma, and corruption.

Elected as the youngest mayor in Providence’s history, he would go on to be the city’s longest-serving mayor, serving more than twenty years over two non-consecutive terms (1975-1984 and 1991-2002).

A patron of the arts, Cianci helped to establish and maintain artistic hubs like AS220, Trinity Rep, and Waterfire, transforming Providence into the “Creative Capital.” Many of Cianci’s other notable achievements were acts of urban development, from the redirection of the Providence River to the construction of Providence Place and the revitalization of the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

For all his successes, Cianci was forced to resign from the mayor’s office twice. First due to an assault charge and then later after being indicted due to Operation Plunder Dome. Despite these scandals, Cianci maintained his popularity, serving as a media figure and political commentator between his mayoral terms and again after his release from prison in 2007. Cianci passed away in 2016 at the age of 74.

Morris Gaebe

Morris Gaebe dedicated his life to higher education, devoting 42 years to Johnson and Wales University. Born in 1920 on a small farm in Addieville, Illinois, Gaebe was the first person from his town to graduate from college. Upon graduating, Gaebe served in the US Navy during World War II, where he met his lifelong friend and business partner Edward Triangolo. In 1947, Gaebe and Triangolo purchased the Johnson & Wales Business School, which at the time had about 100 students enrolled. For the first 22 years of his tenure at JWU, Gaebe served as co-director with Triangolo, before transitioning to the role of President which he held from 1969-1989. Under his leadership, JWU experienced a major expansion of programs and growth of the student population, including an enrollment of over 15,000 students across campuses in four states.

Gaebe always structured his vision for Johnson & Wales around what he believed was best for the students. This meant he was often working to introduce new programs to the University that would ensure graduating students would be prepared for and desirable in the job market. It was under Gaebe that JWU’s hospitality and culinary programs were established during the 1980s. It was also during this time that the university became the fastest growing institution in Rhode Island. In 1989, Gaebe stepped down from his post as University President to become Chancellor and Chairman of its Board of Trustees. 

Gaebe also founded Addieville East Farm in Burrillville with his son Geoff. Encompassing over 10,000 acres, the nature preserve and hunting ground is known for the excellent conservation of its land.

Gaebe served as President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools, President of the R.I. Business Educators Association, Chairman of the Educational Standards Committee of UBSA, and Chairman of the Episcopal Charities Fund of R.I. After a lifetime dedicated to advancing higher education and serving students, Morris Gaebe passed away in 2016 at the age of 96.

Malcolm Grear

Acclaimed graphic designer Malcolm Grear literally left his mark all over Rhode Island. Originally from Kentucky, Grear graduated from the Art Academy of Cincinnati before moving to Rhode Island in 1960 to become a faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design’s graphic design department. Upon his arrival in Providence, he founded his own design firm, Malcolm Grear Designers, a two-person operation with offices in the Jewelry District of Providence.

Grear’s firm eventually garnered international attention and led to many high-profile designs for corporations, universities, and museums around the United States, including the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Locally, we see his work in the logos for Lifespan and the VETS. Most notably, in 1996, his work received international attention when Malcolm Grear Designers was selected from 490 national firms to design the look of the Centennial Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1998, Grear retired from RISD, having received the prestigious John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Helen M. Danforth Chaired Professorship during his tenure. In 2012, RISD established the Malcolm Grear Endowed Scholarship Fund in honor and recognition of his impact on the many generations of RISD students.

Grear was the recipient of the Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Rhode Island Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Grear’s work was also highlighted in exhibitions at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and others. Grear passed away in 2016 at the age of 84.

The Honorable O. Rogeriee Thompson

O. Rogeriee Thompson first adopted Rhode Island as her home when she left her native South Carolina in 1969 to attend Pembroke College, the women’s college affiliated with Brown University. Thompson graduated with a degree from Brown in 1973, before attending law school at Boston University School of Law, where she clerked for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and served as a legal intern for Rhode Island Legal Services. Upon graduating from BU, Thompson returned to RI Legal Service, where she served as Senior Staff Attorney and Family Law Manager until 1979, acting as an advocate for low-income people.

From 1980-82, Thompson served as the Assistant City Solicitor for Providence and operated her own legal practice until being appointed to the District Court of Rhode Island by Governor Edward DiPrete in 1987. Ten years later, Thompson was nominated by Governor Lincoln Almond to serve as the first Black woman on the Rhode Island Superior Court, a position for which she was confirmed unanimously.

In 2010, O. Rogeriee Thompson made history as the first Black woman to serve on the United States 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Nominated to the court by President Barack Obama, she was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She served in this role until July of 2021, when she took on senior status.

Thompson has received honorary degrees from Bryant University, Brown University, and the University of Rhode Island. She resides in Rhode Island.