Our History

Rhode College of Education Normal School

Rhode Island College came from humble origins, providing opportunities for self-transformation in order to meet the changing needs of the people of Rhode Island – a commitment that continues to this day.

Rhode Island Normal School


Rhode Island College, the first public institution of higher education in the state of Rhode Island, originated from the Rhode Island Normal School. Rhode Island Normal School opened its doors on May 29, 1854. The eighth normal school opened in America, its goal was to provide teacher preparation to young people from Rhode Island. Opening speakers included Reverand T.D. Cook of the Second Universalist Church, Governor William Ward Hoppin, and Education Commissioner Elisha Potter, who discussed “…the benefits to the cause of Common School Education to be expected from the establishment of this institution.”  

First Students

In Rhode Island Normal School's first year the class was comprised of 27 students, although 88 different students attended classes during the first year. Students ranged in age from 15-year old Laura M. Steere of North Providence to 25-year old Sarah G. Peavey of Providence.

Steady Growth

With the dedication of a new building in 1898, the institution began a period of steady growth:

  • evolving into a teachers' college, the Rhode Island College of Education
  • moving to its current Mount Pleasant Providence neighborhood campus in the 1958-59 academic year
  • being renamed Rhode Island College to reflect its new purpose as a comprehensive institution of higher education

With an enrollment predominantly from Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut, the institution historically has served as a "College of Opportunity" for first-generation college students.

RIC Today

The gold anchor on RIC's quad

Today, the Rhode Island College Mount Pleasant campus is a park-like 180-acres and serves approximately 7,000 students in courses and programs both on and off campus. This location combines a suburban atmosphere with easy access to the benefits and resources of the metropolitan area.

List of Principals and Presidents

The following men and women have guided the college throughout its history:

  • Dana Pond Colburn, 1854-1859
  • Joshua Kendall, 1860-1864
  • James Carruthers Greenough, 1871-1883
  • Thomas J. Morgan, 1883-1888
  • George Abner Littlefield, 1889-1892
  • William Edward Wilson, 1892-1898
  • Fred Gowing, 1898-1901
  • Charles Sumner Chapin, 1901-1907
  • John Lincoln Alger, 1908-1938
  • Lucius Albert Whipple, 1939-1950
  • William Clement Gaige, 1952-1966
  • Joseph Frank Kauffman, 1968-1973
  • Charles Borromeo Willard ‘34, 1973-1977
  • David Emery Sweet, 1977-1984
  • Carol Joan Guardo, 1986-1989
  • John Nazarian ‘54, 1990-2008
  • Nancy Carriuolo (Nancyanne Elizabeth Munzert Rabianski Carriuolo), 2008-2016
  • Frank David Sánchez, 2016-2022