photo collage of Bryant Smithfield campus including the then-new entrance sign and students on campus
Celebrating 50 years in Smithfield
Jul 28, 2021, by Staff Writer
Learn About Bryant Apply to Bryant

In September 1971, students from around the Northeast and beyond arrived at the newly opened Smithfield campus. Steven Valenti ’73, who had spent his first two years on the East Side campus in Providence, remembers, “Bryant called me and the other RAs in early so we could finish uncrating the sofas, lamps, and bedroom furniture for the dorms. We assembled everything — shelving units, desks, tables — and had schematic diagrams for placement.”

Eric Nilsson ’74, who transferred to Bryant College that year, shares “I did not visit Bryant beforehand and in fact had never been in Rhode Island ever. I jumped in my 1962 Rambler (which I bought for $100) and headed to RI from Westchester County, NY. The campus wasn’t fully completed, food was trucked in from a restaurant down the street, and only a few buildings were operating. Yet, despite everything, I met many people that day who have been my 50-year friends.”

Valenti was the Resident Assistant in Dorm 1, one of the dorms for first-year students. The Townhouses weren’t constructed yet, and Bryant was still largely a commuter campus. The Rathskeller, or simply “The Rat,” was the campus bar, and it was just a short walk back to the dorms. (That building is now the Chafee Center for International Business.)

Valenti had visited the campus during construction, driving out from Providence to see the progress. He shared one of his most vivid memories of the transformation of the campus just before classes started.

“In the morning, it was all gravel and dirt around the Unistructure, and by 5 p.m., they had unrolled yards and yards of sod, the sprinklers were running, and everything was green.” The areas around the dorms were a different story, however, he says. Those areas were seeded, and became mud pits every time it rained.

We’re sure there are many stories out there from Bryant’s early days in Smithfield. When and how the Archway arrived from the old campus, good times spent at The Library and Rathskeller bars, and many more.

Valenti remembers playing guitar with Russell Francis ’73 for a few bucks at The Library, and he thinks a beer at the Rathskeller was about 25 cents. The yearbook boasted that the bar even had a color TV! We would love to have your stories and see pictures from those early days. You can email them to us at, or post them on the Alumni Association Facebook page #BryantAlumni

We’ll be back in force for Homecoming on Saturday, October 2. There will be live music and a celebration of how far Bryant has come in 50 years. We hope you can join us for a trip down memory lane.

From the 1972 Yearbook dedication:

In September, 1971, Bryant College realized the culmination of a dream and began active operation on the new Smithfield campus. Students saw a modern academic unistructure, plus dormitories, athletic fields, a well-equipped gymnasium and vast parking facilities. All saw the same completed campus, but few realized what had transpired since the dream began with the Tupper estate.

dedication page from 1972 Bryant College yearbook

And now we are here, living and learning because of all those people — the dreamers, benefactors, planners and builders — who transformed a country farm into a center of academic excellence. It is only appropriate, therefore, that we dedicate this yearbook to everyone who in any way has helped to make the dream a reality.

Read More

Related Stories