Bryant University alumni gathered October 14 and 15 for a much-anticipated Homecoming weekend, rekindling old friendships and reacquainting with a campus in the midst of profound transformation. The weekend, marked by a community bonfire, ribbon cuttings, panel discussions, tailgating, and a football game, celebrated not only their enduring connection to the institution but also a bold new vision for Bryant.
“Every great play has three acts,” Board of Trustees Chair David M. Beirne ’85 told a group of institutional and state leaders at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Bryant’s Business Entrepreneurship Leadership Center, a 250,000 square foot building gifted to the university by Fidelity Investments in May and the future home of the College of Business. “Bryant is just starting its third act.”
Beirne described an enduring culture of momentum at Bryant, which was founded in Providence in 1863 and relocated to Smithfield in 1971, when the Tupper family donated a portion of their estate to the university. At Homecoming, amid early execution of Bryant’s Vision 2030 strategic plan, the alumni community was greeted by what Beirne called “Bryant 3.0,” a vibrant and forward-looking campus teeming with new facilities and revitalized spaces, marking a significant milestone in Bryant's journey as a leading institution of higher education.
“Rhode Island is going to try to keep up with you,” Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee H’23 told the audience at a Champagne toast inside the future Business Entrepreneurship Leadership Center. “You set the pace; we’ll be right on the bumper of the progress you’re making here at Bryant University.”
Following brief speeches by dignitaries including Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, Smithfield Town Manager and Bryant alum Randy Rossi ’21, Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Elizabeth Tanner, and Rhode Island State Treasurer James Diossa, Bryant President Ross Gittell, Ph.D., thanked the group for their support.
“Yes, this is about Bryant 3.0; it’s about the future of Bryant University. But that future is about partnerships and service. And you all coming here to take time on a beautiful Saturday morning reflects the vision, and the optimism around that vision,” Gittell said.
Vision in action
The university’s momentum was on full display at the Celebrate Academic Excellence Showcase, which brought students, faculty, administrative leadership, and alumni to the new Exercise and Movement Science Laboratory to discuss cutting-edge research conducted at Bryant in fields ranging from Biology to Economics.
“By presenting so many different areas of research, it’s a good reminder of how Bryant has grown and keeps evolving,” noted Jingmei Zeng ’24, who discussed her antifungal research in Professor of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Christopher Reid's lab.
The forum was a perfect fit for Homecoming, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Rupendra Paliwal, Ph.D., explained. “As we grow and expand, it is vitally important that we remember and keep what has always been at the core of Bryant: the student-centric focus, the collaboration between faculty and students, and the close-knit community. We want to maintain that special magic that is the source of so much spirit today.”
Amanda Whitham ’21, who visited the academic exhibition with her sister Victoria ’19, said Homecoming at Bryant is about celebrating the past while also looking to the future.
“We’re looking back at our time as undergrads, but we’re also excited to see all of the things that Bryant is doing now, and to learn more about the Bryant 3.0 around the corner,” she said.
In the early afternoon, alumni gathered at the university’s baseball field for the Conaty Park ribbon cutting. The new turf installation came as a donation from Bill ’67 and Sue Conaty and will allow Bryant’s team, which recently entered a new competitive conference, to condition year-round.
“This is just one more step in the evolution of Bryant athletics,” said Conaty, who noted the importance of continued support for the university’s athletic teams and reflected on his own Bryant baseball days, which were played in East Providence.
In his remarks, Gittell thanked Conaty for his forward-thinking gift and highlighted how the new field speaks to the future of the university while demonstrating progress toward a key Vision 2030 pillar: nourishing Bryant’s vibrant student life by building best-in-class facilities for Bryant’s Division I student-athletes.
“We want to raise the bar in absolutely everything we do, and what this field is going to allow for us is critical for our program,” added Director of Athletics Bill Smith, who called Bryant’s fields and courts the “classrooms” for coaches and student-athletes.
Following the ribbon cutting, Conaty threw the first pitch for the Black and Gold intersquad scrimmage and received a framed jersey as a thank you for his philanthropic gift.
Past, present, future pride
Throughout the day, Bryant students, alumni, families, and friends celebrated their bonds and their school spirit through shared food and fun. The crowd mingled as they tailgated by Beirne Stadium, renewing old bonds and making new ones.
“When I was here, we didn’t even have football games,” remembered Sharon Donnelly ’91 as she prepared to root for the Bryant Bulldogs in their win against the Robert Morris Colonials, 43 to 26. Now she has season tickets to every game to watch her son Leo play in the Pep Band. Donnelly is proud of her son’s success at Bryant and notes they’re both part of a Bulldog tradition that stretches from the school’s founding into the distant future.
“All of us have such strong ties to Bryant and are so excited to see it grow,” she said. “There’s so much pride for all of us — pride in its history, pride in what it is now, pride in what it’s going to be.”
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For many Bulldogs, like the members of Bryant’s chapter of the Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity, Homecoming provided an opportunity to reunite with friends from all over the country. This year, their gathering numbered more than 100. “If you look around, there’s people here from every walk of life,” said Ron Regen ’75, who has played an integral role in keeping the group together over the years. “We all grew up together here at Bryant. That’s a thread that unites all of us.”
On Saturday, Dana Jurgielewicz ’23 experienced her first Homecoming as an alum — the first of many, she affirmed. “I just love the spirit and I love being here. It really does feel like coming home.”