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Felicia Gardella ’61, M.S. ’77space pictureRalph Browning ’50space pictureGary Ferdman ’69space pictureMarc Blevins ’95space pictureSarah Emmett ’05space pictureEric P. Andreozzi ’89space picture

Class Acts Profiles

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Felicia Gardella ’61, M.S. ’77

Some people put in 35 or 40 years, accept their colleagues’ congratulations, and settle into a happy retirement. Not Felicia Gardella. After 47 years of working at Rhode Island Hospital, the nurse administrator has no interest in retiring. “It’s my comfort zone,” she says. “I wouldn’t be happy at this point in my life doing nothing workwise.”

True, she’s worked “off and on” at the hospital, and that’s one key to her continuing job satisfaction. While she was raising her three children she worked part-time. She began her current, full-time job on the 3-11 p.m. shift in 1990. “I’ve been fortunate in that over the years I’ve been able to balance my work schedule with my personal schedule,” she says. She’s been fortunate, too, to have a career that she feels passionate about. “I just have a personal fascination with the whole medical profession,” she says.

Rhode Island Hospital admits an average of 100 patients a day, Gardella says, and 60 to 70 of those arrive on her shift. She is responsible for assigning each patient an appropriate bed according to medical specialty. “We don’t have 100 beds empty, so we’re constantly adjusting. It’s very challenging. It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle every single day.”

Gardella has seen some big changes in nursing. “Some things were so primitive when we started!” she says with a laugh. “We dissolved morphine in saline on a spoon and drew it into a syringe. I even worked with the old iron lung.”

While medical advances have changed the profession for the better, Gardella says nursing comes with more stress than ever, especially with the current shortage of hospital nurses. “When I began, nursing was a 24/7 profession,” she says. “We felt like the rest of life was supposed to be in second place. Today’s younger nurses want more balance in their lives. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different.”

One day she’ll be ready to leave nursing behind, maybe to do more of the traveling she enjoys. But even after 47 years, she’s not finished yet.

—Paula M. Bodah ’78

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Ralph Browning ’50

Born and brought up just off campus on North Road, Ralph Browning hails from a quintessentially URI family. His father, Harold Browning ’14, was a URI administrator and professor of education. Browning recalls spending his school days on campus, especially singing in the chorus accompanied on piano by Charlie Billmyer ’50.

After enrolling at URI in September 1945, Browning was drafted into the Army the following January and served in Korea until August 1947. With Army credit and summer courses, he made up some of the lost time and graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in civil engineering.

Browning, who lives in Matunuck, worked in construction management for Gilbane Building Co. before retiring as vice president, operations. A longtime volunteer at URI, Browning developed a construction management program in civil engineering and served on the department’s advisory board. He is also the second-longest serving board member (after Henry Nardone ’44) of the College of Engineering Advisory Board.

In the early ’60s, Browning received a parcel of land—then considered a woodlot— from his father as an inducement to return to South County after Gilbane assigned him to work in Maryland. The land was then valued at around $800 and taxed as farmland; by 2000, the value of the land, now reclassified as residential, had ballooned to six figures. As a result, Browning decided to fulfill his dream of establishing a lasting legacy at URI.

He donated the land to URI with the proceeds of its sale to fund an endowment to support the Civil Engineering department and the construction management program. Recently Browning asked that the endowment, originally named for him, be renamed the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Fund to encourage contributions from other people.

“I am the type that like to see things done,” he says. “I’m not concerned about having my name out there.”

—Alan Axelrod

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Gary Ferdman with the next generation of peace activists, his grandchildren Avram and Rosa Silberztein.

Gary Ferdman ’69

Like many URI students during the Vietnam War era, Gary Ferdman ‘69 was active in the protest movement. Unlike most, Ferdman is still protesting; in fact, it’s his career.

Ferdman is development director of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, a group working to get the U.S. government to cut military spending and divert funds to education, the environment, public health, and alternative energy. He founded the organization in 1996 with Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

“URI was a formative experience,” Ferdman said during an interview in New York City, where his group is based. Students and professors who had worked in the civil rights movement taught him “the role of organizing in confronting and ultimately overcoming injustice.”

The campus anti-war movement was “a personal journey” during which he changed his major from electrical engineering to sociology and became “an activist who was concerned about the military-industrial complex.”

He worked as a social worker in his hometown of Pawtucket, then relocated to the New York area and earned graduate degrees and did fundraising for nonprofits. “In the 1980s when the nuclear freeze movement came along, I was re-energized,” he said. “It was in my soul.”

Ferdman recruits executives and retired military officers. They spread the group’s message through high-profile campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire and educational efforts built around the Common Sense Budget Act, legislation that embodies the budget trade-off message. They place advertisements, op-eds, letters, and articles, and meet with legislators and aspirants for national office. This strategy is complemented by the 500,000 members of TrueMajority, the group’s on-line activism arm.

Recent years have been discouraging, with the war in Iraq and a ballooning Pentagon budget. But Ferdman has not lost hope: “Polls show that the vast majority of Americans agree with our message. It’s incredibly hopeful to see so many veterans running for office as anti-war candidates. The people agree with us. We’ve just got to do a better job of getting them organized.”

David Gregorio ’80

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Marc Blevins ’95

Throughout high school and college, Marc Blevins loved reading mystery novels. So much so that upon graduation he said to himself, “I bet I could do this!” And so he has, with the recent publication of his first novel, Hard Sell. His URI experience had more than a little to do with it. Beyond teaching him to write and think, Blevins recalls, “the best thing URI did for me was to keep me in Rhode Island.”

Hard Sell is set in Rhode Island with scenes on the Kingston Campus and the beaches of South County. It involves the adventures of a private investigator visiting South County on what turns into a “vacation from hell” when he finds two murder victims on his doorstep and becomes ensnared with various unsavory characters.

“Rhode Island is so rich in terms of characters and subcultures,” Blevins notes, “how can you not come up with something?”

According to reader reviews on major booksellers’ Web sites, Hard Sell is “an exciting read,” and “a fast-paced story that keeps you turning the pages.” It’s marked by “gritty characterization and crisp dialogue” and is written with “sarcasm and irreverence that adds to the mood of the story.”

Still, Blevins faced the challenge of all writers —getting those first words on paper. “I just conceived two or three characters, put them into scenes I liked, and then started connecting the dots,” he says.

To supplement the income of a newly published writer, Blevins teaches English at Coventry High School and tends bar in the summertime at various beachfront watering holes.

He also takes graduate courses at URI, citing in particular a seminar taught by Professor Karen Stein. A paper Blevins wrote for her course earned him an invitation to speak at the International Conference on Arts and Humanities in Honolulu where his topic was the evolution of detective fiction.

Blevins’ second mystery novel, Pray for the Dead, is due out in early 2007, and he has already started work on his third book.

—Alan Axelrod

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Sarah Emmett ’05

Toward the end of an internship at URI’s Department of Communications, Sarah Emmett was unsure of her career path. A strong writer, she was a big sports fan who agreed to have her internship supervisor make some calls. One contact led to a paid internship with the 2004 Pawtucket Red Sox.

“I don’t think I ever worked so hard for a summer, but I don’t know if I ever enjoyed anything so much,” said Emmett, who sold tickets, ran the kids’ birthday party program, and helped with the Triple A All-Star game.

But the journalism-communications studies major’s last semester was even more exciting. Thanks to the friendship between Bill Tavares ’87, media relations manager for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, and Journalism Professor Linda Levin, Emmett received a call from Tavares about a job as the team’s media relations assistant. Tavares respected Levin as a teacher, and Levin recognized a great fit.

“I’ve been in the job for a year-and-a-half and I am having a blast because it is never boring,” said Emmett of her time with a top WNBA team.

She also likes working with fellow URI alumni Tavares and Rachel Manke ’01, who heads the Sun’s Internet communications. “Bill is great because he lets me do a lot,” Emmett remarked. “He gives me assignments and lets me run with them.”

URI prepared her for the job’s writing and deadline demands, but little could prepare 5-foot, 5-inch Emmett for an interview with 7-foot, 2-inch player Margo Dydek. “I needed a ladder to get a microphone close enough to her. Now we do sit-down interviews,” Emmett said. “I am so lucky to be working with such nice players.”

Emmett oversees much of the Sun’s media guide, provides content for the Web site, and prepares the players for interviews. She also develops player tidbits and statistics for local and national media.

—Dave Lavallee ’79, M.P.A. ’87

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Eric P. Andreozzi ’89

As a founding partner in a Charlotte, N.C., firm that specializes in mergers, acquisitions, and raising capital for growing companies, Eric P. Andreozzi faces high pressure, long hours, and more travel than he’d like. How does he feel about that? “I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he says. “I love that I can work in the business I want to work in without having to be in New York or another big city.”

Andreozzi, a finance major at URI, and his wife, Laurie, moved to North Carolina in 1992 so he could attend the M.B.A. program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The couple expected to stay in the South just until Andreozzi earned his degree. But when he got a job offer in investment banking in Charlotte, he passed on the three offers from New York City, and the couple settled in to raise their three young sons. “I truly think it’s easier and much more stress free to raise kids in the South,” says Andreozzi.

In 2001, he and several other entrepreneurs founded McColl Partners, a company that has enjoyed tremendous success in its five-year history, working with companies in Europe, South America, Canada and throughout the U.S.

Andreozzi is the youngest of six children, all of whom went to URI. “URI was a very comfortable place to learn,” he says. “And looking back on it, the friends I made at URI are, to date, my best friends.”

He and his wife may be raising southern children, but Andreozzi has made sure his boys root for the Red Sox and the Patriots. As much as he loves his work and his life in Charlotte, the avid sports fan admits there might be one job that could entice him to return to New England. “The only thing I’d leave for is an executive position with the Patriots,” he says with a laugh.

—Paula M. Bodah ’78

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