BY JAMES MEROLLA
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – An East Greenwich collegiate legend has made his mark and established his place, and Rhode Island PBS has preserved it as living history.
The film, “Jack Yena’s Legacy: Finding a Sense of Place,” is the third of a trilogy of documentaries about the unique history of Johnson & Wales University by filmmaker Marian Gagnon. Yena resides in E.G.
The complete film series has been years in the making.
WSBE Rhode Island PBS will proudly present all three films in February. “Jack Yena’s Legacy: Finding a Sense of Place,” debuts on Sunday, Feb. 20 at 9:30 p.m., and as part of the ongoing WSBE series, Rhode Island Stories on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. (re-broadcast Sunday, Feb. 27 at 11:30 p.m.)
The newest documentary explores Yena’s career at Johnson & Wales. Jack Yena was a member of the university administration since 1962, rising to university president in 1989. At that time, Yena was only the third president in the history of the institution. In 2004, Yena was named Chairman of the Board, replacing Morris Gaebe, who became Chairman Emeritus and Chancellor.
Under Yena’s tenure, the university formally established the College of
Business, The Hospitality College, the College of Culinary Arts and the
School of Technology. A new emphasis on general studies was introduced in
1992, with the development of the School of Arts & Sciences.
During the Yena years, Johnson & Wales expanded and realigned some its two-year programs of study, introducing new four-year degrees.
Johnson & Wales expanded geographically as well as academically. Yena took the institution’s name recognition and its reputation as a career university to an international level. Yena also led the charge to establish campuses in North Miami, Denver, and Charlotte, giving Johnson and Wales University a “sense of place” for the first time since its founding.
Last of the big three
The first documentary, “HERstory: The Founding Mothers of Johnson & Wales University,” described the revolutionary spirit and devotion to women’s business education of Gertrude Johnson and Mary Wales, founders of what later became Johnson & Wales University. The film was nominated for a New England Emmy in 2005.
The second documentary in the trilogy, “Johnson & Wales University’s Men of Vision,” spans the years from 1947 (when Gertrude Johnson and Mary Wales retired) to the late 1980s, and focuses on the contributions made by Morris Gaebe and Edward Triangolo. These two men grew the small business school from 100 students and laid the foundation for what it is today – an internationally recognized university with more than 12,000 students from every state in the nation and in excess of 70 foreign countries.
A former journalist, filmmaker Marian Gagnon is a Johnson & Wales University Arts and Sciences faculty member. She wrote, directed, and produced the documentaries, and established her own independent film company, Goodnight Irene Productions.
“It was clear that Jack Yena was the force that took J&W out of the past and drop-kicked it into the future. He brought our name recognition – and reputation as a Career University – to an international level,” said director/producer Gagnon when the documentary premiered in December. “He led the charge to expand to North Miami, Denver and Charlotte. He cultivated and mentored numerous individuals within the university to ensure that Gertrude and Mary’s mission perseveres. But most of all, Jack gave us a real ‘sense of place.’ Something J&W never had before.”
Gagnon said the completed trilogy is “doubly sweet” in that it has become part of her legacy as well, her contribution to Johnson & Wales.
“So thank you Dr. Yena for always believing in me…” said Gagnon.