KINGSTON—Quonset-based manufacturer Toray Plastics is upping its commitment to local education and training, pledging to donate $2 million to the University of Rhode Island in order to fund the construction of new facilities for the engineering program from there. The pledge is dependent on voter approval of a $125 million bond referendum at November’s state elections, proposed in Governor Lincoln Chafee’s budget.
“We are in full support of it,” said Richard Schloesser, president and CEO of Toray Plastics America. “[URI Dean of Engineering] Ray Wright came to me and said the university was considering a bond for new engineering facilities. We saw what their mock-up was and said it would be great if we could be involved with this.”
The referendum will improve research facilities for URI’s engineering programs, the capabilities of which have fallen behind those of competing universities throughout the country. A 195,000-square foot building would replace five existing halls on campus, structures which, according to the university, have not had any major renovations for over 50 years.
“This investment is in new, state-of-the-art engineering facilities is critical not just for the university, but also for Rhode Island and the economy,” said Wright.
The project is expected to increase student enrollment by 18 percent. The College of Engineering currently enrolls 1,547 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as offering the International Engineering Program which gives students a foundational education in both languages and engineering in order to compete in the global workplace.
Schloesser is hopeful, however, that by donating funds to local universities, many potential engineering employees and researchers will remain in Rhode Island to both work and live.
“It is very important for us if we can get Rhode Island born and bred [employees],” said Schloesser. “We are very concerned about our environment and employment in our state. We are quite proud of what we have done in the state, and want to continue to grow and build our operation.”
“I think [the proposed engineering project] is good for our future, to have an opportunity to see the best and brightest,” he continued. “We have anywhere from 10 to 15 interns here from URI at all times, and we get a chance to see these people and determine if we want to have them, from URI to schools across America.”
University officials, including president David M. Dooley, lauded Toray’s donation and dedication to keeping the engineering program viable well into the 21st century, noting that the Quonset-based business has already donated $2.3 million accumulatively through its fellowship and scholarship programs at URI.
“I’m delighted by the long and productive partnership between Toray and the university, and I’m tremendously grateful for this generous pledge to the College of Engineering,” said Dooley. “URI engineers are innovators at the frontiers of their disciplines and are a crucial part of the state’s economic revitalization. Toray’s support will help to elevate the quality of our engineering teaching and research, which will help us attract top students and faculty and lead to an even greater contribution to economic development in Rhode Island.”
“Toray has long been a committed and involved supporter of the University of Rhode Island. This is a great company that believes in the value this University and our students bring to its company and to this state,” said Mike Smith, president of the URI Foundation. “We are truly fortunate to call them a partner.”