The Roger Williams University Archives is the official repository for records documenting the history of the University and its predecessors, including administrative records, academic program records, student newspapers and yearbooks, and material generated faculty and student organizations The Archives supports the University’s commitment to the pursuit of knowledge through research and teaching by acquiring, arranging and describing, preserving, and making accessible these records of enduring value.
The Archives collects materials related to the history of Bristol and the East Bay area. It is home to the Roger Williams Family Association Papers and bound copies of The Bristol Phoenix from about 1840-1960. The Archives also houses the University’s Special Collections.
A Brief History of Roger Williams University
Roger Williams University began as a branch of Northeastern University’s School of Commerce and Finance at the Providence YMCA in 1919. Soon after Northeastern opened a Providence Division for its Law School and the Providence Technical Institute, offering a certificate program in mechanical engineering.
After separating from Northeastern in 1940, the YMCA Board of Directors established the Providence Institute of Engineering and Finance. The outbreak of World War II forced its closure and it reopened in 1945 as the YMCA Institute of Engineering and Finance. It grew over the next few years, serving veterans in both its day and evening divisions. The State of Rhode Island soon authorized the Institute to grant an associate degree.
In February 1956, the YMCA Institute received a State charter to become a two-year, degree-granting institution under the name of Roger Williams Junior College. In 1967 the College became a four-year institution and was renamed Roger Williams College. The Providence campus continued to house business and engineering technology programs, while a new Bristol campus opened in 1969, offering a full liberal arts baccalaureate program.
In 1992, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the institution to Roger Williams University. The following year the University opened its Law School, the first and only law school in Rhode Island. Since then the University has established several graduate programs.