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Celebrating 60 years of RWU

Happy Birthday RWU:

While Roger Williams University has been in Bristol for 45 years, the institution’s beginning dates back almost 100 years. In 1919 Northeastern opened a School of Commerce and Finance in the Providence YMCA, followed by an Evening Division Law School and the Providence Technical Institute. In 1940 the YMCA Board of Directors took over and established the Providence Institute of Engineering and Finance. The Institute closed during World War II and re-opened as the YMCA Institute of Engineering and Finance following the war.

In 1956 the school became a two-year degree granting institution, the state’s first, adopting the name Roger Williams Junior College. Its campus remained at the Providence YMCA.

Pictured above: ca. 1965, Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Bristol campus

Roger Williams College came in to being in 1967 and made plans to build a campus and offer a full liberal arts baccalaureate program in Bristol. The first classes on the new campus were held in the fall of 1969. The Providence campus continued to house business and engineering technology programs. The College grew rapidly over the years, adding students, programs, and campus buildings. The Board of Trustees voted to rename the school Roger Williams University, effective May 5, 1992. 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.


As Roger Williams University’s 60th birthday  approaches, the University Archives seeks your assistance. Please look at your RWU memorabilia for items related to the institution’s past–particularly the past of which you were a part! Your contributions will help supplement the official records held in the Archives and provide a more complete picture of the University’s history. The following is only a partial list of materials we hope you will either donate or lend:

  • diaries
  • journals, or other manuscript material
  • scrapbooks
  • photographs -- print and/or digital
  • films and audiotapes of campus events
  • student newspapers and yearbooks

If you have questions or wish to make a donation or loan of material from your years at RWU, please contact the archivist. Thank you.