RWU partners with the Cummings Foundation

SAAHP to get $20 million and a name change


Emily Dvareckas/The Hawks' Herald

President Ioannis Miaoulis (right) and SAAHP Dean Stephen White (left) announcing the $20 million donation from Bill and Joyce Cummings.

Excitement was in the air in the lobby of the School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation (SAAHP) with a crowd of students, administrations, faculty and staff on April 6.

The campus community has been waiting for a special and historic announcement from University President Ioannis Miaoulis after receiving an email yesterday inviting people to watch a live stream of “an important and exciting moment to share in university history,” according to the email.

“There were great predictions online,” said Chief of Staff Brian Williams in his opening remarks.

Dean of the SAAHP Stephen White remarked that it was “tremendous to be able to gather here today in the Alumni Circle.”

Thirty-five years after the opening of the SAAHP and the beginning of the architecture program, the building will undergo a name change thanks to the $20 million donation and partnership with the Cummings Foundation. The building will now be called the Cummings School of Architecture and Real Estate.

Around the same time the architecture program at Roger Williams was kicking off and gaining national recognition, Miaoulis was an assistant professor at Tufts University. While teaching there he met Bill Cummings, a colleague with a shared passion for entrepreneurship and business.

The friendship between Miaoulis and Cummings is what made this partnership possible.

Cummings is a well-known philanthropist in Massachusetts and he specializes in real estate. Miaoulis said having the most prestigious name in real estate will attract people to the university.

“This is truly a milestone partnership for both of our foundations,” said Miaoulis in a private video for Cummings and his wife Joyce taken after the live stream ended.

White said this partnership and donation is “securing a future where we can be idealistic.”

Student Senate Vice President Adam Cavanaugh was in attendance for the announcement.

“This exciting announcement will best serve current and future students as well as the community at large through new opportunities. The additional funding will allow the priorities of the strategic action plan to come to fruition, engaging students in innovative interdisciplinary programs,” Cavanaugh said.

Some architecture students are not as thrilled about the announcement. Ryan DeSanctis, a junior architecture major, has questions regarding the future of the program.

“As noted by a friend studying abroad, the new name may provide confusion on a diploma that all architecture students also have real estate degrees which could be problematic. I myself am also wondering how this will affect my degree. Will I be required to now take real estate courses that would affect my current graduation trajectory or will it not be required as current students? Will this affect my current tuition? These are some questions that should be answered,” said DeSanctis.

DeSanctis is also concerned about changing the name of the school.

“The new name fails to recognize the Art History and Historic Preservation aspects that are vital for this path of education! I wish that these programs were not as overshadowed by the new Real Estate Program,” he said.

Overall, he is interested to see the program have the opportunity to grow with the donation.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Margaret Everett told The Hawks’ Herald that this is the largest gift the university has received in its history.

“This partnership and the naming of the school is a recognition of the architecture program,” Everett said. “I am excited about the visibility and resources this will bring to the school.”

“This is a tremendous transformational gift for the university as a whole,” said Everett.
More details about the renaming ceremony and celebration will be announced in the upcoming weeks.