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2011 URIF Excellence Award Recipients Honored

KINGSTON, RI – October 11, 2011 - The winners of the University of Rhode Island Foundation’s 2011 Excellence Awards were honored recently at a ceremony held on campus. The awards were established in 1970 to acknowledge members of the University’s staff or faculty who go above and beyond their responsibilities to enhance the objectives of a particular department as well as URI as a whole. Since 1970, over 160 individuals have received Excellence Awards in one of four categories: teaching, scholarly, staff and administrative.

This year’s winners, who were chosen to represent each of the four categories of awards following a selection process that included nominations by peers and students, each received a framed citation and a $2,000 cash stipend.

The 2011 Excellence Award winners and their respective categories are:

Dr. Stephan Grilli, professor of ocean engineering, is the winner of the 2011 Scholarly Excellence Award. Dr. Grilli has served on the URI faculty since 1991 and served as Chair of the Department of Ocean Engineering from 2002 to 2008. He was the very first professor from the College of Engineering to be named a Distinguished Professor. Dr. Grilli has earned an international reputation as a leader and an expert in advanced modeling of nonlinear ocean wave processes and their interactions with coastal and ocean structures, and air-sea interactions. He has published 177 books, chapters, journal articles and has been awarded more than 50 competitive research grants during his career. He has also earned a number of distinguished awards for his work, including the esteemed C. H. Kim Award of the International Society of Offshore and Polar Engineers. Dr. Grilli is widely respected and admired for his work and the impact his research has had globally, nationally and locally.

Chet Hickox, professor in the College of Business Administration, was awarded the 2011 Teaching Excellence Award. He joined the faculty of URI in 1984 and since that time has earned the reputation as an extraordinary teacher who sets himself apart through his dedication to his students, his colleagues and the University. A most versatile and engaging teacher, Chet has earned numerous awards including the Beta Gamma Sigma Teaching Excellence Award, which he has won six times, and the College of Business Administration’s newest award, the Thomas Chisholm Undergraduate Teaching Award. He is exceptionally well-regarded by his students and is also known for his willingness to assist other faculty members. He shares innovative teaching methods to help faculty engage and encourage students, and is considered a valued mentor to junior faculty members. Professor Hickox has authored a number of professional papers and has shared his time and expertise in serving the University on a number of committees and boards.

Tommaso Pitassi, former associate controller for the University, is the winner of the 2011 Administrative Excellence Award. Pitassi began working for the University of Rhode Island in 1968 and ending earlier this year when he retired after more than four decades of service. As associate controller, he was responsible for the financial compliance of sponsored projects, grant finance reporting and the development and negotiation of research rate proposals. As a member of the controller’s senior management team, he earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues for his extensive knowledge of grant processes and federal and state regulations. Pitassi’s ethical standards were of the highest caliber and he became well-known across the University community as an authority in his area of expertise. Known for his integrity and character, his commitment to his division and the University community was evident in all of his work.

Anthony Frias, who has worked in the Graduate School of Oceanography’s Shipping and Receiving Department for over 40 years, was awarded the 2011 Staff Excellence Award. During his career at GSO, he assembled an efficient, conscientious and highly organized team to support the GSO community. Well-respected and admired by his colleagues and peers, Tony is a skilled, hands-on manager and a true team player, devoted to his work. Whether it be ordering or distributing office supplies, installing equipment, moving furniture, managing the equipment warehouse, helping set up for events, or overseeing sometimes complex specialty shipping procedures, his work is done with the highest degree of efficiency. Tony has distinguished himself as a pro-active, can-do employee of the GSO, and one who has earned the respect and admiration of his coworkers. With an ever-present smile he inspires others to do their best and ensures the smooth and efficient operation of his division, thus significantly enhancing the overall GSO community.

The winners, who were personally notified of their awards earlier in the year by University President David M. Dooley, were publicly congratulated at today’s ceremony by Dooley, URIF Interim President Wendy A. Bucci, and members of the Foundation’s Executive Board including Caroline Kaull, the chair of the 2011 Excellence Awards Committee. Winners from the past two years, including Ronald Bernier, Dr. Steven Kay, Rebecca Lamb, Dr. Libby Miles, Dr. Jimmie Oxley, Dr. Frank Golet, Lora Choquette and Ellen Reynolds, were also recognized for serving on subcommittees for the 2011 awards, facilitating the selection of this year’s winners.

“These individuals embody a commitment to their work and a truly impressive level of dedication. Their efforts not only enhance the functionality and effectiveness of their respective departments, but of the University community as a whole. The University is a better place because of the fine example they set for others,” commented URI Foundation Interim President Wendy A. Bucci at last Thursday’s ceremony, hosted by the Foundation and attended by President David Dooley, University officials, winners, their families and colleagues.



For information on this or any news item, contact Tracey Manni in Development Communications, at 401.874.2145 or