University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley will spotlight the achievements of a group of alumni and friends at the University’s 11th annual Distinguished Achievement Awards on Oct. 22 at the Newport Marriott. The President’s Awards will be presented to leaders in business, education, economic development and even the world’s leading gaming and lottery company. URI’s colleges and the Graduate School of Oceanography will honor 11 other leaders at the annual ceremony.

Held as part of the University’s annual homecoming, the awards honor alumni and friends of URI who have brought distinction to themselves and the University through their professional achievements, outstanding leadership and/or community service.

The President’s Award recipients are:

  • George Graboys, Hon. ’99, Chairman and CEO (retired), Citizens Financial Group. Very familiar with higher education in Rhode Island and the Universityof Rhode Island itself, Graboys spent 24 years with Citizens Financial Group, serving as president, chairman, and CEO. He was a member of the R.I. Board of Governors for Higher Education from 1983–1991, and served as chair from 1995–1998. He has received numerous awards for his civic and charitable endeavors, including the ADL Torch of Liberty Award and the Rhode Island Children’s Crusade Leadership Award. He was an adjunct professor at URI’s College of Business and a founding member of the Board of the College Crusade of Rhode Island, where he served as chair. He has also served as chair of the URI Foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Rhode Island Urban Project, and AAA of Southern New England. Graboys holds degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a resident of Providence, R.I.
  • Scott Singer ’83, head of Global Business Services, Rio Tinto. Singer is a leader in world-class supply chain management, advanced sourcing strategies, outsourcing, and cloud computing. As head of global business services for Rio Tinto, a leading international mining group, he is supported by a team of over 4,000 employees on five continents and is responsible for the company’s information systems and technology, procurement, finance, people, and group property service delivery functions. Prior to Rio Tinto, Singer spent 19 years with United Technologies. In addition to leading Rio Tinto GBS, Scott serves as managing director and country head for Rio Tinto’s Singapore regional office. Singer earned an M.S. and Executive M.B.A. from the University of New Haven.
  • Laurie White ’81, President, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. Since October 2005, Laurie White has been president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce—Rhode Island’s largest private sector business advocacy and economic development organization. A significant portion of the Chamber’s work is devoted to developing the state’s Knowledge Economy by driving advanced industry formation; entrepreneurship; medical, academic and industry collaboration; technology transfer; talent retention; and competitive tax policy. White is a frequent speaker on these topics. From January 2003 to July 2004, she served as executive counselor to the governor for policy and communications, and prior to that, she was senior VP of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. In 2010, she received an honorary doctorate in business administration from Johnson & Wales University. White is a member of the URI Foundation Executive Board and is a resident of Saunderstown, R.I.
  • This year’s corporate honoree is International Game Technology (IGT), a leading gaming and lottery company with over 12,000 employees worldwide. The company employs over 80 URI graduates and offers internships to URI students. IGT has been a regular sponsor of URI’s MBA and College of Engineering capstone programs, also advising on a proposal-writing course at URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media. IGT has been a generous supporter of various University initiatives, including the Thomas M. Ryan Center, URI Alumni Association Big Chill Weekend scholarship fundraiser, URI Computer Science and Statistics Department, and the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience for school-age children. IGT Executive Vice President Robert Vincent ’75 serves on the URI Foundation Board and Harrington School Advisory Board, and was an honorary chair of the 2016 Big Chill Weekend.

The Rising Star Award goes to Raymond Two Hawks Watson 
M.C.P. ’05, founder and CEO, Providence Cultural Equity Initiative. Watson is a lifelong resident of Providence, R.I. He was raised in the city’s Mt. Hope and Fox Point neighborhoods, and is a product of the Providence public school system. Watson is the Founder and CEO of the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative (PCEI), a cultural development consulting company based in Providence. Watson currently serves as chair of the Rhode Island Young Professionals Social and Cultural Affairs Committee and is an executive/founding member of the Eastern Medicine Singers, a traveling Algonquin drum group. In 2016, Watson was named a recipient of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Innovation Fellowship. Watson earned his B.A. in political science from Union College in Schenectady, New York. He is a resident of Providence, R.I.

Selected for the Athletic Director’s Award is Edward B. Deutsch ’68 Managing Partner, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, LLP. Deutsch is managing partner of this legal practice with about 300 attorneys in 7 states. He is a certified civil trial attorney and has been a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers since 1992. He is included in numerous “Best Lawyers” listings, received the Trial Bar Award from the Trial Attorneys of New Jersey, and serves on the Board of Directors of Lakeland Bank. Deutsch has been included in both NJBIZ and PolitickerNJ’s Power Lists as one of the 100 most powerful and politically influential people in New Jersey. He received his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law, which awarded him the 2002 Distinguished Graduate Award. He is a resident of Bernardsville, N.J.

In addition to the president’s awards, the following accomplished alumni will receive a Dean’s List Award from their respective college. The honorees are:

URI’s College of Arts and Sciences: Adam Wiener ’87, Executive Vice President and General Manager, CBS Local Digital Media. Wiener has spent nearly 30 years at the forefront of media evolution and continues with his current role leading digital for the 146 CBS-owned TV and radio stations. He joined CBS Radio News soon after graduating from URI and moved quickly to CBS News network television, where his career highlights include manning the foreign desk as the Cold War ended and covering Governor Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. After launching as executive producer, he served in digital management roles at web startups and traditional media companies such as NBC Universal and Dow Jones, before returning to CBS in 2010 to help launch CBS Local Digital Media. He serves on the Executive Advisory Board of URI’s Harrington School of Communication and Media and is a resident of New York, N.Y.

College of Business Administration: Frederick J. Newton ’78, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Apollo Education Group, Inc. Newton has worked as a human resources executive for some of the top companies in the world, including his current position as the chief human resources officer for Apollo Education Group, which employs more than 40,000 people worldwide. He serves on the board of directors of Teach for America and Expect More Arizona, and is involved in numerous professional, trade, and civic organizations. A former officer and aviator in the U.S. Navy, Newton is an executive board member and trustee of the URI Foundation and has supported the University through his two endowed scholarships in the College of Business and with numerous gifts to Theta Chi fraternity, the URI Alumni Association, and the URI Annual Giving program. He is a resident of Phoenix, Ariz.

College of Engineering: Jay Blazensky ’82, Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer, VoiceBase, Inc. Blazensky is a proven Silicon Valley entrepreneur and business development executive with a passion for bringing disruptive technologies to market that will revolutionize entire industries. As co-founder at VoiceBase, he is responsible for executing the company’s “Big Voice” strategy—surfacing insights from spoken information so that businesses make better decisions—and establishing key partnerships with companies such as Nasdaq, Twilio, Cisco, and Previously, Blazensky was an early employee at RingCentral, where he was VP of Business Development for five years and played a key role in the company’s emergence as one of the world’s leading hosted communications providers. A resident of Los Altos, Calif., Blazensky is a frequent public speaker and thought leader in cloud-based communications.

College of the Environment and Life Sciences: Kenneth Ayars ’83, M.S. ’85, Chief, Division of Agriculture, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Ayars has served as chief of the Division of Agriculture since 1998. His passion for local agriculture was refined and catalyzed by his education at URI, and his career has focused on meeting the needs of family farms and raising awareness of the importance of a locally based sustainable food system. He has received recognitions and awards from the Rhode Island Farm Bureau, the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Dietetic Association, and the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association, among others, but he is most proud of the growth of agriculture in Rhode Island and the many young people willing to invest their time and future in building a sustainable food system and green economy. Ayars is a resident of Exeter, R.I.

College of Health Sciences: R. Bert Reid Jr., M.S. ’93, Co-owner, OPT Physical Therapy. Reid is the co-owner of OPT Physical Therapy that was named the Newport Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in 2007 and Large Business of the Year in 2015. He is a member of the North Salem (N.Y.) High School Hall of Fame, the R.I. High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, and the Providence Grid Iron Hall of Fame, and is a recipient of the Red Cross Hero Award and the Champions for Children Award. Reid has worked with numerous Olympic, collegiate, and professional athletes, as well as the U.S. Navy SEALs. He was an Academic All-American at Tulane University and captain of the varsity golf team. Reid completed his doctorate in physical therapy at Mass General Hospital in 2008 and he is a resident of Wakefield, R.I.

College of Nursing: Karen L. Waldo ’88, Registered Nurse, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Waldo has been an R.N. at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for 28 years; since 1996, she has cared for critically ill newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where she regularly serves as a preceptor for new graduate nurses. Since 2002, she has been a supervisory nurse and group leader of the MA-1 National Disaster Medical Assistance Team, providing critical assistance to disaster victims in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Gustav, Ike, and Sandy; the 2009 Red River floods in North Dakota; and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In addition to her community service for Habitat for Humanity and the women’s shelter Rosie’s Place, Waldo has volunteered as a nurse and medical tent leader for the Boston Marathon for the past 10 years. She is a resident of Chelsea, Mass.

College of Pharmacy: Susan C. Johnson ’81, Pharm. D. ’88, Director of Research, Eastern Connecticut Hematology & Oncology Associates. Johnson has built a national reputation for her work with Coumadin clinics. Under her leadership as director of research for Eastern Connecticut Hematology & Oncology Associates (ECHO), patient enrollment in clinical trials has expanded as much as 15 percent per year. ECHO is one of the private practices recently selected by NantHealth CEO Patrick Soon-Shiong to receive access to new cancer therapies. In her practice, she will be accruing community-based patients for Vice President Joseph Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot 2020” initiative in an attempt to double the rate of progress toward ending cancer. Johnson has received numerous awards for her innovative approach to providing pharmaceutical care in a range of practice settings and is a Sanofi-Aventis ACS Consultant for the development of anticoagulation guidelines. She is a resident of East Greenwich, R.I.

Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies: Laura A. Pisaturo ’91, Chairperson, Rhode Island Parole Board. Pisaturo is a community activist and advocate for women, children, and the LGBT community. She began her career as a litigator, earned a reputation as a tough-but-fair prosecutor, served on the attorney general’s Domestic Violence Task Force, co-chaired Rhode Island’s first conference on children who witness domestic violence, and worked at Day One on crisis services, programming, and legislation impacting child welfare, human sex trafficking, sexual assault, and domestic violence. She opened her private family law practice in 2011, helping many families pro bono. She worked on the campaign for marriage equality in Rhode Island and has taught at Salve Regina, URI, and several police training academies. In 2014, she was appointed chairperson of the Rhode Island Parole Board. She received her J.D. from Suffolk University Law School and is a resident of Warwick, R.I.

Graduate School of Oceanography: The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation. Since 1955, the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation has championed earth science research and education throughout the world with its international Vetlesen Prize, regarded as one of the highest honors for scientists in the oceanographic, atmospheric, and earth science fields. Over the past 20 years, the Vetlesen Foundation has provided more than $4 million in gifts to the URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO). This transformative support has allowed GSO to build on a history of excellence through initiatives such as the Vetlesen Distinguished Lecture Series and generous, continued funding for educational, research, and institutional needs. The Distinguished Achievement Award will be accepted by Ambrose Monell, president and trustee of the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation and the Ambrose Monell Foundation.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).