UMass Dartmouth announced today a $1.14 million philanthropic gift from an anonymous donor to honor Reverend Dr. Robert P. Lawrence. Reverend Lawrence is pastor emeritus and previously senior minister of the First Congregational Church in Fall River since 1985 and a longtime inspirational leader of the SouthCoast civic community for more than six decades. The gift will be invested in civic engagement-related programs.
"This generous gift recognizes Reverend Lawrence's indelible impact on Fall River and the SouthCoast and the enormous respect and goodwill he has earned," UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Divina Grossman said. "His life of service guides us as we commit to instilling his spirit of civic engagement throughout our community for years to come. We are honored by the trust being placed in UMass Dartmouth to carry on Reverend Lawrence's legacy of service."
Reverend Lawrence is completing a 60-year ministry, having served churches in Little Compton, Rhode Island; Fall River, Massachusetts; and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. During his ministerial career he has conducted thousands of baptisms, marriages, and funerals, making him an integral part of the community's life. Beyond his church, Rev. Lawrence is responsible for beginning the Pastoral Care Department at the Charlton Memorial site of Southcoast Hospitals. Reverend Lawrence also served as chaplain aboard the famous grand ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II, better known as the QE2, in addition to the Queen Mary II cruise ship. He served as chaplain for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Rev. Lawrence championed efforts to remove more than 3,000 guns from the streets of Fall River, create the first Fall River police K-9 unit, and purchase public safety equipment such as defibrillators. He is a trustee on three charitable foundations and serves on the boards of 18 community organizations. He has received numerous community awards, including the Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award from Bristol Community College in 1995 and a UMass Dartmouth Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2007.
"I am honored that this gift will result in new research, education, and civic engagement opportunities for students and a strengthened region-wide commitment to service," Reverend Lawrence said. "It is vital that our support remains steadfast for students and programs that inspire hope and positive change."
The anonymous gift will provide support for the near-term efforts and long-term goals of the renowned Robert and Jeanne Leduc Center for Civic Engagement at UMass Dartmouth. The Leduc Center was started by UMass Dartmouth in the fall, 2008 to integrate the intellectual talents and pursuits of students and faculty with the needs of the community.
"The most exciting aspect is to have the Reverend Lawrence directly involved with our faculty and students," said Dr. Matthew Roy, Assistant Provost and Director of the Leduc Center. "His life is a symbol for all as he has used his many gifts to make the world a better place. The impact of this gift will grow geometrically as it instills values of civic responsibility for generations of UMass Dartmouth students."
In the past year, UMass Dartmouth students have dedicated 195,063 hours of community service at a value of $5.3 million to the community. More than 100 UMass Dartmouth faculty members taught 170 service-learning sections this past academic year that exposed close to 5,000 students to service-learning, taking part in projects that benefit our community. This work has gained national recognition, making UMass Dartmouth one of 12 President Higher Education Honor Roll Finalist out of nearly 4,500 campuses nationwide. Washington Monthly has also ranked UMass Dartmouth at #25 on its list of best master's institutions in the United States, which focuses on the impacts a university has on individuals and communities.
In addition, the Reverend Dr. Robert P. Lawrence Lecture Series, The Reverend Dr. Robert P. Lawrence Civic Engagement Summit, and the Reverend Dr. Robert P. Lawrence Service-Learning Fellows will be established and funded through the gift.
UMass Dartmouth will also dedicate a room at the university as the Reverend Dr. Robert P. Lawrence Community Service Room. This room will be a visual symbol of the community service work that Reverend Lawrence has performed on behalf of his community. It will also be a gathering place for students in service and for faculty and students to reflect upon their service and engagement.
UMass Dartmouth distinguishes itself as a vibrant public university actively engaged in personalized teaching and innovative research, and acting as an intellectual catalyst for regional economic, social, and cultural development. UMass Dartmouth's mandate to serve its community is realized through countless partnerships, programs, and other outreach efforts to engage the community, and apply its knowledge to help address local issues and empower others to facilitate change for all.