John M. Sapinsley’s personal traits such as curiosity, courage, critical thinking, and kindness led him on an extraordinary life journey as a successful U.S. Navy veteran, businessman, professor, mentor, philanthropist, champion gofer, and most importantly, a loving husband to Senator Lila Sapinsely (a 2004 RI Heritage Hall of Fame Inductee), a father of four accomplished daughters and a proud grandfather of nine.
John was born in Providence in 1922, attended Hope High School, and at age 16 was admitted into Brown University where he graduated in 1942, magna cum laude. He then enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to command a LCT, a vessel designed to land tanks on enemy beaches. He survived the destruction of two of his landing crafts by enemy fire, and for his distinguished service he was eventually promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander. He proudly served our country during the June, 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy.
After his service in the U.S. Navy, he returned to Rhode Island with his growing family where he began his business career at the Crescent Company, later renamed Carol Cable Company. Under John’s tenure, the company evolved from manufacturing textiles to successfully manufacturing electrical wiring and cables for automobiles, construction, and the power industry. In 1966, during John’s presidency, Carol Cable became a public company with a listing on the American Stock Exchange.
John retired from his very successful career with Carol Cable at the age of forty-five and entered the graduate program in Economics at Brown University, a move that led to his next rewarding career as a college professor. John became a full time professor of Economics at Rhode Island College where he taught for seventeen years. After leaving RIC, he continued to teach part-time at Brown University for an additional eight years. During his tenure as a professor, he published Conglomerate Corporations, Beauty or Beast. In recognition of his contributions to Rhode Island and to his students, John was designated as Professor Emeritus of Economics in 2003.
Throughout his careers as successful businessman and much admired college professor, John never hesitated to find the time to immerse himself in various community services “because he could make a difference.” He served on the boards of Miriam Hospital, the ACLU, Roger Williams University, the Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, and many other civic organizations. John was one of the founding directors of Common Cause in Rhode Island, an organization focusing on good government and political reform.
With a love for the performing arts, Rhode Island College, and community service, John, with his wife Lila, generously assisted RIC to expand its performing arts facilities by endowing a new 600- seat theatre named “Lila and John Sapinsley Hall” in their honor. In this splendid setting, the performing arts continue to thrive at Rhode Island College.
John M. Sapinsley’s leadership, public service, and humanitarian qualities have enriched our state and have earned him induction to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, where he joins his equally distinguished wife, Lila.
John Sapinsley died on February 29, 2012 at the age of 89. He was survived by his wife, four daughters, four sons-in-law, nine grandchildren and his sister.
– Mary B. Shekarchi, Esq.