I composed this essay on the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2018 to include in its annual programs and for fundraising. The later purpose has been generally unsuccessful.
The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame exists to honor and recognize, and to extol and publicize, the achievements of those Rhode Island men and women who have, in the words of the Hall of Fame induction citation, “made significant contributions to their community, state, and/or nation.” It is also our mission to tell the story of Rhode Island History using the biographies of our inductees, noting their collective impact upon every phase of Rhode Island’s development.
An important purpose of our Hall of Fame–other than to honor our inductees and
their achievements and to teach Rhode Island History to our students and the general public–is to raise Rhode Island’s collective image and self-esteem. It is the nemesis of negativity. The Hall of Fame recounts the achievements of its inductees and their contributions to the development of Rhode Island, America, and beyond, in such a way as to make Rhode Islanders not only knowledgeable concerning our heritage, but also intensely proud of it as well.
The Hall of Fame was founded in 1965 through the initiative of its first president, Providence Journal reporter and artist Frank Lanning. Since that time, the Hall of Fame has held fifty-five annual induction banquets to honor its newest members. These well-publicized events have attracted as many as seven-hundred forty attendees at such venues as Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston, the Rhode Island Convention Center, the Inn at the Crossings in Warwick, and the Providence Marriot Hotel.
In addition, since 1997 the Hall of Fame has conducted twenty-three “Historical Convocations” in order to give proper acknowledgment and representation to Rhode Islanders of earlier generations dating back to the eras of discovery and settlement. By providing this historical dimension, the Hall of Fame has become a vehicle for the teaching of Rhode Island history. It is also a much more comprehensive and creditable Hall of Fame by including Rhode Islanders from the earliest days to the present.
Its historical convocations have been held at several historic sites such as the Providence Art Club, the Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame, the Benefit Street Armory of the Marine Corps of Artillery, Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, the Aldrich House of the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Bristol County Statehouse and Courthouse, and the Conley Conference Center in Providence,
The strength of the Hall of Fame is found in its hardworking, dedicated, twenty-five member volunteer Board of Directors headed, since 2003, by Dr. Patrick T. Conley, Historian Laureate of Rhode Island and a 1995 inductee. Its board has consisted of a diverse array of professors, attorneys, businesspersons, media personalities, generals, mayors, sportsmen, accountants, writers, building contractors, and heads of more specialized Halls of Fame. It now includes the chairpersons of such heritage-oriented organizations as its two affiliates, the Heritage Harbor Foundation and the Rhode Island Publications Society, as well as leaders of the Rhode Island Labor History Society, the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery, the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame, the Independence Trail, the Pawtuxet Rangers, and the Woonsocket Pothier Foundation.
Its actively involved Advisory Council has included the former president and publisher
of the Providence Journal, the former Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, the former Adjutant General of Rhode Island, a former state attorney general, a retired justice of the Superior Court, the state’s leading cardiac surgeon, the chairman of the Providence Performing Arts Center, the president of the Newport Black-Ships Festival and the Japan-America Society, the president of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, the founder of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, and the director of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.
The Hall of Fame holds annual induction banquets and historical convocations.
It maintains an extensive website containing detailed biographies of its members. http://www.riheritagehalloffame.org. It also publishes books on its inductees, and it provides detailed information about Hall of Fame members in response to queries from historians, genealogists, journalists, descendants of deceased inductees, and the general public
The Hall of Fame fosters pride in Rhode Island by recognizing and honoring its achievers from all walks of life and by making those achievers and their contributions much more widely-known and appreciated. The Hall of Fame tells the entire story of Rhode Island through the medium of biography in the belief that our people make our History.
-Dr. Patrick T. Conley