Providence College was founded in 1917 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence and the Dominican Province of St. Joseph. The school was originally built to be an institution of higher learning for Roman Catholics in Rhode Island, although students from other religious faiths were also welcome. Led by Bishop Harkins, PC began on 17 acres of land and with $10,000 in scholarship money.
Classes for PC’s first, all-male class of 71 students began in September 1919. The following year, Providence played in its first official athletic competition, a baseball game against the Rhode Island School of Design.
In 1924, PC’s first lay faculty members began teaching. In 1939, the school opened Aquinas Hall, the first residence hall available to students. Three years later, because of World War II, the school established a year-round academic schedule. In 1946, it resumed its traditional calendar.
In 1949, Providence became the first Catholic men’s college in New England to be admitted to the College Entrance Examination Board. In 1957, mandatory enrollment in ROTC courses for freshmen and sophomores was eliminated. Ten years later, Providence welcomed its first appointed female faculty member. In 1972, the first woman received an undergraduate degree from the day school. Three years later, PC’s first coed undergraduate class graduated.
In 2005, Providence altered its financial aid from merit-based to need-based, and the following year adopted an SAT/ACT test-optional admission policy.
Providence’s campus sits atop Smith Hill, the highest point in the city. It is a 105-acre campus, with forty-four buildings total. The school’s first building and its current admissions office is Harkins Hall. Its architecture is traditional New England collegiate, red brick with arched windows. In comparison, St. Martin Hall, another administrative building, was constructed in the 1850s in the style of an Italian villa. It is listed in the National Register of Historical Places.
Nearly all of the school’s academic buildings are red brick and surrounded by greenery. St. Dominic Chapel, named for St. Dominic Guzman, the founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers, is the school’s first free-standing chapel. It is a beautiful stone structure, with 45 stained glass windows and a steeple.
In the center of the main quad is Aquinas Hall, the school’s first dormitory. It is currently a residence hall for both men and women.
Providence College is located in Providence’s Elmhurst neighborhood. The city itself is one of American’s first, rich in history and tradition. Students hop on the free bus and head to downtown Providence for shopping at Providence Place Mall, restaurants, theater, concerts and bars. Nightlife is active in Providence, and many students say the social scene is centered on the handful of bars nearby.
There are several other colleges in the Providence area, including Johnson & Wales University, Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and the University of Rhode Island. The closest major city is Boston, about 30 minutes away. There are mixed feelings among the student body about the city of Providence. Many enjoy that it is only mildly bustling, while some say that Providence is a boring non-college town and wish it was larger.
It is customary for a group of eager students to streak, scream and run around the quad the midnight before their final Development of Western Civilization exam. The tradition is a way for the students to celebrate the end of this often-dreaded requirement.
Family Weekend is a time-honored tradition at Providence. It is a chance for parents and other family members to experience Providence College. There is music, performances, dancing, and a series of sessions that parents can customize according to their interest. Of course there are also religious services held at St. Dominic Chapel. One weekend designated for freshmen and another for upperclassmen; students say this is when the school pulls out all the stops, cleans up its act, serves the best food, and puts on its best face.
Mike Leonard (1970) is an NBC News features correspondent.
Patrick A. Lynch (2003) is a grassroots advocacy coordinator for the American Cancer Society.
John G. O’Hurley, Jr. (1976) is an actor and entrepreneur best known for his role as J. Peterman on the TV show Seinfeld.
Honorable William J. Sullivan (1962) is a chief justice on the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Jack Tretton (1983) is the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.
Lindsay Waters (1969) is an executive editor at the Harvard University Press.
Lenny Wilkens (1960) is a former NBA player and coach was twice inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, first as a player and later as a coach.
The PC Friars compete at the Division I level of the NCAA and participate in the Big East Conference. Providence’s Cross Country team won the school’s only national championship title in 1996. Cross country is the school’s most successful team, having participated in the NCAA championships 17 straight years, until the 2005 season.
Swimming and diving is another notable program, the men’s team finishing 11th in the 2008 Big East Championships and the women’s team finishing 12th. The University of Connecticut and University of Rhode Island are major rivals for swimming and diving.
The Women’s hockey program boasts several Olympic athletes. In 1998 seven members of the gold-medal-winning U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey team were Providence alumni or current students. PC’s hockey rivals include Boston University and Boston College.
On the cancelled TV show The O.C., Rachel Bilson’s character, Summer, considers attending Providence College. She receives a Providence College shirt from Taylor.
In the Family Guy episode, “Death is a Bitch”, the Grim Reaper is seen wearing a Providence College sweatshirt.
Actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo studied history at PC before winning the title of “Funniest Person in Rhode Island” from a comedy talent search sponsored by Showtime.
PC’s motto is Veritas, or truth, borrowed from Harvard University.
On-campus housing options include residence halls, suite-style residence halls, and apartments. Residence halls include Aquinas, Dore, Fennell, Guzman, McDermott, McVinney, Meagher, Raymond, and St. Joseph. About half of these halls are single sex, while Aquinas Hall, located in the center of campus, is co-ed.
Suites Hall is a six-story facility with doubles in four- or seven-person suites. There is a common lounge in each suite, as well as a sitting area in the lobby of each level.
Apartments include Bedford, Cunningham, Davis, DiTraglia, and Mal Brown Halls. Housing is open to juniors and seniors. Each apartment contains one or two bathrooms, vanity area, kitchen, dining room, living room and double bedrooms.