By Les Conklin
Look at the picture of the building to the right, a landmark in Providence, Rhode Island. Do you see the statue of a man at the very top?
When I was a boy, I was riding past that building with my grandparents when my grandmother. who had traced our family’s history, pointed out of the car window and exclaimed, “That is your ancestor, Roger Williams ((1603 – 1683), up there. He founded Providence and was an advocate for religious freedom, separation of church and state, and the fair treatment of Indians.” “Wow,” thought I.
Four decades later I did my own research and found that my grandmother was right about Providence’s founder being our direct ancestor but wrong about the statue, which is of Independent Man.
Road Scholars Award
Please forgive a moment of personal pride but I want to thank the Biking Sigs / Road Scholars for presenting me with their Road Scholar Award on July 28, during a vacation visit to Narragansett, Rhode Island. I was given the award “for contributions to the Road Scholars.” The award was a book entitled “Most Admirable, The Rhode Island State House.” The book’s cover is featured here and the building with the statue on top is the Rhode Island State House.
The Biking Sigs – Rhode Scholars are all Sigma Chi fraternity brothers of mine from the University of Road Island. The Biking Sigs meet every two weeks during the summer for a total of about 10 rides a summer. The rides, which are held at different locations around Rhode Island, terminate at a restaurant where less energetic Sigs, the Road Scholars, join the cyclists for lunch, fellowship and “scholarly” discussion of whatever. There are about 23 Biking Sigs and 60 Rode Scholars on the mailing list.
So what did I do to earn this award?
One of the best article ever published in The Peak, “First Day in School,” was contributed by a Biking Sig and Road Scholar, a friend and inspiration to many of us, and the first legally blind student to graduate from the University of Rhode Island, the late Manuel “Duke” Germano. He went on to graduate from Wharton School of Business, raise a sighted family, and have a successful career in public service, at one point working for the governor of Rhode Island. I had the good fortune to be one of his readers for four years at the University. I was fortunate because readers were paid by the hour by the State, I was taking the same courses, and he was a disciplined student.
Germano, who passed away last year, was a Road Scholar and on at least one occasion a Biking Sig. That’s right. One of the Biking Sigs rented a bicycle built for two and Germano pedaled from the back seat. Nobody died.
Claude Trottier, PhD. a founder and one of the organizers of the Biking Sigs – Road Scholars, has been a frequent contributor of articles and comments to The Peak, It was also his idea to present The Peak Award to deserving Road Scholars. Over the last couple of years, the award has been presented twice. The award includes an article in the VIP Features section of The Peak. Ayotte is an author and I have also written a review of one of his books.
Click on the links below to read the articles.
Brother Julian Ayotte organized July’s Road Scholar luncheon and presented the award on behalf of the group. The luncheon, which was attended by 32 guests was one of the best attended in the history of the Road Scholars and went on into the late afternoon.
After thanking the Road Scholars for the award. I looked at the cover of the book, noticed the statue on top of the State House, and told the story about my grandmother pointing out my 8th great-grandfather Roger Williams on top of the dome. When I mentioned his name, one of the scholars, a native Rhode Islander, jokingly shouted out, “You mean Roger Williams (1924 -2011)) the piano player.” The room erupted in laughter. So much for family history and personal pride.