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He may have been a 17th century preacher, but Roger’s teachings were visionary. While freedom to practice any religion without threat or fear of persecution is considered an intrinsic American right, the separation of church and state continues to be debated. At RWU, Roger’s legacy is still at work in a community that values tolerance, diversity and inclusion, civic engagement, sustainability and love of learning. Here are just a few ways Roger’s values live on through our students, faculty and staff:

Roger Williams promoted tolerance and diversity to comfortably homogeneous community. Some historians argue that he was America’s first abolitionist, based on his organized efforts to ban slavery in the first 13 colonies.

At RWU, we celebrate the diversity of our campus through the initiatives of our Intercultural Center, the Multicultural Student Union and myriad academic and co-curricular programs at both the undergraduate university and Roger Williams University School of Law.

Roger believed in the inherent equality of all individuals regardless of race, religion – even gender (gasp!).

Roger Williams University prides itself on being a tolerant community guided by a commitment to Inclusive Excellence. This includes a supportive LGBTQ&Q program, the Women’s Center, a new gender studies minor and the Gender Inclusive Housing program – a self-selecting housing option for students who identify as transgender and LBGTQ that was the direct result of a student activism project in 2012.

Religious freedom was paramount to Roger’s philosophy.

While RWU is a secular university, community members are free to worship as they please. The Intercultural Center sponsors a rich Spiritual Life program that supports interfaith events as well as faith-specific programming and worship space. The University also supports student organizations including the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Hillel, the Muslim Student Association and Catholic Campus Ministry.

Roger originated “We the People” long before the Founding Fathers and believed that the foundation of civil power lies in the people.

Civic engagement and service to the community are among RWU’s core values. Students provide over 80,000 hours of community service annually via individual projects, Community Connections Day, work study service learning, and project-based learning programs via the Community Partnerships Center. The Feinstein Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement also guides students seeking civic engagement opportunities, including voter registration drives ahead of national election cycles and post-graduate service commitments with organizations from City Year to the Peace Corps.

A passionate teacher and scholar, Roger studied the Native American languages to better advocate for and coexist with his new neighbors. He even wrote the book on it – “A Key into the Language of America.”

At RWU, a lifelong love of learning is fostered in the classroom and in the community where students explore their academic interests via traditional and project-based learning, and with the support of an engaged faculty that promotes freedom of expression. The University also sponsors numerous lectures and visiting speakers annually, including a biannual Religion & the State Conference in the tradition of religious freedom and discovery.