University Archives

“I have lived on Ferrycliffe Farm [a quiet retreat on a beautiful hillside] during every summer of my life and have found there strength and inspiration.”
 -Edith Howe DeWolf, January 1949


The University Archives serves as the institutional memory for Roger Williams University. It supports the teaching, learning, and research activities of the University and is committed to collaborating with the local community to facilitate access to historical material and develop exhibits and special programs.

To carry out its mission the Archives collects, preserves, and provides access to records that document the history and achievements of the University, as well as the town of Bristol and the East Bay. The Archives also houses the University Libraries' Special Collections, the Roger Williams Family Association Papers, and The Bristol Phoenix (ca.1840-1960).

A Brief History of Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University began as a branch of Northeastern University’s School of Commerce and Finance at the Providence YMCA in 1919. Soon after Northeastern opened a Providence Division for its Law School and the Providence Technical Institute, offering a certificate program in mechanical engineering. Thirty-seven years later, on February14, 1956 – after multiple charters, names and even a complete shutdown during World War II – the school received a state charter to become a two-year, degree-granting institution under the name of Roger Williams Junior College.

In 1965 the Junior College acquired more than 60 acres of waterfront land (FerryCliffe Farm) in Bristol for a new campus from Mary Howe and Marshall Fulton. The farm had been in Mary Howe’s family since 1877. The school became a four-year institution in 1967 and was renamed Roger Williams College. A new campus opened in Bristol in 1969, offering a full liberal arts baccalaureate program. The Providence campus continued to house business and engineering technology programs.

In 1992 The University purchased additional land from Mary Howe Fulton Shepherd.  The Board approved revising the charter, adding graduate and professional degree programs, and changing the school’s name to Roger Williams University.

Contact our Archivist:
Heidi Benedict

We are beginning to digitize items from the Archives and make them available online:

Visit the Bristol Phoenix Newspaper Digitization Projectto view historic issues of the newspaper, 1837-2015.