The Campanella Rowing Center is home for both the Men and Women’s crew teams. Construction on the center began in 1992 and the project was completed in the summer of 2001. Shells are stored on the first floor, while the second floor contains the weight, ergometer and conference rooms, a coach’s residence, and men and women’s bath and shower.
Stephen Campanella ’43
In 1939, Stephen Campanella’s older brother Joe ’31 drove up one day and announced, “Get in. We’re driving to Kingston.” Before they left the campus, Campanella was enrolled in the School of Engineering. “I really was uncertain about what to do with my future,” Campanella recalls. “Joe saw the makings of an engineer and gave me the push. I’ve always been grateful to him for that. The University gave me a firstrate foundation.”
After earning his B.S. in mechanical engineering in 1943, Campanella went on to become executive vice president of Pittsburgh’s Wiegand Industrial Division of Emerson Electric Co. According to longtime friend Henry Nardone ’43, that was a major accomplishment. He describes Emerson as a highly competitive company. “Even as an undergraduate,” Nardone recalls, “Steve was resilient. Pragmatic and methodical, Steve would dive into a project and get it done while the others still were tinkering. He was also dependable. If Steve said he would do something, you could count on it.”
Dependability is still at his core. About seven years ago, Campanella’s wife Betty was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Betty is now confined to a nursing home in the Pennsylvania retirement complex in which he lives. Campanella goes to see her daily. “When Betty was herself, we had many wonderful years,” he recalls. “We traveled to exotic places, such as Africa and China, before it was popular to do Sr. We raised two great kids together. I find comfort in being near my lady.” A former English teacher, Betty was secretary to the president of Wiegand when Campanella met her. After their 1954 marriage, she became a homemaker and devoted mother to their two sons, Stephen, 45, and John, 40. A vibrant woman, Betty became known for creating beautiful floral arrangements and judging flower shows, including the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show.
Campanella is pleased that proceeds from the Florida vacation home he donated to the University went to the crew program, and that the Rowing Center, located on the Narrow River, also bears the Campanella name. “I saw it as an ideal tribute to my nature-loving wife. The tranquil river setting and the woods around the Betty and Stephen Campanella Rowing Center would have inspired Betty. Had she been able to attend the dedication, I’m sure she would have been unable to resist planting flowers.”
Campanella’s life is proof that a plainspeaking reserved man, willing to work hard and not pass the buck, can achieve The American Dream. The rowing program, largely made up of athletes who never have picked up an oar before coming to URI, shows that hard work and determination can result in a small state university sending the second largest contingent to a U.S. national team. At the ’96 Olympic Games in Atlanta, crew member Jason Gailes became the only silver medalist ever to come out of URI. Julia Chilicki ’94, and Steve Peterson ’85 were fellow Olympians at Atlanta. Earlier, John Riley ’96 had been an Olympian at the Seoul and Barcelona games. Only injuries from a car accident during the ’96 trials kept him from being a three-time Olympian.
Although he was unable to attend, Campanella was inducted into the College of Engineering 2000 Hall of Fame on October 27. His generous support of the Betty and Stephen Campanella Rowing Center, the Annual Fund, and the College of Engineering scholarship in memory of his brother Joe has earned him the applause of a grateful University community.