URI to name new science building after ChemArt's Richard Beaupre

URI to name new science building after ChemArt's Richard Beaupre

LINCOLN - Richard Beaupre never thought he'd be accepted into the University of Rhode Island much less have one of its buildings named after him.

But 53 years after graduating from URI, the university will officially attach his name to its newest science building, currently under construction.

On May 21, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed House bill 5575 into effect, officially establishing the building's name as the Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences. It is set to open in the fall of 2016.

Beaupre said the naming of the building matched Raimondo's plan to educate students in Rhode Island and retain them to fill and create jobs in state.

Beaupre, the founder and executive officer of ChemArt, a multi-million dollar company in Lincoln, said he was fortunate to be granted an opportunity by a URI admissions officer in 1958 who helped him gain acceptance to the university.

"I was deficient of some credits," Beaupre said. "He said, 'If you go to night school or if you go to correspondence school, I'll take a chance on you,' and he did, and it paid off."

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, he worked in the industry for about a decade, and in 1976 founded his own company, ChemArt. The company made $40,000 in its first year, but by 1979 was approaching $1 million in sales. As a result, the company expanded to a larger facility in its present-day location at 15 New England Way. Soon after relocation, the company began to boom when it began creating custom metal ornaments. In the early 1980s, ChemArt client Westport Marketing approached the White House Historical Association with the idea of having ChemArt create an annual Christmas ornament to help fundraise for the organization.

ChemArt produced its first White House edition in 1981 with 1,700 George Washington ornaments. The idea was to create one each year in order of U.S. presidencies. In 34 years, it has become the single largest ornament program in the country, as Beaupre's company is now producing 1.2 million editions of the 2015 Calvin Coolidge ornament.

According to the company, the ornament program is about 90 percent of its sales today.

Beaupre has made a $1 million pledge to fund the Beaupre Hope and Heritage Fund, established in 1999 by Winifred Brownell, URI's dean of Arts and Sciences. The fund was designed to support travel expenses for arts and science students attending conferences, presenting papers, submitting artwork and performing in concerts. Dave Lavallee, assistant director of communications and marketing for URI, said Beaupre has been humble throughout the naming process and has tried to remain out of the spotlight.

"I remember the pride he felt for his company and his university," Lavallee said. "He'd rather just do this thing quietly, but this is a way for us to step up and honor him."

After previously spending two years in the U.S. Navy, Beaupre attended URI beginning in 1958, and soon married and had his first child. Beaupre commuted from North Kingstown to Providence every day, working two part-time jobs - one at the now-demolished Hope Theatre - to support his family while studying. It was this experience that inspired him to launch the Beaupre scholarship, he says, which was started to assist URI students who, like Beaupre did, study chemistry while raising a family.

"I find Richard Beaupre such a fascinating role model to our students," Brownell said. "Here's somebody who had a young family but went back to school and created great opportunities here in Rhode Island."

Meanwhile, Beaupre continues to be involved in the university as a trustee of the URI Foundation and member of the College Advisory Council for the College of Arts and Sciences.