Every year, East Greenwich High School (and before that, the East Greenwich Academy) graduates a class of students who go out to make their way in the world. The EGHS Wall of Honor was established to recognize those graduates who contributions since high school have left a mark on the wider world – this year, as close by as Fire Station One on Main Street and as far away as a slum in Kenya.
The ceremony takes place Wednesday, April 30, in the auditorium at the high school. Here are brief profiles of three of this year’s remarkable honorees:
Charles Algren, a posthumous addition to the Wall of Honor, did so much for East Greenwich, it’s hard to imagine he was just one man and his just one lifetime.
Charles Algren in 1927.
Local historian Alan Clarke wrote this about Algren in January 2013:
“When he was 5, in 1893, Charlie came to East Greenwich with his family from Sweden. Tossed into the school system while still unable to speak any English, Charlie was a quick learner and energetic lad. His first job wasmarching cows down Main Street to a pasture south of town. He never stopped marching. In the following 90 years, he was on boards in charge of the fire district, the school committee, was on the town council, was the town’s first building inspector, was a state senator, was a founder of Kent County Hospital and the Potowomut Golf Club, and as a contractor, designed and/or built over 200 of the finest houses and buildings in the area. He was the honorary chairman of the 300th Tercentenary celebration, having been the official chairman for the 250th celebration in 1927. In his 90s, in a nursing home, he was holding Glenwood Cemetery board meetings in the common room.”
Rye Barcott graduated from EGHS in 1997. He was, by his own admission, no particular standout at EG High. His grades were ok, but he wasn’t at the top of his class. He was athletic, playing football for the legendary Coach Kershaw, and founding – along with friends Fred Faber and Eli Griffis – a powerlifting team. Marie Witham was his favorite teacher. She taught English and pulled no punches.
Rye and his parents on EGHS Football team Senior Day at Eldredge Field in 1996. Credit: Rye Barcott
“I remember on the first day of class I was probably 10 seconds late and she was standing at the door and she noted it. She set really high standards,” Barcott said in an interview Sunday. “She pushed us to go really deep into the classics of literature.”
Barcott was grateful for the education he got in East Greenwich, but the turning point for him was his decision to join the Marines while in college.
“It really gave me a sense of purpose,” he said. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill on an NROTC. He hadn’t yet entered the Marines, however, when he spent several weeks in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Just 20 years old, he wanted to better understand ethnic violence. But those few weeks left in Barcott an indelible mark. Back in the U.S., still completing his undergraduate degree, Barcott began working with a couple of the people he’d gotten to know in Kibera. Together they established Carolina For Kibera. Its aim? To develop a new generation of youth leaders willing to turn away from violence to solve real problems in their community.
It’s been an amazing success. Thousands of young people participate in CFK’s youth programs and the CFK medical clinic treats more than 40,000 patients a year. The organization has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among other funders. Barcott stayed involved while pursuing his military career, serving in Iraq, Bosnia, and Africa.
After leaving the military, Barcott got duel Masters degrees from Harvard in public affairs and business and published an acclaimed book about his experiences – It Happened on the Way to War. Recently, he and a fellow former Marine started their own business, Doubletime Capital, an energy investment group in Charlotte, N.C., financing cleaner energy projects in the Southeast.
If you’ve ever been to a Memorial Day or Veterans Day parade in East Greenwich, you know Robert A. Greene. A colonel in and a former commander of the Kentish Guard, Greene has very distinctive mutton chop sideburns.
Colonel Robert A. Greene of the Kentish Guard.
Greene served in the U.S. Army, stationed in Italy during the occupation after World War II, and recalled to serve in a combat unit during the Korean War. Back in East Greenwich, he founded Greene Industries, a commercial packing and crating company on Rocky Hollow Road.
A descendant of Major General Nathanael Greene, who played a significant role in the Revolutionary War. He was a founding member of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society and several other genealogical and historical societies, including the Society of Mayflower Descendants and the Roger Williams Society. Greene also published a book on the Kentish Guard.
Greene also served as a director on the East Greenwich Cemetery Corporation and is a member of the East Greenwich Rotary Club.
Part Two – with two more inductees and two special honorees – will post Monday evening.