Pawtucket Times

TECH THIS OUT

NE Tech celebrates 2022 commenceme­nt with visit from TV legend Henry Winkler

- By JACK CASWELL Contributi­ng Writer

PROVIDENCE – Henry Winkler, the Emmy Award-winning actor who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, told the New England Institute of Technology’s (NEIT) 2022 graduating class in his commenceme­nt address May 1 that he applied to 23 colleges and was accepted into one – Emerson College – after finally passing geometry with a D-minus grade.

“Not one human being has ever said the word ‘hypotenuse’ to me since 1963,” Winkler told the nearly 900 graduates at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. Winkler, who first achieved fame as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on the television comedy “Happy Days” and currently co-stars as acting teacher Gene Cousineau in the HBO comedy “Barry,” received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from NEIT in 2006 in recognitio­n of his extensive humanitari­an work and commitment to the betterment of society. He also gave the NEIT commenceme­nt address in 2006.

“I am thrilled to be here,” Winkler told his appreciati­ve audience, which consisted of Rhode Island’s Commission­er of Higher Education, Shannon Gilkey, NEIT president Richard Gouse, currently the longest serving college or university president in the country, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at NEIT, Steven Meltzer, and the Master of Ceremonies, Steve Kitchin, NEIT vice president of corporate education and training.

Gouse presented an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Elizabeth Z. Chase, for her extensive philanthro­pic work in Rhode Island.

Winkler, who has significan­t accomplish­ments as a producer and director as well as numerous television and movie acting roles over the years, was the star attraction, however. The author of the New York Times bestseller book – “Niagara Falls or Does It?” – Winkler wrote about his learning challenges due to dyslexia, and the book became a series of 28 novels. He

has since co-written with Lin Oliver 37 children’s novels, including their latest best selling trilogy Alien Superstar.

“I was bad at everything except lunch,” Winkler told the graduates. “I was in the bottom three percent of academic achievemen­t, but don’t ever put a period after a negative thought because it will stay there. Don’t give negative thoughts your time. Always move on to something positive. To me, it was a luscious, chocolate bundt cake. Because I didn’t have time for negative thoughts, I get to stand here and talk to you.”

Despite struggling with dyslexia, a language processing disorder, Winkler has since received the Chevallier de l’Ordre des Artes et Lettres, the French government’s highest honor, and was awarded the Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II of England in recognitio­n of his service to children with dyslexia and special education needs.

“We have to teach children according to how they learn, not according to what we think they should learn,” Winkler said to resounding applause.

In his opening remarks, emcee Kitchin asked graduates to thank their families and also their teachers for helping them achieve their educationa­l goals. Amanda Gardner, a 2010 South Kingstown High School graduate, received her associate’s degree as a physical therapy assistant, and she was ebullient with her praise of NEIT, the university’s educators, and programs. “I didn’t realize this kind of education was possible. I didn’t expect the teachers to go out of their way to help us like they did,” Gardner gushed. “They put in countless hours – from 7 in the morning until 8 at night, and they are kind, too.” Gardner is scheduled to take her licensure tests in July to become a physical therapy assistant.

Narraganse­tt resident and Connecticu­t transplant Christina Gossel, also received her associates degree as a physical therapist assistant. She began work the day after graduating from NEIT at Ortho Rhode Island in Wakefield. “This has been an awesome experience at New England Tech,” Gossel said. “The professors are very knowledgea­ble, and they get to know you personally. They went out of their way to help me and set me up for a promising career.”

Hopkington’s Riley Culotta, Chariho High School Class of 2020, received an associate’s degree in Refrigerat­ion, Air Conditioni­ng, and Heating (RACH) and described his time at NEIT as “a great learning experience.” Culotta said his NEIT education prepared him well for his job at Comfort Zone Incorporat­ed in Westerly. He said he used to watch Henry Winkler movies with his father and singled out Here Comes the Boom with Winkler’s co-star Kevin James.

Christian Smith, a 2020 Coventry High School graduate, also received a RACH associate’s degree and is planning to continue at NEIT to pursue a bachelor’s degree. He said he is a fan of Winkler because “I used to read his books, especially Diary of Wimpy Kid.”

All graduates will likely remember Winkler more for his commenceme­nt address than his Hollywood roles or books he authored.

“Everything you are about to do, are about to discover and accomplish is important for the town, the state, and the world,” Winkler told the graduates. “I depend on every one of you to do the best you can do. There are needs to be met and hurts to be healed. I hope you have the most wonderful and fruitful life. Nothing can stand in your way. There is greatness in every one of you. Your job is to figure out what your gift is, dig it out, and give it to the rest of the world. Have a great life.”

 ?? Photos by Ernest A. Brown ?? Henry Winkler, an Emmy Award-winning actor, director, and author, who first achieved fame for his role as Arthur “the Fonz” Fonazarell­i in the popular TV series Happy Days, delivers the commenceme­nt address during New England Institute of Technology’s 81st Commenceme­nt at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence Sunday. Winkler gave an impassione­d speech with his message of hope, determinat­ion and succeeding when others doubt your abilities, telling the graduates “there is greatness in every one of you!”
Photos by Ernest A. Brown Henry Winkler, an Emmy Award-winning actor, director, and author, who first achieved fame for his role as Arthur “the Fonz” Fonazarell­i in the popular TV series Happy Days, delivers the commenceme­nt address during New England Institute of Technology’s 81st Commenceme­nt at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence Sunday. Winkler gave an impassione­d speech with his message of hope, determinat­ion and succeeding when others doubt your abilities, telling the graduates “there is greatness in every one of you!”
 ?? ?? New England Institute of Technology graduates, from left, Kristen Defazio, of Foster, Shawna Almeida, of Pawtucket, Kaitlynn Morris, of Pawtucket, Christine Preuss, of Seekonk, Ranishia Jordan, of Providence, Cristina Sherman, of Cumberland, and Quizia Alves, of Pawtucket, from left, line up for the start of the school’s 81st commenceme­nt at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence Sunday morning. Henry Winkler, an Emmy Award-winning actor, director and author who first achieved fame as Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli in the popular TV series Happy Days, gave the commenceme­nt address.
New England Institute of Technology graduates, from left, Kristen Defazio, of Foster, Shawna Almeida, of Pawtucket, Kaitlynn Morris, of Pawtucket, Christine Preuss, of Seekonk, Ranishia Jordan, of Providence, Cristina Sherman, of Cumberland, and Quizia Alves, of Pawtucket, from left, line up for the start of the school’s 81st commenceme­nt at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence Sunday morning. Henry Winkler, an Emmy Award-winning actor, director and author who first achieved fame as Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli in the popular TV series Happy Days, gave the commenceme­nt address.
 ?? ?? Aaron Kenney, of Pawtucket, lines up for the start of the New England Institute of Technology’s 81st Commenceme­nt at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence on Sunday. Kenney received an associate degree in automotive collision repair technology.
Aaron Kenney, of Pawtucket, lines up for the start of the New England Institute of Technology’s 81st Commenceme­nt at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence on Sunday. Kenney received an associate degree in automotive collision repair technology.
 ?? Photos by Ernest A. Brown ?? Christina Gosselin, left, and her friend Amanda Gardner, both of South Kingstown, take their seats for New England Institute of Technology’s 81st commenceme­nt.
Photos by Ernest A. Brown Christina Gosselin, left, and her friend Amanda Gardner, both of South Kingstown, take their seats for New England Institute of Technology’s 81st commenceme­nt.
 ?? ?? New England Institute of Technology graduates, including Lucas Sutton, center, take their seats.
New England Institute of Technology graduates, including Lucas Sutton, center, take their seats.

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