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Foundation President’s Message



Thank You

Michael R. McElroy, Esq.
President of the Rhode Island Bar Foundation

“There are a number of people that I need to thank for the unwavering support they have provided to me and your Foundation over the last five years.”



I took over as President of your Rhode Island Bar Foundation on July 1, 2019. On July 1, 2024, I will be stepping down after five terrific years.

            It has been a wonderful experience leading your Foundation. There have been many changes that have occurred since 2019, notably among them, our administrative leadership. In 2019, Helen McDonald and Ginny Caldwell served, respectively, as Executive Director and Program Director of our Foundation. Today, Katy Bridge and Theresa Gallo serve, respectively, in those roles. In addition to staff transitions, our Foundation has changed in several other ways. Throughout the last five years, I believe our Foundation has grown stronger and is better able to help those in need.

            The following are just a few of the changes that have taken place since 2019.

            In 2019, the Bar Foundation Treasurer was James A. Jackson, who served as Treasurer since the establishment of the Foundation many years ago. Jim is now our Treasurer Emeritus and has been ably succeeded by Steven Boyajian. I cannot emphasize enough how comforting it has been to have Jim, and now Steve, monitoring our finances and working with the Washington Trust Company to manage our funds. Jim’s sage advice and perspective is still requested from time to time, and we are incredibly grateful for that.

            Since 2019, we have added about 60 new Fellows to the Foundation, and in doing so, we have strengthened the Foundation and increased diversity among our Fellows. Our Fellows make substantial initial and sustaining financial contributions to the Foundation.

            In the calendar year 2019, we received only $673,988 in funds generated by your IOLTA client accounts. After steady growth each succeeding year, in the calendar year 2023, we received $3,454,432 in IOLTA funds.

            In June 2019, the Foundation had $148,850 in operating funds; as of March 2024, the Foundation had $330,918 in operating funds.

            In June 2019, the IOLTA long-term reserve fund had $746,874; as of March 2024, the fund had $5,031,409.

            In June 2019, the Foundation had $26,356 in its checking and money market accounts. As of March 2024, the Foundation had $440,386 in those accounts.

            In June 2019, the Foundation had $1,314,547 in its scholarship fund. As of March 2024, the Foundation had $1,751,197 in its scholarship fund. Moreover, since 2019, your Foundation has have awarded 21 law school scholarships totaling $345,000.

            At our 2019 Annual Meeting, the Foundation awarded law school scholarships totaling $40,000. At our upcoming June 2024 Annual Meeting, the Foundation will be awarding law school scholarships totaling $150,000.

            In 2019, the Foundation awarded two Thomas F. Black, Jr. scholarships to first-year law students. At this year’s Annual Meeting, we will be awarding six law school scholarships to first-year law students—two Thomas F. Black, Jr. scholarships; two Papitto Opportunity Connection scholarships; a scholarship in honor of the late Patrice A. Tarantino, funded by her husband, former Bar Foundation President John A. Tarantino; and a scholarship in honor of our current Bar President Nicole J. Benjamin, established in her honor by John A. Tarantino as a tribute to her extraordinary leadership.

            We also have an active fellowship program that operates in conjunction with the Roger Williams University School of Law. Fellowships are awarded to worthy second-year Roger Williams Law School students who will spend the summer interning in public service legal positions. Our Foundation contributes $1,500, and Roger Williams Law School matches that amount for each student. In 2019, there were two fellowships available in honor of the late Justice Thomas J. Caldarone. Now we have two additional fellowships available in honor of Foundation Treasurer Emeritus James A. Jackson.

            I am particularly proud of our grants program. Since 2019, working with past Foundation President Susan Leach DeBlasio as Chair of our grants committee, we have awarded $3,162,099 to nonprofit organizations that primarily provide legal services to the disadvantaged. In 2019, we were only able to provide $393,109 in grants. However, in 2024, we provided $1 million in grants. In addition, our IOLTA long-term reserve fund is very healthy, and hopefully we will be able to provide even more in IOLTA grants in 2025.

            Starting in 2023, the Foundation voted for the first time to provide $1,250 in funding to assist the Rhode Island Bar Association in awarding prizes to the winners of the Francis J. Darigan Jr. Rhode Island Law Day Essay Contest for high school students. It was a pleasure to meet the student winners and their parents and to assist in awarding the prizes to them at the courthouse.

            There are a number of people that I need to thank for the unwavering support they have provided to me and your Foundation over the last five years.

            My good friend Lauren Jones has been a member of the Board, an officer of the Foundation, and Chair of our nominating committee for a number of years. More importantly, he has been the person I have turned to most often for advice whenever the Foundation has been faced with a new challenge. Lauren’s assistance has been invaluable to me, and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

            Our past Foundation President John A. Tarantino has been incredibly generous to the Foundation during the time I have been President. John was instrumental, as a trustee of the Papitto Opportunity Connection, in establishing two annual law school scholarships through the Papitto Opportunity Connection. John was also instrumental in obtaining funding from the Papitto Opportunity Connection for the two James A. Jackson law student annual fellowships.

            In addition, John has personally funded both the Patrice A. Tarantino law school scholarship program and the new Nicole J. Benjamin law school scholarship program. I don’t really have adequate words to express how grateful I am for John’s astounding generosity.

            Recently, we also made a significant change, with the assistance of Lauren Jones and past Foundation President Michael St. Pierre, and we were successful in working with the Supreme Court to amend Supreme Court Rule 1.15, which governs the IOLTA program. As you are probably aware, the amendment allows IOLTA funds to be turned over to the Bar Foundation when the owner of the IOLTA funds cannot be identified or located. This addresses a problem many lawyers have faced for years. To date, we have received over $145,000 in funds, which have been turned over to the Foundation under the amended rule.

            I personally thank Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell, a Foundation Life Fellow, for his support of this Rule amendment and for his overall strong support of the Foundation for many years.

            I also thank Theresa Gallo for her hard work and dedication in running the day-to-day operations of the Foundation under the overall supervision of Katy Bridge.

            Last, but certainly not least, I need to express my sincere thanks to the Foundation Board of Directors, and all of the Foundation Fellows, for their continued financial support of the Bar Foundation programs, and for their support of my efforts during the last five years.

            I step down from the presidency knowing that your Foundation is strong and in good hands with those who care deeply about our mission. Serving you all has been an honor and a deep privilege. Thank you.

The Bar Journal assumes no responsibility for opinions, statements, and facts in any article, editorial, column, or book review, except to the extent that, by publication, the subject matter merits attention. Neither the opinions expressed in any article, editorial, column, or book review nor their content represent the official view of the Rhode Island Bar Association or the views of its members.