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Keynote Presentation
The Honorable Donald L. Carcieri, Governor of Rhode Island

Wednesday, November 5, 2008
11:45 am

The Honorable Donald L. Carcieri

Governor Donald L. Carcieri was inaugurated as Rhode Island’s 57th Governor on January 7, 2003. A native Rhode Island resident, his election followed a career in business that was capped with his tenure as Chief Executive Officer of Cookson America and Joint Managing Director of Cookson Group Worldwide. He retired from that position in 1997.

As a family man with four children and fourteen grandchildren, ten of whom live in Rhode Island, Don Carcieri has always taken an active interest in what is going on in his community and the state. During 2001 his concern grew over the condition of the state’s financial situation and he considered applying his business skills to the problem. At the time, most people did not know how to pronounce his name.

In April 2002, Don Carcieri took the podium at the historic and flag draped Varnum Armory in his hometown of East Greenwich to formally announce his grass roots candidacy for Governor on the Republican ticket. As 250 people in the packed hall cheered, he told them: “My name is Don Carcieri and I want to be your next Governor!” He had never run for any elected office except his town’s home rule charter commission.

Focusing his campaign on the need to rein in state spending and balance the budget, demand integrity in government, and create a coordinated plan for statewide economic redevelopment, Don Carcieri came from behind to defeat the endorsed candidate in a highly contested primary. Hammering home his call for a Clean Start in state government, he defeated the Democrat candidate in the November election. The man from East Greenwich had bested a candidate who had over 15 years of political experience and had mounted two campaigns for Governor.

Don Carcieri, born December 16, 1942, was the first of Nicola and Marguerite Carcieri’s five children. The family lived in East Greenwich where Nicola Carcieri was a beloved teacher and coach at the town high school.

After graduating from East Greenwich High School, Don Carcieri attended Brown University on an academic scholarship, working summers on such jobs as construction, or crewing a charter boat, or quahogging on Narragansett Bay to help supplement his scholarship. He graduated in 1965 with a degree in International Relations.

Two weeks after graduation, Don Carcieri married his high school sweetheart Suzanne Owren, also of East Greenwich. Over the years their family grew to include a son, Mathew, and three daughters, Alison, Jill and Sarah.

In the early years Don taught math at Newport’s Rogers High School and then at Concord Carlisle Regional High School in Concord, Massachusetts. Next he turned to business, where, over the course of ten years, he built a career at Old Stone Bank, reaching the position of Executive Vice President.

In 1981, Don made an unusual career move, taking his family to Kingston, Jamaica, where he headed the Catholic Relief Service’s West Indies operation. He and his family lived in the community and Sue Carcieri taught science in the local school.

Following that humanitarian commitment, in 1983 Carcieri joined Cookson America as president of a small start-up company in the group, and he and his family returned to Rhode Island. Rising through the ranks to the position of Chief Executive Officer of Cookson America and Joint Managing Director of Cookson Group Worldwide, he was instrumental in the growth of the business into a major manufacturer employing over 12,000 people worldwide. The company grew from an organization doing $30 million in sales to over $3 billion in sales at the time he retired.

Don Carcieri has also been instrumental in preserving the historic face of Providence: at his urging, the former Providence train station became the headquarters of Cookson America. The company offices overlooked Burnside Park on one side and the Rhode Island State House on the other.


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