Ross L., '64, G'76 and Renate E.P. Aker: Experiencing the Joy of Giving Now
Larry and Renate Aker may be world travelers, but their home base is in Exeter — Rhode Island's most rural town. The Exeter roots of these longtime residents are deep — so deep in fact — that last year they decided to start an endowed scholarship fund at the University of Rhode Island focusing exclusively on students in the Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School system. And in particular on residents of the town of Exeter.
For Larry, who graduated URI with an animal science degree in 1964, Exeter is truly home. He attended a one-room schoolhouse at the old Exeter Town Hall on Ten Rod Road, and bailed hay and milked cows on his family's farm. At URI, Larry and his roommates lived above a dairy barn that was on campus, and they used to sneak down in the evenings to grab some ice cream. "One of the old-timers knew we were doing this, so he'd compensate for the count of what was missing," says Larry.
Compared to her husband, Renate, who hails from Berlin, Germany, is a relative newcomer to town. She moved with Larry to Exeter in 1978 and her first memories are of a powerful storm that left them without power and water for days. "I didn't bargain for that," she says.
These days, the couple — who met on the island of Okinawa when Larry was shipping out to Vietnam and Renate was an airline stewardess — are thinking about how to best give back to their beloved hometown and the University. "I was one of the few kids around here to go to college. Most went to work at 16," he said. Larry went on to manage his father's namesake furniture store in East Greenwich, before retiring and enjoying more success in investments.
Larry and Renate have already made URI part of their estate plans and are members of the Oliver Watson (formerly 1892) Society. Their scholarship will be further funded by a substantial gift from their estate upon their deaths. They were pleased to meet the first recipient of their scholarship, Ariana St. Lawrence, URI Class of 2021. In a thank you letter to the Akers, Arianna wrote "being the (scholarship) recipient means so much more than just money towards a bill."
The Akers want to give now when they are able to experience the joy of their giving. Or as Renate's mother said to her back in Germany, "It's better to give with a warm hand than a cold one." For Larry, it all comes back to Exeter. "I'm a country boy," he says, as he looks out onto his property on Austin Farm Road. "This is home."
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