Educators are innovators.



Read to Succeed’s Founder Ralph R. Papitto Dies at 92

Read to Succeed’s founder and primary benefactor, Ralph R. Papitto passed away on January 19th at age 92. Mr. Papitto was at the pinnacle of Rhode Island’s business and non-profit communities for more than 60-years. He was the founder of Nortek, Glass-Tile Industries, AFC Cable Systems, and Read to Succeed, Ralph was also the former Chairman of the Board of Roger Williams University and was the current Chairman of the Papitto Foundation. He is survived by Barbara Papitto, his wife of 36 years, his children, Andrea Crump, Aurelia Papitto and David Papitto, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“Ralph’s remarkable business acumen was matched by his extraordinary philanthropy.  He was a great man and a great friend,” said John A. Tarantino, Esq, a Trustee of the Papitto Foundation and a member of Read to Succeed’s Board of Advisors.

 In 2016, the Rhode Island Heritage Foundation noted upon his induction; “Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.  No one exemplifies success more than Ralph Papitto.”

The son of Italian immigrant parents, Mr. Papitto was born on November 1, 1926 to John and Maria Papitto in the Silver Lake section of Providence.  Educated in the Providence Public Schools Mr. Papitto graduated magna cum laude from Bryant College in 1947.

Creates Three Successful Companies

At the age of 29, Mr. Papitto founded Glass-Tile industries, the maker of glass-to-metal hermetic seals for the emerging semi-conductor industry. By 1959, the company employed 300 people and Ralph took the company public as one of the few Rhode Island companies to make such a financial leap. In 1967, he founded perhaps his best- known company, Nortek, a manufacturer and seller of diversified home products. Listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Nortek employed 14,000 people in thirty-four states. Ralph retired as chairman of this highly successful firm in 1990. After retiring from Nortek, he founded American Flexible Conduit Company in New Bedford renaming the company AFC Cable Systems and executed another successful initial public offering. 

Commitment to Education

For all of his success in business, Ralph was as well-known for his commitment and passion to educating children. Beginning in 1969, he joined the Board of Trustees of Roger Williams University, becoming Chairman in 1987.  During his tenure, the small liberal arts college transformed into a university with the creation of the School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation; the School of Engineering, Computing, and Construction Management; the Gabelli School of Business; and Rhode Island's only School of Law.

In 2007, Ralph and Barbara founded our program to help low income, predominantly minority children improve their reading skills and earn scholarship funds for college. The Papitto Foundation now funds all of the organization's administrative expenses so that 100% of contributions to the program is directed to helping children achieve their goals. 

“Ralph connected his deep personal commitment to the education of less fortunate children to his entrepreneurial talents to turn a simple, powerful idea into a nonprofit that has improved the lives and futures of hundreds of Rhode Island children," stated David Guertin, executive director of Read to Succeed. "

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.



"Read to Succeed made me feel like I could read bigger and more challenging books.” – 5th grader

Barbara Papitto, Chairwoman

Barbara Papitto, Chairwoman

Barbara Papitto is our chairwoman.

We are entering the tenth year of Read to Succeed and what an exciting decade it has been! When Ralph and I started Read to Succeed, we knew innately that reading was the path to success for students. We attributed our own scholarship successes to our early love of reading. As these ten years progressed, Ralph and I were astounded by the data that supported the need for a program that would encourage students to read during the summer to stay abreast of their peers. Personally, I enjoy the interaction with our scholars and I particularly enjoy presenting the certificates of completion in the Fall. The look of accomplishment on the student’s faces alone, makes this program so worthwhile. 

Barbara Papitto