Retired Salve professor remembered as amazing man, avid kayaker

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PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Friends are remembering a retired Salve Regina University professor whose body was found on Teddy’s Beach Wednesday as an “amazing man” and “avid kayaker.” 

The body discovered early Wednesday morning on Teddy’s Beach along Park Avenue was identified as Dr. Ronald W. Atkins, 77, of Portsmouth. No foul play is expected, according to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) spokesperson Gail Mastrati. 

Dr. Atkins was wearing a wetsuit at the time. A kayak was also found nearby, according to Mastrati. 

On social media, Atkins’ friends remembered him as an “amazing man” and “an avid kayaker.” 

“Ron was a great guy and an avid kayaker – Navy vet and former prof at Salve – RIP old friend,” wrote Esmond D. Smith Jr.

“He is a neighbor of ours and an amazing man,” wrote Erin Huntingford.

Dr. Atkins, a Navy veteran, served for 26 years in the U.S. military with leadership positions in the sea and on shore. He served in 3 Vietnam combat tours before retiring with the rank of commander. He also served in a director position at the Naval War College in Newport. 

While serving in the Navy, Atkins earned his B.A. in political science from Roger Williams University, then his master’s degree in international relations from Salve Regina University through a partnership with the Naval War College.

Upon retirement from the military in 1985, Atkins served as director of residential life at Salve Regina University. “As an advisee to hundreds of students over the years, he was well known for his open-door policy and willingness to support his students,” according to a biography posted by Salve Regina University. 

“Atkins joined the business faculty in 1990 and pursued his Ph.D. in humanities as one of the first seven candidates in the new program. He also initiated an international student exchange program with Reitaku University of Japan,” according to the biography posted by Salve Regina University.

Dr. Atkins, who was honored with the Salve Regina University Mission Award in 2013, retired in 2010, but continued to serve as an adjunct professor at the university. 

He was an avid supporter of Save the Bay and a longtime member of the Portsmouth United Methodist Church, where he was best known for his efforts with youth.

Dr. Atkins also provided support to the Methodist Community Garden in Middletown, helping to construct greenhouses and maintain the gardens.  

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