2010-02-25 / News

Anthony Rafanelli named Rhode Island Engineer of the Year

By Erin Tiernan

On any given day at the Raytheon Company in Middletown, you’ll likely find islander Anthony Rafanelli knee-deep in risk mitigation research for new, eco-friendly design innovations in anything from household electronics to aerospace technology.

He’ll tell you himself that it takes a lot more than just a 40- hour work week to get the job done.

That’s exactly the level of dedication and hard work that led the R.I. Society of Professional Engineers to honor Rafanelli with its R.I. Engineer of the Year Award and as the organization’s top achiever of 2010. The award recognizes contributions in engineering achievements, as well as civic and humanitarian activities.

Rafanelli is a busy guy for sure – but not too busy to make time for his family, to whom he is quick to give credit for his success and happiness.

All of his successes and accomplishments are due to their support, he said.

But he shows his gratitude with more than just words; for him, it’s all about spending as much quality time together as possible.

Rafanelli, his wife, Karen, and their two teenage boys live in East Passage. He’s proud of his sons for supporting him in his demanding career and said he relishes every opportunity to get involved in their lives and watch them grow.

“It’s all about your children,” he said. “You tend to get involved in their lives, which is probably important. Karen and I have realized that you have to do that. If you don’t get involved, you lose things.”

Matthew, 14, is a freshman and varsity football player at North Kingstown High School. John, 18, is finishing his senior year and preparing to follow his dream of becoming a professional golfer. He will attend the Professional Golfers Career College in Orlando, Fla. next year.

Karen works as a special needs teachers’ aid in the Jamestown school system.

Raytheon was even a part of his family’s beginning, Rafanelli said. He met his wife through his secretary, who thought the pair would hit it off – a hunch that has led to a 20-year relationship.

Despite the long hours he spends in the office and away on work-related travel, Rafanelli said he always tries to find time to get involved in his kids’ lives.

Before he started his family, Rafanelli was a scout master for the Boy Scouts of America for 10 years in Providence, and when his children reached the right age, he stepped in for a term as cub master that lasted for about five years.

Over the years, he said, he has tried to foster their potential and support their hobbies.

He coached his sons’ youth soccer team for a short time before moving to baseball, where he coached and acted as president of the Jamestown Baseball Association for a few seasons.

Now that the boys are older, Matthew is playing with Newport’s Babe Ruth league, so that means Rafanelli is coaching, too.

Last year, Rafanelli’s team, Ali’s Run, earned the league’s championship title and consequent bragging rights.

Rafanelli is also a former chairperson of Jamestown’s Special Education Local Advisory Committee and is a current member of both the Jamestown and North Kingstown SELAC boards. He also frequents local schools – from elementary to high school – to encourage students to pursue math and science in their education.

Raytheon supports presentations and demonstrations geared toward students because, he said, the next generations will see less and less U.S. math and science professionals.

Although Rafanelli admits it’s a big investment of a parent’s time to be so involved in the lives of his children, he said it’s exciting because he only gets to help them grow for such a short time before they’re off on their own.

He said he and his wife will miss volunteering once the boys are gone and joked that they’ll need to find some new hobbies.

Although he has no intention of slowing down just yet, Rafanelli said that after he helps his kids through college, he might consider teaching part time at one of the local universities.

Throughout his 30-year career at Raytheon, Rafanelli said, he has been grateful for the unwavering support of his family, beginning with his parents. He describes their help as an instrumental steppingstone to completing college and launching his career.

Then, he said, Karen and his sons picked up where they left off.

“My wife and kids have really supported me through all this good stuff,” he said.

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