Lila Manfield Sapinsley '44

Alumnae Achievement Awards 1974

Lila Manfield Sapinsley '44
Public Servant
Rhode Island State Senator

Lila M. Sapinsley, born in Chicago, is known for her thirty years of service to the State of Rhode Island, dedication to community organizations, and her inspiring political career. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1944 with a psychology degree.

After campaigning for Governor Chafee in 1965, Sapinsley was appointed a trustee of Rhode Island State Colleges, a group that is responsible for promoting and governing higher education in Rhode Island. She became the board’s first female chair in 1967 and became increasingly frustrated with the state legislators’ unwillingness to give financial aid to institutions of higher education. This role prompted her to run for her first of five terms in the Rhode Island Senate. In 1974, just two years after joining the Senate, she was elected Republican minority leader and, again, became the first female to hold this post. Sapinsley worked to promote open government, women and minority rights, and educational reform.

In 1984, Sapinsley unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor, yet she became chairwoman of the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation (RIHMFC) a year later. After two years of working to legitimize the RIHMFC’S reputation, she became the commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission, a title she held until her retirement in 1993. Even in retirement, Spainsley served as a volunteer for the Providence Public Library; for Durcas Place, a parent literacy center; as a co-chair of Senator John Chafee’s campaign for re-election; and as president of her Wellesley College class for a term.

Sapinsley has served on the Board of Trustees for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island, Temple Beth El, Wellesley Center for Research on Women and many more. Her awards include honorary degrees from the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and Brown University; Legislator of the Year Award, National Conference of Republican Legislators; two-time Woman of the Year, Governor’s Commission on Women and inductee to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.

Lila is married to John Sapinsley, her husband of 65 years. Together, they have four children and nine grandchildren and have traveled to a number of countries, such as China, India, Burma, Kenya, and Italy.


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