History of the Institute

The Institute for International Sport (IIS) was founded in 1986 by Daniel E. Doyle, Jr. The basic concept of the Institute drew on Doyle's overseas experiences in the 60's and 70's. While traveling in Europe as a prep basketball player, and later visiting Cuba as Trinity College's head men's basketball coach, Doyle recognized the power of sport to foster friendship and goodwill.

While a student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Doyle drafted a position paper outlining what is now the IIS. After sharing his idea with several universities, including the University of Rhode Island (URI), Doyle convinced then URI president Edward D. Eddy and then Rhode Island Governor Edward DiPrete to host the Institute. On July 1, 1986 the IIS officially opened in a one-room office and Doyle's dream became a reality.


1987: The Institute's first program (Sports Corps) launched in September of 1987, sending volunteers (recent college graduates) to Ireland, Burundi, and Czechoslovakia.  They worked with disadvantaged and handicapped youth, establishing a variety of sports education initiatives.

1989: Expanding on the Sports Corps model, Belfast United was begun to foster cross-religious communication in Northern Ireland, bringing together Protestant and Catholic youths on athletic teams. The program focused on organized sport and cultural activities for these children in Belfast, followed by a tour to the United States. Over 1,500 young men and women participated in Belfast United during its ten-year run, and its impact was recognized by a number of political and educational figures from Northern Ireland when the peace accord was signed.  The program was also featured in a story in Sports Illustrated and President William Clinton hailed its success during a Presidential visit to Northern Ireland.  

1990: "National Sportsmanship Day (NSD)" was founded by Mr. Doyle in 1990, and formally recognized by the White House and the U.S. Congress. NSD is judged by many to be the largest and most impactful sportsmanship program in the world. Each year, more than 13,000 schools in a number of countries celebrate NSD. For more than a decade, USA Today has provided editorial coverage of NSD, as has ESPN's SportsCenter. Sports celebrities such as Grant Hill, David Robinson, Mia Hamm, and Jeff Gordon have all served as Sports Ethics Fellows and made personal appearances and/or public service announcements supporting NSD.

1992: Mr. Doyle, at the request of then U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Cynthia Shepard Perry, initiated a "Project Burundi" basketball program. The results included the donation of over $30,000 of basketball equipment to Burundi, and in 1993, an all-expense paid trip by the Burundi men's basketball team to the United States. At Mr. Doyle's insistence, the team included members from both the Hutu and Tutsi tribes.

1993: The inaugural World Scholar-Athlete Games took place from June 20 to July 1, 1993. Senator Bill Bradley served as Honorary Chair and 108 countries and all 50 states sent delegations to this 12-day festival of sport and culture. The World Scholar-Athlete Games was hailed by the media, and most importantly, by the participants, as one of the most successful first-time international events ever held.

Learn more about the full Scholar-Athlete Games Chronology.

1995:  Mr. Doyle engaged in a project similar to that in Burundi, this time in South Africa, which resulted in the South African Men's National Basketball Team making an all-expense paid trip to the United States. The trip was the subject of a New York Times column by William Rhoden.

After the success of the World Scholar-Athlete Games, the Institute received a federal grant to replicate the Scholar-Athlete Games concept in Rhode Island.  The Institute administered the first Rhode Island Scholar-Athlete Games for elementary and middle school students. Since 1995, over 3500 Rhode Island students have participated in RISAG.

The Institute received a separate grant to replicate the Scholar-Athlete Games concept in Belfast, Northern Ireland as part of the ongoing peace process.  The "Belfast Scholar-Athlete Games - The Olympiad" was held in August 1995. One hundred twenty young men and women - an approximately equal number of Catholics and Protestants - participated.

1996: The success of the pilot program in Belfast resulted in a full scale "Ireland Scholar-Athlete Games" in August.   The event took place at the University of Ulster and involved the participation of over 400 students from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, along with a strong American delegation.

1997:  From June 21 to July 2, the Institute hosted the second World Scholar-Athlete Games. Approximately 2,000 young people from 147 countries and all 50 states participated in this program. The 147-country delegation made the 1997 World Scholar-Athlete Games the second largest international sport and cultural event in the world that year in terms of countries represented.

1998: The second Ireland Scholar-Athlete Games was held at the University of Ulster in Belfast in August. Over 500 young people, including an approximately equal number of Protestant and Catholic youth from Northern Ireland and delegations from the United States and Sri Lanka took part.

1999: Through a $1 million lead gift from philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein at the Institutes 10th anniversary celebration in 1996, the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame on the University of Rhode Island campus officially opened on June 27, 1999.  An opening ceremony was held, and 20 internationally known scholar-athletes, including Bill Bradley, Sir Roger Bannister, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Kip Keino, were inducted into the Hall. Since that time, the Hall has inducted other distinguished scholar-athletes such as Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Dr. Jack Ramsay, Chi Cheng, and Bob Mathias. The Hall of Fame serves as the headquarters of the Institute. 

The Institute also hosted the inaugural United States Scholar-Athlete Games from June 26 to July 2. Approximately 1,600 scholar-athletes from all 50 states participated.

2000: The third Ireland Scholar-Athlete Games took place in August at the University of Ulster. Over 500 young people from six countries participated and, once again, the program was adjudged a great success.

From June 22 to July 2, the Institute, in conjunction with Tel Aviv University in Israel, hosted the first Mediterranean Middle East Scholar-Athlete Games. Over 300 youngsters from 15 countries participated. The Games were a major success and a highlight was a lecture given by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

2001:  The third World Scholar-Athlete Games took place from June 23 to July 2 at the University of Rhode Island. One-hundred and fifty-one countries and all 50 states sent delegations to this event, making the Games the largest sport or cultural event in the world in 2001 by the participating number of countries.

2002: The Institute for International Sport administered a highly successful European Scholar-Athlete Games in August at the University of Limerick in Ireland.

2003:  A very successful United States Scholar-Athlete Games was held at The University of Rhode Island. Former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, delivered the keynote address at the 2003 Games.

2006:  The Institute received a federal grant to administer an extensive sports education program in Nigeria, in which the Institute worked with Nigerian colleagues in the celebration of National Sportsmanship Day in schools throughout Nigeria. The program also involved an extensive exchange program in which both U.S. and Nigerian volleyball coaches and players visited their sister countries. The Institute sent a significant amount of volleyball equipment as well as laptop computers to Nigeria - all donated.

The World Scholar-Athlete Games, which was celebrated in conjunction with the Institute's 20th anniversary, was the largest sports/cultural event in the world by countries represented in that year. Former U.S. President, William Jefferson Clinton, delivered the keynote address, and Senator George Mitchell delivered the 20th anniversary address on July 1, as part of closing ceremonies. Rhode Island Attorney General, Patrick Lynch, who served as co-chair of the Games Executive Committee, captured a common theme when he stated at closing ceremonies, "This was perhaps the finest youth event in history."

The Institute's celebration of its 20th anniversary included the announcement of plans to construct its second building on the URI campus - The Center for Sports Leadership (CSL). The CSL will offer innovative leadership programs to coaches, captains and other student-athletes.

2008:  The Institute hosted the U.S. Scholar-Athlete Games, which featured General Colin Powell as the keynote speaker.

2011: The Institute will host the fifth World Scholar-Athlete Games and the inaugural World Youth Peace Summit.  These events will take place in Hartford, Connecticut and include prominent speakers from General Colin Powell to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.