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President’s Message

Much to Celebrate in Our Traditions and Strengths As we mark milestones and embark on new initiatives, we are building a bright and exciting future.By Sarah C. Mangelsdorf

Few campus traditions capture the spirit of a university better than our own Meliora Weekend. What a marvelous way to bring the entire University community together to reconnect with one another and to rekindle our commitment to Learn, Discover, Heal, Create—and Make the World Ever Better.

This fall’s edition was particularly meaningful because it was the first fully in-person, full-scale weekend since 2019.

I was thrilled to see so many alumni, parents, students, and community friends on campus for three days of reunions, concerts, celebrations, and other activities. Our keynote speakers—Nobel laureate Steve Chu ’70, ’98 (Honorary), playwright Tony Kushner, and journalist Michele Norris—shared their expertise on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

And in a talk about the importance of disagreement in a democratic society, our own David Primo, the Mark and Ani Gabrellian Professor, reminded us all that we are better when we listen to other community members with open, inquisitive minds.

As all Rochester alumni appreciate, the sessions were engaging, respectful, and grounded in research.

I was particularly delighted to be joined by our new provost, David Figlio, for a presentation on the state of the University. I’m pleased to report that the University is emerging from the past two years in a position of strength across several measures.

As an institution, we have much to celebrate.

We welcomed more than 1,500 first-year and more than 100 new transfer undergraduates this fall, slightly more than many enrollment trends indicated. The undergraduates of the Class of 2026 were joined by 1,630 new graduate students on campus.

The members of the latest undergraduate class arrived from nearly all states and territories, representing continued strength in diversity. And almost one in four is the first in their families to go to college.

Similarly, we welcomed 62 new faculty members this year, with an increased number of women and underrepresented scholars and teachers. That growth is coupled with new initiatives to support the career development of our faculty.

A wonderful example: we hosted a session for 130 women leaders in higher education as part of a HIGHER Women’s Leadership Summit. HIGHER is a national organization that empowers women in higher education to advance their careers.

In September, we announced the marvelous news that University Life Trustee James C. Wyant ’67 (MS), ’69 (PhD) and his wife, Tammy, have established a $12 million challenge fund to enable the Institute of Optics to aim for a 50 percent increase in faculty as the institute prepares for its 100th anniversary celebration in 2029.

The challenge gift will create five distinguished professorships for renowned faculty and five professorships for early-career faculty.

The first distinguished professorship will recognize Nobel laureate Donna Strickland ’89 (PhD), one of the most notable graduates of the institute.

Optica, the leading society in optics and photonics, made a substantial donation for the Strickland professorship and Jim and Tammy’s initiative will provide matching funds. This fabulous gift will benefit many departments, as optics is inherently an interdisciplinary field. Many of the new professors will likely hold joint appointments.

Our human resources team is instituting modernized approaches for attracting, developing, and retaining staff as we work diligently to respond to a rapidly evolving employment landscape for higher education and health care. We are the biggest employer in the region, and we want to be one of the best.

To help strengthen our community, we have new key leaders joining us this year. In addition to Provost Figlio, we introduced Liz Milavec ’22S (MBA) as our new chief financial officer, and Lisa Kitko as our new dean of the School of Nursing.

The start of every academic year is an opportunity to reflect both on our traditions and strengths and look forward to ways in which we can improve, grow, and innovate.

During Meliora Weekend, we also celebrated the establishment of a Department of Black Studies, a natural extension of the long-standing history of research and education of our Frederick Douglass Institute.

And we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Eastman School of Music.

The weekend was the culmination of an 18-month celebration that highlighted the profound legacy that the school, its graduates, and its community have had on the world of music.

In the days leading up to the weekend’s celebration, composer Jeff Beal ’85E, premiered and conducted his new piece Cathedral in Kodak Hall. It was simply breathtaking.

Jeff’s concert and the performances following the Eastman Centennial gala were experiences I will never forget. Such events give us all confidence that the next 100 years will be even better.

The future is bright at the University of Rochester, and I’m proud to lead this historic institution in these exciting times.

Contact President Mangelsdorf at sarah (dot) .mangelsdorf (at) Rochester (dot) edu. Follow her on Instagram: (at) urochestermangelsdorf.