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A Message to the University Community

January 12, 2006

To My Friends:

I'd like to express my tremendous appreciation for the students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends of the University who have greeted Friederike and me with such warmth and who have helped us off to such a great start. All of those we have met during our first six months in Rochester show a great enthusiasm for the University and for all that it achieves.

Much has begun during these last six months. Let me highlight a few key developments:

  • With great cooperation and hard work on the part of all of the University's schools, we have begun a new generation of strategic planning. A Trustee Strategic Planning Advisory Committee under the leadership of Trustee Robert B. Goergen '60 will help review the school or program plans and formulate plans for the University overall. This is a key effort as we shape our future.
  • It was announced that the national search for a successor to C. McCollister Evarts '57 (M.D.), '64 (Res.) as Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and CEO of the Medical Center and Strong Health has begun. With a recently appointed Search Committee, Board advisory committee, and three other advisory committees soon to be appointed, we will look for a proven leader within a distinguished academic health center, one who can complete and implement the Medical Center's evolving strategic plan. On May 19th, I will host a gala to honor the achievements of Dr. Evarts.
  • With the leadership of Elissa Newport, George Eastman Professor and Chair of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the search process for a new Vice Provost and Dean of the Faculty for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (to succeed Thomas J. LeBlanc, who left to become executive vice president and provost at the University of Miami July 1) will soon lead to the selection of a wonderful, new Dean for the College. This is a pivotal position not only for the College, but for the University as well.
  • I will soon also name a Vice President for Communications, who will be charged with better communicating our identity and achievements. This is another important appointment as we work toward raising Rochester's national reputation.
  • Our new Advancement staff is beginning to take shape under the leadership of Jim Thompson, Senior Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer. Jim is creating the type of sophisticated, state-of-the-art fundraising operation that has a recognized and permanent place within other leading universities and that will enable us to secure the financial resources the University needs.
  • Under Provost Charles Phelps' leadership we are searching for a new Chief Information Officer to succeed Mely Tynan, who is now Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at Tufts University.

All of these administrative activities serve as the underpinnings for the superb work of our faculty and students. Let me also share with you some of their honors and awards from the preceding few months:

  • Three University faculty—Richard Eisenberg, the Tracy H. Harris Professor of Chemistry, Fred Sherman, Professor of Biochemistry, and David R. Williams, the Allyn Professor of Medical Optics—were elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (Alumni Sheila Blumstein '65, the Albert D. Mead Professor in Cognitive and Linguistics Sciences at Brown University, Susan Hockfield '73, neuroscientist and President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Frederick J. Newmeyer '65, '67 (Master's), the Howard and Frances Nostrand Professor of Linguistics at the University of Washington, also were elected as Fellows.)
  • Faculty and alumni of the Eastman School of Music received 11 nominations for the 48th Annual Grammy Awards, to be held Feb. 8. They include faculty members Paul O'Dette, lutenist, and the Ying Quartet, string quartet in residence.
  • Stanley L. Engerman, John H. Munro Professor of Economics and Professor of History, was appointed one of 19 W. E. B. Du Bois Institute Fellows at Harvard University for the 2006 spring semester. And days ago, it was announced that he and Hugo F. Sonnenschein'61, a member of our Board of Trustees and an alumnus of the College as well as the Adam Smith Distinguished Service Professor and President Emeritus of the University of Chicago, will receive the Award of Distinguished Fellow from the American Economic Association.
  • Caroline B. Hall, Professor of Pediatrics, received the Robert M. Chanock Award for Lifetime Achievement in RSV Research at the International Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Oxford, England.
  • Five University scientists—Wendi Heinzelman, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Michael R. King, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Hong Yang, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, Kai Shen, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, and Michael A. Alonso, Assistant Professor of Optics-received prestigious CAREER Awards, given to promising scientists early in their careers, by the National Science Foundation.
  • Two faculty, Patricia Herminghouse, the Karl F. and Bertha A. Fuchs Professor Emerita of German Studies, and Elias Mandala, Professor of History, were awarded Fulbright Scholar grants for the 2005–06 year.
  • In addition to faculty honors, let me note that four of our biomedical engineering students won the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center's Accessible Medical Instrumentation Competition for an exercise cycle that can be used by individuals with a variety of illnesses. The contest was funded by a branch of the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Among our student athletes, Nathan Micklos (a December '05 graduate) was named the ESPN The Magazine College Division Academic All-American of the Year for men's soccer, while Gary Stom '06 and Micklos (men's soccer), Ashley VanVechten '08 (women's soccer) and Susan Johnson '07 (women's volleyball) were named All-Americans. Also, Jeremy Goico '06 (men's soccer) and Nick Zappia '07 (football) were named Academic All-Americans.

Notable achievements and events took place across the campuses, including the following:

  • Meliora Weekend attracted 5,000 attendees to the River Campus. I was pleased to participate in the very first Medallion Ceremony celebrating the long and close affiliation of 50th Reunion Class members with the University. The celebration of diversity, with the newly organized Multicultural Alumni Advisory Council under the leadership of Trustee Francis Price '74, '75 (M.B.A.), was another important highlight of the weekend. And, of course, during the inaugural festivities I was very pleased to welcome Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, New York University President John Sexton, former Washington University Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical AffairsWilliam A. Peck '60 (M.D.), '00 (Hon.), and Trustee Hugo Sonnenschein '61, all of whom joined us for a symposium on the future of higher education.
  • Students, faculty, and staff across the University pitched in to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Students in the College organized a dinner-and-show event, faculty and staff from throughout the Medical Center sponsored a number of fundraising campaigns, and the Eastman School of Music's annual Jazz Showcase became a benefit for jazz musicians from New Orleans, to name a few of the campus responses to this tragedy.
  • The University's ranking in U.S. News & World Report this fall rose to 34th from 37th. Among universities in New York State, Rochester is ranked third behind Columbia and Cornell.
  • More than $72 million was recently secured for the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, both for current operations and for the construction of a new, four-beam extension facility to reinforce the laboratory's position as a unique-unique national resource for research and education.
  • Within a few months' time, the Medical Center received a total of $41 million in federal anti-terror research funding. The grants will be used to establish a Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling and a Program for Biodefense of Immunocompromised Populations, and improve emergency medical treatment needed after a "dirty bomb" attack.
  • A study by scientists at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center shows some promise for an experimental drug, bendamustine, that may combat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma when other drugs fail. The drug attacks the DNA of cancer cells and forces them to self-destruct.
  • A pair of newly patented technologies developed by University electrical and computer engineers may soon allow imaging chips to use just a fraction of the energy used today and at the same time capture better images.

Few contributions that individuals can make are more precious than the creation of endowed professorships. Such positions permanently recognize the donor while honoring the scholarship, teaching, and service that make our University one of the great academic institutions in the world today. In the months and years ahead, we will work to dramatically increase the number of endowed chairs throughout the University. It is fitting that we will launch this initiative with the University-wide ceremony marking the naming of the new Thomas H. Jackson Distinguished Professorship, a chair honoring my predecessor. This celebration—at a date later this semester, soon to be announced—will be the first of many to come.

Let me express my special thanks to our Board of Trustees whose members tripled their contributions to the Trustees' Annual Fund. Further, our Board Chairman, G. Robert Witmer, Jr. '59, made an additional gift that will allow the University to rename the President's House in honor of his parents! And, recognizing that each of us has his or her own role to play in supporting the University, I am also happy to report that the vice presidents and deans—the senior leadership—show a 100 percent participation rate in this year's Annual Fund.

Happy New Year and best wishes to all!


Joel Seligman