University of Rochester

Office of the President

Office of the President

GARDEN PARTY 2009

TRANSFORMING IDEAS INTO ACTION

JUNE 9, 2009
JOEL SELIGMAN

(To view the slides while reading the speech below, place your cursor over each "SLIDE" link.)

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  On Saturday, May 30th, Brad Berk, the chief executive officer of the University of Rochester Medical Center, my colleague, my friend, was severely injured in a bicycle riding accident. Recovery will be a long and slow process, but I am pleased to report that recovery has begun and that all of us at the University look forward to Brad’s return.index

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  The true measure of a social institution is not whether it thrives when times are good, but whether it thrives when times are hard. By that measure, in what was an extraordinarily challenging economy, the University of Rochester had a very solid year.

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  Historians will mark this past year as the Crash of 2008. Between selected dates in October 2007 and March 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 54 percent. SLIDE 5
  We saw a dramatic rise in national unemployment from 4.9 percent early in 2008 to 9.4 percent in May 2009. SLIDE 6
  Business institutions long believed to be a permanent part of our economic landscape such as Merrill Lynch, Chrysler, and General Motors failed or nearly failed and went through rescue mergers or bankruptcy reorganization. These types of economic events inevitably had an impact on the University.

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  Our endowment has lost approximately 20 percent so far this year and after withdrawals for spending has dropped from about $1.7 billion on June 30, 2008 to approximately $1.35 billion on May 31, 2009. We have responded by reducing our endowment payout from a planned $98.2 million to $83.1 million for the upcoming academic year.

This type of response should be seen in context. Counting our hospitals and affiliates, the University next year will have a $2.1 billion budget.SLIDE 8
  University academic programs essentially are supported by four types of financial support: tuition, sponsored research, gifts, and endowment payout. Most of our academic divisions are tuition driven, including the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering, the Simon Graduate School of Business, the Warner School of Education, and the School of Nursing. Losses in endowment, while serious, are in most of our schools only a small part of our financial picture.

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  The very good news is that this was a record year for applications to our largest undergraduate program, the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering. Early decision applications were up by 25 percent. What is particularly gratifying is that we see progress not only in the number of applications, but growth also in quantitative measures of quality and in diversity.

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  Last year our substantial progress in sponsored research funding continued, led by peer-reviewed federal government support through agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). This growth is likely to continue. Earlier this year, Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Within this $787 billion economic stimulus package is $10.4 billion for NIH, $3 billion for NSF, $1.6 billion for Department of Energy research programs and $20 billion for Health Information Technology.

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  By May 2009, University of Rochester researchers had submitted 385 proposals requesting $173 million and had begun to receive initial awards.

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  On April 27, President Obama made what history someday may recall as one of his most significant addresses, remarks that may prove to be the equivalent of President Kennedy’s declaration to Congress in 1961 “that this nation should commit itself, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” Obama proposed reorienting our national priorities toward spending 3 percent of our gross domestic product on research and development. That is $420 billion. If this or a significant part of this initiative is achieved, research universities such as the University of Rochester will play a pivotal role. Research universities today already are the research labs of this nation. With the closing of business facilities such as Bell Labs, the role of research universities such as the University of Rochester in basic and applied research has been dramatically amplified.

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  The University of Rochester is particularly well positioned to participate in an expansion of sponsored research. In February 2009, the Association of University Technology Managers for the seventh year in a row recognized the University of Rochester as one of the top ten institutions in the country for revenues it receives from licensed technologies.

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  To be sure, this academic year will prove one in which our record-breaking pace of increased giving by alumni and friends will decline, as giving has nationally. Let me express my particular gratitude for the great support that was provided by our alumni and friends during a very hard year. Your loyalty and support help make the University of Rochester the great university that it is.

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  Indeed this was a year of extraordinary commitments led by our Board of Trustees. Last fall, Chairman of the Board Ed Hajim made the largest single gift commitment in the University’s 159-year history. Ed designated that his $30 million gift benefit engineering education. In his honor, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences was recently named the Edmund A. Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

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  Last month, Ernest and Thelma Del Monte contributed an initial $10 million to help us create the Ernest J. Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute, which will be housed in a building previously known by the less than mellifluous acronym MRBX. The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has been among the nation’s leaders in neurology and neurosurgery, with particular prominence in Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, stroke and Huntington’s. We also have great strengths in our College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The Del Monte Institute will now give us space to bring many of our researchers and programs together in a single location.

The core of the University of Rochester is our commitment to academic excellence, academic freedom, diversity, and working with our community. We applied these fundamental values in our response to the economic emergency. We focused on protecting our academic and clinical core, faculty, students, and staff, while making the budgetary cuts necessary to achieve fiscal responsibility and position us for future growth. 
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  We have made relatively modest reductions in staff. Of 19,441 employees as of December 31, 2008, approximately 50 have lost their jobs to date.

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  To preserve jobs we implemented a salary program which froze salaries for those earning above $40,000. The faculty and staff deserve enormous credit for their support of this program. We made cuts in virtually every discretionary spending area of the University, including savings in energy, purchases from vendors, central administrative and operational and maintenance budgets and significant economies in the Medical Center, while protecting patient care.

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  At the same time, recognizing the financial stress that our students and their families face today, the College increased financial aid by $9.8 million in the upcoming year for undergraduate and graduate students.

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  Significant construction continues at the University of Rochester. In September 2008, the University opened its new Health Service facility near our student dormitories on the River Campus.

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  I have watched with delight as the long-developing plans for Brooks Landing were implemented this past year. We have now truly crossed the river! In August 2008, Riverview Apartments opened and now house nearly 400 University undergraduates. Riverview was popular with our students the first year when it sold out. There is an even higher level of student enthusiasm for the apartments for the upcoming second year.

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  In November 2008, Staybridge Suites and Boulder Coffee opened at Brooks Landing. This marked the beginning of a college town in the 19th Ward. SLIDE 23
  This spring several University departments, including our Employment Center and Finance Department, relocated to the Brooks Landing Business Center, a new 28,000 square foot office building in which the University is the lead tenant and occupies 20,000 square feet.

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  Economic conditions have led us to temporarily delay some projects, most notably the Pediatric Replacement and Imaging Sciences Modernization (PRISM) wing of Strong Memorial Hospital.

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  Construction of the Clinical and Translational Science Building at the Medical Center, however, has begun. This 200,000 square foot facility will be located on Crittenden Avenue immediately adjacent to our School of Nursing and will build on the University’s great strengths in applied medical research as earlier evidenced by the efforts of our SLIDE 26
  Doctors Reichman, Bonnez and Rose who helped develop the world’s first cancer vaccine.

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  Our new 52,000 square foot outpatient Ambulatory Surgery Center will soon open on Sawgrass Drive and address the fastest growing area of clinical activity.

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  The renovation of Eastman Theatre’s Kodak Hall is on time, and on October 8th the Rochester Philharmonic will open its season there.SLIDE 29
  Eastman graduate Renée Fleming will be the star of the University’s official gala to salute the renovation of Eastman Theatre at a date to be determined during the 2009-2010 academic year. 
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  The following academic year, we will open the new wing of Eastman Theatre featuring the new Hatch Recital Hall.

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  We remain a University on the move. While the economic emergency has slowed our progress toward our strategic plans, our vision endures. We picked stretch goals, but the enthusiasm of our Board, administrators, faculty, students, staff and alumni remains high. We are proud of what we have accomplished. We intend to achieve a great deal more in the years to come.

Why does this matter to the Rochester community? Tonight, I would like to share examples of Rochester researchers, clinicians, and scholars who are transforming ideas into action and improving the lives of all of us. To put it simply, research universities are the most important social institutions in our society today because their research, teaching, performing arts, and community service have so profound an impact in creating the democratic, economically vibrant, tolerant, and dynamic society that we all seek.

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  Let me begin in the Medical Center with a medical miracle. Cory Milburn was born 15 weeks prematurely, weighing 1 pound 8 ounces. Just moments after his birth, Golisano Children’s Hospital neonatologists whisked Cory down the hall to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where he would spend more than three months fighting for his life. 
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  Here Cory is just two weeks ago helping lead the Golisano Children’s Hospital 13th Annual Stroll for Strong Kids. SLIDE 34
  Thanks to neonatolists like Sanjiv Amin and nurses like Heather Goetzman, our NICU is open 24 hours a day seven days a week to serve patients throughout Rochester and the 17-county Finger Lakes region.

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  For its victims and their families and friends, Tourette’s Syndrome with its uncontrollable tics and verbalizations sometimes is a terrifying disorder. Roger Kurlan, a University of Rochester professor of neurology, made a defining discovery more than two decades ago. A patient named David Janzen hitchhiked more than 2,000 miles from LaCrete, Alberta, a remote Mennonite farming village, to seek a second opinion from Roger. David had been misdiagnosed with Huntington’s disease, but, to Roger, David showed classic signs of Tourette’s, and, to Roger’s amazement, David described a dozen other relatives, all living in LaCrete, who had similar symptoms.

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  Roger assembled a research team and traveled to LaCrete, where he found evidence that demonstrated the hereditary nature of Tourette’s. This finding has revolutionized the way doctors treat Tourette’s patients. Roger is now leading a multicenter clinical study of a new experimental treatment for the syndrome, and directs the Tourette’s Syndrome Study Group, an international network of researchers who are involved in almost every major clinical study of the disease.

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  More than 26 million people worldwide currently live with Alzheimer’s disease. That number may quadruple to more than 100 million individuals by 2050 unless a cure or effective treatment is found. 
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  Research by Neurology Professor Betza Zlokovic is making progress in indentifying a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Betza and his team have made a promising discovery that identifies two proteins that work in tandem in the brain's blood vessels. This surprising finding highlights the vascular roots of Alzheimer’s. The significance of Betza’s work has been recognized in two significant honors he has received – the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research in 2007 and the Potamkin Prize from the American Academy of Neurology this past April.

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  Each year, more than 2,000 Americans undergo heart transplant surgery. Heart transplant surgery can be short circuited if patients develop a deadly complication known as transplant arteriopathy, a condition in which cells within the heart’s arteries become inflamed and choke off blood flow. Assistant Professor of Medicine Jeffrey Alexis, a transplant cardiologist, is working with (SLIDE 40) 
  smooth muscle cells in cultures to identify the cause of arteriopathy and potentially find a way to block the growth of these cells, a breakthrough that would benefit not only patients he sees in Strong Memorial Hospital, but also patients throughout the world.

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  With President Barack Obama’s decision earlier this year to rescind federal restrictions on the use of embryonic stem cells, the University continues to make significant advances in this critical frontier in medical science. The University is one of the most active stem cell research centers in the United States. Currently 40 scientists at the University oversee labs with $78 million in grants for several stem cell research projects. Among them is Professor Mark Noble, who is investigating the use of stem cells to repair spinal cords. Mark and his team have developed an advanced stem cell technology that promotes spinal cord recovery in animals. His works provides tremendous promise for new therapies for patients like Shane O’Brien, who was terribly injured in an automobile accident and is currently undergoing rehabilitation at Strong Memorial Hospital.

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  Sara Goto, until recently a student in the School of Nursing accelerated program and soon to be a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital, has worked with a remarkable program in our School of Nursing called Step by Step to help incarcerated mothers reconnect with their children and prepare for life outside prison. Today, of the 115,000 women in federal and state prisons, more than half have young children who typically are cared for by relatives or foster care. Along with ten other nursing students, Sara led workshops at Albion Correctional Facility to help the women learn more about parenting skills, nutrition and stress.

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  Three years ago, Suzanne Lee, an associate professor of family medicine, approached Danny Wegman and proposed adding health education to the remarkably successful Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection. Hillside works by linking academic success to job opportunities for more than 300 employers, including the University of Rochester. 
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  Since Danny and his father started the program 20 years ago, graduation rates for Hillside students have increased to twice the system average. With 2,300 students currently in the program, Suzanne recognized the opportunity also to provide them with the tools to manage their own health. Hillside has now started Be Healthy, Be Successful. Suzanne will soon lead the University’s efforts to increase the University’s participation in the Hillside program.

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  Earlier today the University announced the establishment of the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, a new dental institute at the Medical Center that will integrate research, education, and clinical care. With more than 140,000 annual patient visits, the Medical Center is the largest provider of oral health to the underserved in the region and the primary oral health care safety net for our community. Thanks in part to a $3.9 million New York State grant, the Eastman Dental Center is expanding its clinical services, adding four treatment rooms to Eastman Dental Downtown, doubling its patient capacity, and opening a new Urgent Dental Care Clinic next January.

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  Why does the average squirrel live ten times longer than the average rat? Scientists in our Department of Biology led by Associate Professor Vera Gorbunova believe that the answer to this question may help us find a cure for certain forms of cancer. SLIDE 47
  Vera hypothesizes that squirrels, which can live for up to 24 years, have developed an anti-cancer mechanism that allows them to slow down cell division, including the uncontrolled cell growth seen in cancer. By understanding how this previously undiscovered mechanism works, Vera believes it may be possible to prevent certain forms of cancer in humans.

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  Some children with autism only eat foods of a specific color, texture or taste, a finding that prompted Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology Professor Loisa Bennetto to focus on understanding the genetic basis of autism. Today, the chance of being diagnosed with a form of autism is 1 in 150, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. Loisa discovered that children with autism are less able to identify tastes and smells than their peers. In February of this year she was awarded a $3 million NIH grant to identify the hereditary source for these atypical sensory perceptions. This study may help isolate new genes involved in autism and could lead to new diagnostic tools for this disorder.

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  Mathematics Professor Douglas Ravenel is part of a team that has solved one of the great unanswered problems in algebraic topology known as the Kervaire invariant problem. Algebraic topology is a way of describing the commonalities among certain shapes.

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  The classic example is a coffee mug and a donut, each of which has one hole. If they were made of wet clay, one could be molded into the other without adding or losing the hole. Neither shape could be molded into a ball, however, because a ball has no holes.

The Kervaire invariant is a number that topologists use to define shapes in certain dimensions. Topologists had expected that specific kinds of shapes occur in infinitely many dimensions, but Doug’s team has shown that they exist in only one more dimension beyond the few already known. This solution gives mathematicians new tools with which to tackle other problems in new ways, including the very nature of time and space itself.

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  Rochester scientists like Chemical Engineering Professor Ching Tang are leaders in engineering innovation. Ching’s discovery of efficient organic light-emitting diodes or OLED was described by CNN in 2005 as one of the most significant innovations of the past 25 years. OLED screens offer superior image quality, wider viewing angles, and are so flexible they can be rolled up like a newspaper. SLIDE 52
  Ching is now researching how to use similar technology to create a new type of solar energy cell that may be so flexible and so much less expensive to manufacture than traditional solar energy technology that it could be used in applications unthinkable today, such as by being woven into the threads of a jacket to automatically recharge a cell phone.

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  Associate Professor of Optics Miguel Alonso models properties fundamental to all types of light such as waves and rays. Recipient of a prestigious, five-year National Sciences Foundation Career Award in 2005, Miguel is passionate about sharing his love for scientific discovery and inspiring a new generation of researchers. SLIDE 54
  He often works to increase the exposure of Rochester high school students to science through such programs as Seeds for Change.

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  Associate Professor of Chemistry Todd Krauss, working with scientists at Eastman Kodak, has removed a significant roadblock in efforts to create less expensive and more versatile lasers.

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  An optical quirk called “blinking” has baffled scientists for years. Todd’s team has solved this problem by creating a tiny crystal that constantly emits light. With blink-free nanocrystals, lasers and lighting may soon prove to be significantly less expensive to manufacture.

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  The University is deeply involved in efforts to address the national energy crisis. Our Laboratory for Laser Energetics has focused on a potential breakthrough by analyzing whether nuclear fusion can be used to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Unlike nuclear fission, which produces vast amounts of energy, but also produces radioactive waste, fusion has the potential to generate even more energy while generating no nuclear waste. The fuel for fusion occurs naturally in water, making it an essentially inexhaustible resource. It is uncertain that fusion power can be achieved in our lifetimes. If it is, this will be a game changer, potentially as dramatic as the shift from horse power to electrical power. Recently our Laser Lab signed an agreement with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to work on a fusion/fission hybrid system that potentially could transmute the radioactive waste from nuclear reactors to harmless waste.

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  Our students also continue to show a real commitment to addressing the demand for sustainable energy sources. On April 22, Earth Day, the University’s new biodiesel bus – the Big Green Bus – began service powered by French fry fats and other waste from Campus Dining Services. This was a student-initiated project, led by undergraduates David Borrelli, Dan Fink, and Eric Weissmann, who also designed and constructed the UR Biodiesel lab.

The University of Rochester’s significance extends beyond science and technology to national policymaking and business leadership.

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  All of us at the University of Rochester were delighted when President Obama selected University graduate Steve Chu as his Secretary of Energy. Steve is the first Nobel Laureate named to a Presidential Cabinet. As Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Steve refocused that lab’s work to advance biofuels, artificial photosynthesis and solar energy efforts. Now, as Energy Secretary Chu will play a pivotal role in national efforts to address global climate change policy, renewable energy, and the nation’s power grid.

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  Alumna Heather Higginbottom, deputy director of President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, credits her experience as a Rochester political science major and the opportunity to study as an intern in Washington with whetting her appetite for politics. After 20 months as Obama’s policy director and more than a decade of experience working for policy reform on Capitol Hill, Heather is now charged with helping to develop the programs that will advance President Obama’s domestic agenda.

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  University of Rochester Trustee Ursula Burns on July 1 will assume leadership of Xerox Corporation and be the only African American woman in the country to lead a Fortune 500 firm. She will lead a company with 55,000 employees worldwide. Ursula has long been recognized as being among this nation’s most influential business leaders. She has served as a member of the University Board since 2002.

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  Researchers at the University’s Mt. Hope Family Center are partnering with local programs to help children and their parents form stronger bonds. Mt. Hope helped a young mother named Rashida Grant, who showed signs of postpartum depression during a checkup at Strong Pediatrics.

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  Typically, mothers like Rashida are referred to a community mental health clinic, where there is limited follow-up. Instead, she was referred to the Building Healthy Children program at Mt. Hope Family Center, where she received cutting-edge care directed by staff psychologist Bree Scribner. Bree is part of a team at Mt. Hope working with community partners that takes a holistic approach to addressing the needs of families, offering parenting education and therapy, along with food, housing, and transportation assistance.

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  Associate Professor of Religion and Classics Dan Beaumont is partnering with local organizations to help Rochester’s homeless men get back on their feet and to bring overdue recognition to one of Rochester’s musical legends. Last Sunday, local and nationally recognized musicians performed in tribute to the late Delta bluesman Eddie “Son” House at a benefit concert for the homeless at Water Street Music Hall. Dan, who teaches a course called “The Blues” in the Department of Religion and Classics, has written a book about “Son" House titled Preachin' the Blues.

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  Born in Mississippi, Son House moved to Rochester in 1943, where he lived in obscurity for most of his 20 years until he and his music were rediscovered in the 1960s. Sunday’s benefit concert raised money to support the Catholic Family Center’s effort to build a permanent housing facility for homeless men. The site will include a life and vocational facility to be called the Son House Resource Center.

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  After 600 years, why does Robin Hood keep coming back? That is a question that scholars, critics, film-makers, and artists will ponder this fall when Rochester hosts an international Robin Hood conference.

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  Event organizer, English Professor Tom Hahn, anticipates that the highlight will be the 21st century premiere of the 1922 silent film version of Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks.

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  Newly restored by the George Eastman House and the Museum of Modern Art, this classic will be shown at Dryden Theatre with University musicians performing live accompaniment of the newly reconstructed original music score. The three-day conference is expected to draw international attention and further invigorate the enduring legend of the hero of Nottingham Forest.

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  Transforming ideas not only strengthen and enliven communities, they inspire a new generation of artists, scholars, and entrepreneurs. Eastman alumna Maria Schneider is an artist whose originality has helped transform the business model for professional musicians. Maria was one of the first artists to produce a CD using the ArtistShare model, in which consumers finance projects in exchange for Web access to the artist’s creative process. The CD earned Maria a Grammy in 2005, the first ever given for an album distributed entirely over the Internet.

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  Many of Rochester’s students are applying their training to improve and strengthen the local community. Among them is Asmaa Parkar, who will receive her M.B.A. from the Simon School on June 14. Asmaa put the skills she learned in marketing, finance, and economics to use to help develop a revitalization plan for the Jefferson Avenue area in partnership with the City of Rochester and the Jefferson Avenue Business Association. The project is part of VISION Connect, a new initiative that links Simon students with small businesses that need help developing business plans.

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  The Simon School’s commitment to community engagement similarly was evidenced by a series of free economic forums hosted by faculty experts and alumni this past year. Simon School Dean Mark Zupan says in the face of such economic challenges, he felt the school could play a critical role in educating and informing the public. The forums addressed a range of topics, including bankruptcy, retirement investments, market volatility, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

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  Warner School of Education Assistant Professor April Luehmann is applying her scholarship to support local teachers and students. She is focusing her efforts on science education and has created several programs based on the idea that the best way to learn science is to do science.

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  That guiding principle is at the heart of April’s program “Get Real! Science.” The initiative offers Warner graduate students the opportunity to hone their craft and interact with local Rochester students through several outreach efforts, including a summer action camp and an after-school program.

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  Each year the Memorial Art Gallery exhibitions and programs showcase some of the nation’s most cutting-edge and innovative artists, including those whose works are on view now in the Glasswear show.SLIDE 75
  Some of the 60 artists in this major traveling exhibition employ highly sophisticated glass working techniques, while others incorporate found or recycled objects.

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  A Unity of Opposites, a companion show to Glasswear, features contemporary glass sculptures by Rochester’s own Michael Taylor, internationally known for his distinctive work. Michael has built an international reputation for his use of form, line, color, and light such as “Light Mantra,” recently installed in the Wilmot Cancer. Many of his works take inspiration from math and science, with visual references to binary code, mechanics, and DNA.

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  This year the University of Rochester was thrown a curve ball. It is the same curve ball thrown at the entire country. The University responded well. What pleases me most was the work of the University leadership team and our Board of Trustees. We stayed on the same page. We have positioned ourselves for further progress, but we all recognize that our work has just begun. Achieving the strategic goals of a university is not a mercurial process. It is not accomplished in a month or a year. It requires perseverance and commitment. I am proud to be associated with a University that understands this. I am confident that we will be ready for whatever the future throws at us. We will continue to make substantial progress implementing our strategic plans. I like to say that universities are forever. Tonight I want to emphasize in closing, the University of Rochester will forever be a vital part of Rochester. Thank you.