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Office of the President

Spring 2014: Welcome Back

Welcome back! We enter a new semester with renewed energy and enthusiasm, building on an exciting fall semester.

This fall the University announced a $50 million commitment – in addition to the more than $50 million we have spent in recent years – to greatly expand our work in the burgeoning field of data science.  Our goal is to create an Institute of Data Science, construct a state-of-the-art building to house it, and appoint as many as 20 new faculty members with expertise in the field.  This is the top priority for the University’s 2013-2018 strategic plans that were unanimously adopted by the Board of Trustees in October. 

In October, we opened the Ronald Rettner Hall for Media Arts and Innovation on the River Campus.  Many students have already enjoyed the view from the “Tree House” lounge.This new three-story, nearly 19,000-square foot building offers students access to state-of-the-art technologies to develop practical skills and theoretical understanding of digital technology.

Shortly after Rettner Hall opened, we learned that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the University a $1 million grant to support the emerging field of digital humanities.  This generous grant for graduate fellowships fortifies the University’s long-standing commitment to the humanities while creating important new avenues for innovative and interdisciplinary study.  The grant provides a natural complement to the new building and reflects creative collaboration of the arts, humanities, and computer science that will develop a new generation of innovators.

The developers for College Town are moving along with construction.When complete next fall, the new development at the corner of Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues will include 500,000 square feet of retail and dining space, spacious sidewalks, hotel and conference facilities, parking, and housing for the Mt. Hope communities and area visitors.  The development will also include a new and expanded Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Also in progress to open next fall will be new student housing across the Genesee River at The Flats at Brooks Crossing.  The new 12-story mixed-use project near the corner of Brooks Avenue and Genesee Street will feature 10 floors of housing that will accommodate 170 students, a scull boat house, a restaurant, and common area.

The University introduced a new program for veterans and active members of the military in the fall.  The expanded resources and support services are geared toward enhancing student life on campus and augmenting the financial resources veterans receive through the Rochester Pledge Scholarship, created to ease the financial burden for veterans wishing to attend the University.

In addition, the University was named a Top Military-Friendly University in Military Advanced Education’s 2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities. The guide, which is available in print and online, provides potential students with information about institutions that give back to military service members.

Our Meliora Challenge Campaign hit a milestone in crossing the $1 billion mark in November.  A commitment of more than $4 million from James Aquavella, professor of ophthalmology, pushed the Campaign past the historic mark and significantly closer to our $1.2 billion campaign goal.  Aquavella, a clinician and researcher in the University’s Flaum Eye Institute, made the gift in memory of his late wife, Kay, who was a nurse and administrator dedicated to the establishment of the Institute.  The University now joins a group of 29 private U.S. colleges and universities to exceed $1 billion in campaign fundraising.

The Omega Laser Facility, the national user facility for the National Nuclear Security Administration that is located and operated at the University’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), conducted its 25,000th experiment this fall to create and study extreme states of matter. The 25,000th experiment was designed to study the properties of liquid deuterium at high pressure, which will help scientists figure out how to make fusion work in the laboratory and what is happening in the interior of giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn.

Several of our faculty members received notable recognition throughout the fall semester.

Richard Aslin, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, whose theory of “statistical learning” has influenced the field of cognitive science, has been selected for the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association.

Richard Eisenberg, the Tracy Hyde Harris Professor of Chemistry, received the 2013 Oesper Award from the Cincinnati Section of the American Chemical Society.  The award recognizes a lifetime of significant accomplishments in the field of chemistry.

Vera Gorbunova, professor of biology, is the recipient of the Longevity Research Award for her research to better understand the mechanisms of aging.  The award is sponsored by the Associations de Prevoyance Sante and Allianz Group.

Alex Iosevich, professor of mathematics, has been named a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.  The fellowships recognize members who have made outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication, and utilization of mathematics.

Steven Laitz, professor of music theory at the Eastman School, has been named director of the Gail Boyd de Stwolinski Center for Music Theory Pedagogy.  He becomes only the second director of the center, which was founded in 1985 at the University of Oklahoma. 

Vasilii Petrenko, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, is one of 16 researchers nationwide to be awarded a David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowship for Science and Engineering.  He will use the grant to analyze carbon monoxide in ancient air trapped in glacial ice of Greenland and Antarctica in an effort to better understand the extent to which human activity has altered the chemical state of the atmosphere.

Ching Tang, professor of chemical engineering, was honored on two continents for his pioneering work on organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, which are expected to become a dominant technology for flat-screen displays.  The Eduard Rhein Foundation of Germany presented Tang with its technology award for “inventing the first highly efficient organic light-emitting diode and further contributions to the development of organic semiconductor devices.”  The Consumer Electronics Association also inducted Tang and OLED coinventor Steven Van Slyk into its Hall of Fame for their “pioneering work.”

Professors Bonnie Meguid, Anne Meredith, and John Michael were honored with the University’s 2013 Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Our community was deeply saddened this fall by the death of Doug Lowry, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music, a remarkable composer, conductor and teacher.  Doug’s artistry and vision in mapping pathways for music education in the 21st century helped to shape the School’s reputation as an international leader. 

We were also saddened by the death of Tatiana Tchekina, pianist and assistant professor of accompanying and wife of Professor of Violin Oleh Krysa, who died December 7 in a fatal automobile accident.  She will be missed as a great musician and a talented member of our faculty and community.

Walter Oi, the Elmer B. Milliman Professor Emeritus of Economics, who played a consequential role in ending the military draft in the 1970s, died in December at 84.  Oi made many lasting contributions to economics and public policy and also to our community.

In December, seven Eastman School of Music alumni received Grammy nominations.  Scott Healy was nominated for Best Instrumental Composition for “Koko on the Boulevard,” a track from the Scott Healy Ensemble’s recording Hudson City Suite on Hudson City Records.  John Hollenbeck was nominated for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists for “The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress” from the recoding collection Songs I Like a Lot.  Bob Ludwig is up for three Grammys: he was the mastering engineer for Daft Punk’s Album Random Access Memories, up for Album of the Year; Get Lucky by Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams, nominated for Record of the Year; and Annie Up, which is up for Best Engineered Album Non-Classical.  Maria Schneider was nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for the song cycle “Winter Morning Walks” from the Artists Share album Winter Morning Walks.  The David Slonaker Bib Band is up for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for the group’s recording Intrada on Origin Records.  Martha Cluver and Eric Dudley are members of the vocal group Roomful of Teeth, which was nominated for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.  Winners of the 56th Annual Grammy Awards will be announced on January 26, 2014.

Our athletic teams had very strong showings this fall.

Five fall sports teams were ranked nationally: field hockey, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s soccer.

Junior Alex Swanger of men’s soccer collected accolades as easily as he collected goals. He was the UAA Player of the Year, an NSCAA All-American, a Capital One Academic All-American, and an NSCAA Scholar-All-American.He is the sixth Rochester men’s soccer player to earn Academic All-America honors since 1994.

Women’s swimming and diving won the Liberty League title for the fifth straight year.  Junior Lauren Bailey repeated as Liberty League Female Swimmer of the Meet.

We will have a very exciting spring semester.  Let me highlight a few of many scheduled events.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, the outgoing president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will deliver the University of Rochester’s 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address on Friday, Jan. 24. The free talk begins at 6 p.m. in Strong Auditorium on the River Campus.

On February 4, we will host a Presidential Symposium on Revitalizing K-12 Education Rochester.  The program will address the state of Rochester’s schools and the challenges we face as a community as well as alternative approaches to improve urban education.

Violin virtuoso and classical music icon Itzhak Perlman will visit Rochester to perform with Eastman’s Philharmonia orchestra under conductor Neil Varon on February 22 in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

On March 19, the Eastman School of Music and WXXI will bring National Public Radio’s From the Top Live with Host Christopher O’Riley to town to record at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.  The program will feature world-renowned flutist Sir James Galway, young musicians from across the country, and eligible artists from the Greater Rochester area.

On March 28, the University will host our fifth annual University-wide diversity conference, “Crossroads: An Opportunity for Progress.”  Columbia University President Lee Bollinger will provide the keynote address.

The Simon School of Business will host its fifth annual New York City Conference on May 8.

It is a joy to welcome everyone back and to offer best wishes for an inspiring new year and exciting spring semester.  We are a University on the move, where teaching and learning are valued, supporting the whole student is cherished, discourse between faculty and students is robust, and the ambition and idealism of our campus is prized.