University of Rochester

Joel Seligman Sets Priorities on First Day as President

July 1, 2005

University of Rochester President Joel Seligman launched his new administration today by outlining his priorities in a message to the full University community and by telling local media that he'll strive to be "the best possible neighbor to a great city and a great community."

In an e-mail message to faculty and staff, Seligman said that the University plans to lay the groundwork for a major capital campaign. He introduced James D. Thompson as Rochester's newly appointed senior vice president and chief advancement officer, who will lead the University-wide effort.

"Resources matter in higher education," said Seligman. "They are the lifeblood making it possible to attract and retain great faculty, create scholarships for students, build new programs, and extend existing programs. And for that reason, a capital campaign and ratcheting up our annual giving is of such consequence."

A news conference was one of several events in a packed first day for Seligman, the former dean of the law school at Washington University in St. Louis who last December was named Rochester's 10th president. Before he took questions, he told reporters: "I'm going to be a president . . . who works very hard to make this the strongest possible University I can, but (who) also recognizes I want to be the best possible neighbor to a great city and a great community. I look forward to working with the city and with the community in all appropriate aspects to strengthen our bonds."

In the morning, he met with Antonio M. Perez, chief executive officer and president of Eastman Kodak Company, and by mid-day had been driven by two University of Rochester undergraduates to a health center on Jefferson Avenue.

One of those students, J'mir Cousar, is assigned to the medical practice this summer, researching the needs of people lacking health care in Monroe County. He is one of 18 Rochester Urban Fellows in a program of work, study, and cultural and social involvement in the city. After a tour of Jefferson Avenue Family Medicine led by Cousar and Dr. William Bayer, Seligman joined all the Urban Fellows for lunch on campus.

In his written and spoken remarks, the new president paid tribute to the leadership of Thomas H. Jackson, who served as present from 1994 to 2005. "We build on considerable strength," Seligman said. "The legacy of Tom Jackson is that of a president who left the University considerably stronger than when he began."

Seligman described himself as a person who learns by listening, and he has already begun a "listening tour" involving each school and affiliated program. "I'm looking forward as rapidly as feasible to spending a lot of time visiting with people throughout the community as well as within this University in the months and years to come," he stated.