University of Rochester

Rochester Review
January-February 2009
Vol. 71, No. 3

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Grounds for Optimism By Joel Seligman
photo of panelistsDISCUSSING ENERGY: Trustee and Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Chu ’70 (left), who has been appointed secretary of energy in the Obama administration, was a special guest for a Meliora Weekend 2006 panel discussion on issues facing the United States and other countries as the world’s appetite for carbon-based energy continues to grow. He was joined for the Presidential Symposium on Great Issues of the 21st Century by Susan Tierney, former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy; President Seligman; John Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard University and a past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and Hugo Sonnenschein ’61, a Rochester trustee and president emeritus of the University of Chicago.

As challenging as our economy is, I believe there are grounds for optimism for research universities such as the University of Rochester, which in past years have performed a vital role in this nation’s economic progress.

No one should minimize the human and social costs of our current economic emergency. But we are part of a nation with a history of honestly confronting our challenges and overcoming them. I believe that the economic development consequences of our nation’s research universities can be pivotal in our economic resurgence.

President-elect Obama has articulated priorities that are likely to strengthen the links between economic development and research universities. During his campaign:

Research universities in the post–World War II period have been leaders in science, engineering, and medicine, and have made possible innovations to address these types of global challenges. I am confident that universities like the University of Rochester will continue to be research leaders of the future.

All of us at the University of Rochester also are inspired by President-elect Obama’s appointment of Trustee and Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Chu ’70 to lead the U.S. Department of Energy. Steve is an uncommonly gifted scientist, administrator, and leader who has focused the work of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on the challenge of energy sustainability. He understands the challenges ahead of the nation and has articulated a vision that will help set the United States on a path that will reduce our dependence on carbon-based energy resources.

President-elect Obama has also named Heather Higginbottom ’94 as the deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, where she will help shape decisions on education, health care, college affordability, and other issues. A highly regarded advisor on Capitol Hill, Heather led Senator Obama’s team in crafting a proposal for a $4,000 tax credit for college costs for students who commit to completing 100 hours of national service.

We are also delighted that our government will include Chris Lee ’87 (R-NY), a Buffalo-area businessman who will represent Upstate’s 26th district in the House of Representatives. Chris brings the energy of a successful entrepreneur to address the issues facing the University as well as the nation.