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We Did It: The Meliora Challenge

To:        To the University Family
From:    Joel Seligman
Re:        We Did It

We did it. The Meliora Challenge capital campaign concluded on June 30, 2016 and preliminary results indicate that the Campaign has raised more than $1.368 billion, some 14 percent above our initial $1.2 billion stretch goal, based in part on a fantastic concluding year in which the University received more than $142 million in new commitments and $115 million in cash. This meant that during the Campaign we added 103 endowed professorships, deanships and directorships; provided more than $225 million in student support; galvanized more than $857 million in construction thanks to $129 million of lead gifts; tripled annual giving with more than $15.2 million in this past year and created the remarkable George Eastman Circle, now with 3,300 members.

I cannot overstate my gratitude to all in the University family who supported our University, starting with three Board chairs with whom I have worked – Bob Witmer, Ed Hajim and Danny Wegman – and a remarkably generous and committed Board, so many of whom worked on Strategic Planning, especially including Board leadership, initially led by Bob Goergen; the amazing efforts of our Deans and Medical Center leadership and the hundreds of faculty, alumni and students who participated in developing our 2008-2013 and 2013-2018 strategic plans. Not since 1924 has this University had a comprehensive capital campaign; this one worked so well because of the constellation of volunteer leadership, starting with Campaign Co-Chairs Rich Handler and Cathy Minehan and the vital efforts of Larry Bloch, Phil Saunders, Rick Aab, Tom Sloan, Gwen Greene, Nathan Moser, Janice Willett, Nancy Lieberman, our entire Campaign Cabinet, and the National Councils, Regional Cabinets, GEC councils, and the hundreds of other volunteer leaders who helped lead this historic effort. A particularly hearty thanks to University stalwarts in our seven Schools, our hospitals, the Memorial Art Gallery, the Laser Lab and the Eastman Institute for Oral Health. You did it – all of you, by working together as a remarkable team.

We now can build on our momentum and enthusiasm, with pathbreaking initiatives during the next five years in Data Science, Neuromedicine and Neuroscience, the Humanities and the Performing Arts, and the University’s Role in the Community. This will be the focus of our University and School planning work this year.

We will build on a number of vital strengths.

Our fundamental commitment to diversity was endorsed by the United States Supreme Court on June 23, 2016 in Fisher v. University of Texas with Justice Kennedy memorably writing for the 4-3 majority, “enrolling a diverse student body promotes cross-racial understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes, and enables students to better understand persons of different races. Equally important, student body diversity promotes learning outcomes, and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.”

The University of Rochester has actively pursued diversity for these and other educational reasons for a considerable period. We agree with the Supreme Court majority that diversity is not about numbers – but about honest conversation, high standards and listening to each other. For these reasons, Fisher is a vital case that will give this and all other United States universities the opportunity to best prepare our students for the 21st century.

Separately, the University’s economic impact is growing in size and reach, according to a new report by the Center for Governmental Research. The University now is the region’s largest employer with 28,617 full and part time employees, the sixth largest private sector employer in the state, and the largest private employer in upstate New York. Last year alone, the University added 1,796 total employees. The CGR study found that the University is responsible for generating approximately 56,000 jobs and $3.2 billion in total annual wages across New York State.

On campus, much is happening. Construction of Wegmans Hall and the new Hajim Science and Engineering Quadrangle will be completed in the 2016-2017 academic year. Wegmans Hall will be a 58,000 square foot, four story home to the Goergen Institute for Data Science and will be dedicated at the October 2016 Meliora Weekend.

Last summer we began renovations on the Frederick Douglass Building that will offer significant social and educational benefits for the community. The renovated building will become another major student hub on campus with new dedicated student gathering space, a state-of-the-art dining facility and a home for the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center. We anticipate that the new Douglass Building will open early in the next academic year.

Construction of Evans Lam Square in the Rush Rhees Library started in May 2016, and will be completed in August. Evans Lam Square will foster exploration, research, and discovery to support students’ curricular ambitions, and will be dedicated on Wednesday, October 5, 2016.

Construction is also under way on a 90,000 square foot facility for imaging sciences and complex pediatric care on East River Road to provide the region’s first outpatient interventional radiology clinic and the region’s first standalone clinic for the integrated care of autism – the William and Mildred Levine Autism Clinic. The clinic will be co-located with neurology, behavioral and mental health programs for children and is expected to be complete in early 2017.

In May, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering Peter Lennie announced that Wendi Heinzelman, dean of graduate studies for Arts, Sciences and Engineering, and professor of electrical and computer engineering, would succeed Rob Clark as dean of the Hajim School on July 1. Wendi is a researcher of international distinction, an award-winning teacher and proven administrator. Rob began his new role as Provost also on July 1.

In May, Kathy Rideout was reappointed to a five year term as dean of the School of Nursing. She was also honored with a Presidential Diversity Award. The School of Nursing climbed 10 spots to number 25 in the annual rankings of research funding from the National Institutes of Health, having received approximately $9 million in funding from the NIH in the past two years for several pathbreaking research projects.

In June, the Warner School announced the creation of the Center for Urban Education Success. Coordinate with our partnership with East High School, the Center will bring together the Warner School’s educational programs, community outreach, research about urban schools, and the University’s work at East to aid in the revitalization of K-12 urban education regionally, nationally, and globally.

Renée Fleming was appointed last year as the Eastman School’s first Distinguished Visiting Artist. In November 2016, she will perform a new composition by Eastman alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts in Rochester and also at Alice Tully Hall in New York City as part of the Eastman Philharmonia’s return to New York City for the first time in more than 25 years.

In May we announced that Eastman has formed an alliance with the Gateways Music Festival to strengthen diversity in classical music by presenting an annual six day festival featuring more than 100 musicians of African descent from around the nation. Eastman has hired alumnus Lee Koonce to serve as a Senior Advisor to the Dean and as President and Artistic Director of the Festival. Eastman and Gateways have partnered on a biennial basis since 1995.

Nearly 16,460 students applied for admission to the College, and we expect 1,315 to enroll in the fall. The average high school GPA is 3.8 and average two-score equivalent SAT is 1394, up 90 points since 2005, or an increase from the 87th to the 96th percentile, a stunning achievement. Underrepresented minority students will comprise 14.8 percent of the entering class and international students 27 percent.

Our outstanding faculty, students and alumni deserve special kudos for our continued progress.

Dr. David Linehan, Chair of Surgery at the Medical Center and the Seymour I. Schwartz Professor in Surgery, for example, has demonstrated that an experimental immune-stimulating therapy coupled with chemotherapy can control pancreatic tumors well enough to make patients eligible for surgery. The percentage of patients who responded to the drug was nearly double the percentage of patients who responded to chemotherapy alone, creating new hope for patients with cancer that has spread locally.

Dr. Charles Thornton, the Saunders Family Distinguished Professor in Neuromuscular Research, received a Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from NIH to further his research on muscular dystrophy. The coveted award provides seven years of uninterrupted funding to scientists who have demonstrated “exceptional scientific excellence and productivity” in their field.

Dr. Nancy Bennett, director of the Center for Community Health, has been appointed chair of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices which recommends to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination strategies to control diseases in the U.S. population.

Dr. Hartmut “Hucky” Land, the Robert and Dorothy Markin Professor of Biomedical Genetics, received a newly established multimillion dollar award from the National Cancer Institute that supports exceptional scientists with seven years of uninterrupted funding. The NCI Outstanding Investigator Award will advance his work to understand how common characteristics of different cancers can hold the key to targeted treatments.

In March, Susan B. Anthony Professor Joan Saab presented the inaugural Hagop and Artemis Nazerian Humanities Lecture established by Trustee Ani Gabrellian ’84 and Mark Gabrellian ’79 in honor of Ani’s parents’ belief in the benefits of a humanistic education. In this lecture, Professor Saab explored a series of visual hoaxes in their relationship to new forms of technology in the 19th century to demonstrate how people’s ideas of what they could see called into question what was real and what was not.

School of Nursing Professor LaRon Nelson was among a select group of researchers, program directors and community leaders invited to participate in a White House conference addressing HIV stigma in March. He met with other worldwide experts to discuss best practices for measuring and monitoring HIV stigma, as well as methods of intervention focused on stigma reduction in order to improve HIV patient outcomes.

Eastman alumna Maria Schneider won two Grammy Awards, for her album The Thompson Fields, chosen as Best Large Ensemble Album, and for Best Arrangement for her work on David Bowie’s “Sue,” a track from her album Nothing Has Changed. Professor Paul O’Dette received a Grammy for Best Opera Recording. Alumnus Bob Ludwig won for Best Engineered Non-Classical Album. Assistant Professor Nathan Laube in addition was a performer on an album selected as the Best Classical Compendium. Alumnus Charles Halloran was also featured in a recording that won for best regional roots music for the album “GoGo Juice.”

Ten students were awarded Fulbright scholarships: Alice Chen ’16 (Taiwan), Kate Cowell-Haskell ’16 (Bulgaria), Jennifer Dombroski ’16 (Germany), Dominic Giardino ’16 (Netherlands), Emmaline Heiken ’16 (Colombia), Bridget Kinneary ’15 (Germany), Madeleine Laitz ’16 (United Kingdom), Sarah Lamade ’16 (India), Bailey Paugh ’16 (Germany), and Katherine Tepper ’16 (Germany).

Jintian Li, a 2012 University of Rochester graduate, was chosen to be part of the inaugural class of Schwarzman Scholars, a program modeled on the Rhodes Scholarships, designed to create a one year master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing beginning in August 2016.

Two students, Ian Manzi ’18, a data science major from Kigali, and Derrick Murekezi ’19, a geology major from Nyagatare, were selected to receive a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace, a highly competitive national program that promotes peace and intercultural understanding. With the funding, the two students will plan, set up, and operate a young leaders’ peace camp for high school students, where camp-goers will reflect on Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

I began my first message to the University community on July 3, 2005 with the words: “The Campaign for the University of Rochester begins today.” I long believed that these were the most important words that I have written to the University family. There is an even more important sentence that I now can write: We are ready to ascend to The Next Level. We have proven that we can succeed in moving the trajectory of the University by coordinating strategic plans with communications and advancement. We did this together. Thank you to our extraordinary faculty, staff and students for your hard work and dedication. Thank you to our Board and volunteer leaders for your generous gifts of time, leadership, wisdom and treasure. Meliora.