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2016 Garden Party Address



The terrible tragedy in Orlando just a few days ago touches all of us.  On behalf of the University of Rochester, yesterday I extended heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando.  There is no justification for violence of this kind whether based on sexual orientation, gender identity or any other cause.  Let me ask for a moment of silence to remember those who so needlessly lost their lives and with the hope that mutual respect, mutual trust and human decency increasingly will prevail.

For the University, this has been a year of extraordinary success.


In December 2015 the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Upstate Revitalization Initiative was awarded $500 million, effectively culminating five years of service by Danny Wegman and me as co-chairs of the Council.  The Upstate Revitalization Initiative was intended to support industry clusters in:


Optics, Photonics and Imaging,


Agriculture and Food Production, and


Next Generation Manufacturing and Technology

as well as key Rochester priorities such as:


Eastman Business Park and



Downtown Innovation Zone and


University priorities such as Data Science, the Laser Lab, and the Medical Center’s Neurorestoration initiative.


Subsequently, the Sibley Building, the largest building in Monroe County with more than one million square feet, including the University High Tech Rochester incubator, was awarded more than $40 million in federal tax credits, bringing its total funds raised to $110 million of the project’s overall $200 million budget.  Yesterday there was a brick laying ceremony for the renamed Sibley Square.


Construction on Wegmans Hall and the new Hajim Science and Engineering Quadrangle began last summer.  Wegmans Hall will be a 58,000 square foot, four story home to the Goergen Institute for Data Science that will be dedicated at the October 2016 Meliora Weekend and open for business in 2017.

[SLIDE 10]

This past summer we began renovations on the Frederick Douglass Building to provide improved dining facilities, more space for student organizations, and the home for the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center.  We anticipate that Douglass Hall renovations will welcome students when they return in August 2016.

[SLIDE 11]

We also broke ground this past summer on a new 90,000 square foot state-of-the-art building 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.

[SLIDE 12]

And within the last few days, the University committed to a construction schedule for a new residence hall overlooking our Brian F. Prince Athletic Complex.  The new hall will open in time for the academic year that begins in Fall 2017, house 151 first year students, and provide space for academic, athletic and student life.  Notably it will overlook our football stadium, providing the University of Rochester perhaps the finest box seats in college football!

[SLIDE 13]

On July 1, the University, acting through the Warner School, officially became the Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) of East High School and on September 8 the first East High School students under the University of Rochester-East High partnership began.

[SLIDE 14]

In April 2016, the Eastman School of Music announced that in November 2016 Renée Fleming will perform a new composition by Eastman alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts at Alice Tully Hall as part of the Eastman Philharmonia’s return to New York City for the first time in more than 25 years.  In September, Eastman announced that Renée Fleming had been appointed as a Distinguished Visiting Artist on an ongoing basis.

[SLIDE 15]

In April we announced the lineup for our most star studded Meliora celebration in our history, featuring Ken Burns, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Ben Folds, Tony Bennett, and Trevor Noah.

[SLIDE 16]

In May we announced that the Eastman School of Music has formed an alliance with the Gateways Music Festival, which features more than 100 musicians of African descent from around the nation under the artistic directorship of Lee Koonce.  Gateways, which has worked in tandem with the Eastman School on biennial festivals since 1995, will soon begin presenting an annual six day festival.

[SLIDE 17]

It was a year of outstanding faculty appointments, including John Foxe, a nationally recognized scientist in neurobiology who began on October 1, 2015 as Research Director at the Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute as well as Chair and Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Professor of Neuroscience.

[SLIDE 18]

Narayana Kocherlakota, who until early 2016 was the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, was appointed as the inaugural Lionel W. McKenzie Professor of Economics.

[SLIDE 19]

In late October, Lynne Maquat, the J. Lowell Orbison Distinguished Service Alumni Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, was a recipient of the prestigious 2015 Canada Gairdner Award for her research in RNA biology.  More than a quarter of earlier Gairdner Award recipients have subsequently won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

[SLIDE 20]

David Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics, Director of the Center for Visual Science, and Dean of Research in Arts, Sciences and Engineering, received Sigma Xi’s 2015 William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement, an award earlier bestowed upon Jane Goodall, Vannevar Bush, Margaret Mead, and Murray Gell-Mann.

[SLIDE 21]

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.”   Eastman Professor Paul O’Dette received a Grammy for Best Opera Recording.  Eastman alumnus Bob Ludwig won for Best Engineered Non-Classical Album.  Eastman Assistant Professor Nathan Laube 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.”

[SLIDE 22]

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 in Beijing beginning in August 2016.

[SLIDE 23]

By May 31, 2016, we had raised more than $1.35 billion in our Meliora Challenge campaign. We are now in the final 16 days of an 11 year campaign.  The consequences of the success of the Meliora Challenge are far reaching:

[SLIDE 24]

We have created 101 endowed professorships, nearly doubling the 107 endowed professorships we established during the first 155 years of our University.

[SLIDE 25]

The Meliora Challenge has provided $222 million in additional student support, with the two largest gifts in our Campaign designated for student scholarships.

[SLIDE 26]

The Campaign has galvanized lead gift support for $857 million of new or renovated facilities, including the Golisano Children’s Hospital, Rettner Hall, LeChase Hall, Eastman Theatre, the Wilmot Cancer Institute, the Saunders Research Building, Prince Athletic Complex, Goergen Hall, and Wegmans Hall.  Coordinate with these University projects has been the construction of College Town, Brooks Crossing, and the Interstate 390 interchange project.

[SLIDE 27]

The University of Rochester today is the largest private employer in Upstate New York and the sixth largest private employer in New York State overall with 28,617 total employees.  We are growing.  We added 1,796 total employees during the past year and more than 5,000 employees over the last five years.  The University is directly and indirectly responsible for supporting an estimated 56,300 jobs in the greater Rochester community.

[SLIDE 28]

We are one of the nation’s leading research institutions with more than $380 million in total sponsored research awards in 2015, up more than 8 percent from the previous fiscal year.

[SLIDE 29]

This May Ed Hajim stepped down as Board chair, after eight remarkable years, and was succeeded by Danny Wegman.  Danny has served as University Trustee for more than 15 years and has for decades led one of the most extraordinary private businesses in the country.

[SLIDE 30]

What I want to address today is the Future of Rochester.  Few topics are of greater significance to our City and the University.  Throughout our 166 year history, the University of Rochester has been committed to the success of the greater Rochester community.  Our futures are inextricably linked.  Join me in envisioning the Rochester of which we dream ten years from now.

[SLIDE 31]

Rochester in ten years can be a city of optimism and hope with its population growing, a revitalized downtown, including substantially expanded residential real estate, retail, and increased job growth led by Rochester’s innovation corridor.  Our recent graduates and our young professionals increasingly will be staying in Rochester.  We will be “cool.”  We will be “fun.”

[SLIDE 32]

Catalytic steps forward will be based on the $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative support from Governor Cuomo and the New York legislature and the AIM Photonics consortium which in aggregate has secured more than $600 million in Department of Defense, state government, and private support for investment in photonics throughout the nation.

[SLIDE 33]

Eastman Business Park will have been transformed from its near-death experience a few years ago into an international hub of technological innovation in fields such as alternative energy, food production, advanced manufacturing, and next generation technologies.

[SLIDE 34]

Underlying this progress will be one of the nation’s most successful efforts to address severe poverty and our City’s failing K-12 system.  City neighborhoods plagued by poverty and crime will be transformed through the coordination of social services, revitalized public schools, youth programs, and new business activity.  Critical to these efforts will be the success of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative.

[SLIDE 35]

Rochester’s future will be highlighted by a sustained effort at job creation, not just in our suburbs, but also in the City’s core.  This will not happen by accident and will require a high degree of coordination among the State, City, and County with new and existing industry, academic institutions, and social services.

Job creation in Rochester will be notable for its completeness.  We will increase economic success for all who live in our City at every level of education and experience.

[SLIDE 36]

This future can happen.  It won’t be easy.  It is not guaranteed.  But for the first time in decades, there is well grounded cause for optimism about where our City and indeed our region are heading.  The Greater Rochester Metropolitan Area has added 25,000 jobs in the last five years.  Unemployment stands at 4.7 percent, the lowest rate in eight years.  New companies are relocating to the region and existing companies are expanding.

[SLIDE 37]

How do we make this future for Rochester a reality?  In order to understand where we are going, let us first understand how we came to our current state.

[SLIDE 38]

For much of the 20th century, Rochester was one of the nation’s major manufacturing hubs.  With a population of 324,975 in 1940, Rochester was the 23rd largest city in the United States, home to Eastman Kodak, Bausch + Lomb, and Western Union – companies whose products and services were known throughout the world.

[SLIDE 39]

The 1930s and 1940s represented a high water mark of the city’s population.  Rochester’s decline accelerated in the 1960s when our population began to shift from the City to the suburbs.  Despite these trends, companies continued to invest in Rochester well into the 1960s and 1970s,

[SLIDE 40]

with the construction of such projects as Midtown Plaza, Xerox Tower, and Chase Tower.  Rochester’s leading employers continued to thrive, with employment at Kodak reaching 60,400 in Rochester in 1982.

[SLIDE 41]

But the subsequent decline of our manufacturing took an enormous toll.  For a sustained period we have experienced what has felt like incessant economic decay. Today the city’s population stands at 210,358, placing Rochester outside of the top 100 largest U.S. cities.  Kodak’s employment in Rochester now is approximately 2,000.

[SLIDE 42]

The economic and social consequences for many of the residents of Rochester have been devastating.  Rochester now has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation and some of the worst performing schools in the state.

[SLIDE 43]

These conditions in Rochester stand in stark contrast to the economic vitality in Rochester’s suburbs and in much of the Finger Lakes region.  Ours is a tale of two cities – a decaying urban core marked by poverty, failing schools and crumbling neighborhoods surrounded by flourishing suburban communities with growing economic opportunity and some of the best public and private schools in the nation.

[SLIDE 44]

Rochester and the region now have reached a decisive moment in our history.  The region has come together in ways that are unprecedented, with public, private, and community groups working more effectively in concert than during any recent time.  The region’s success in the Upstate Revitalization Initiative and in the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative are strong evidence of this unprecedented cooperation.

The Regional Economic Development Council Initiative, the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, and Rochester’s designation as the headquarters for the AIM Photonics Initiative collectively represent as much as $7 billion in potential public and private investment in our region during the next few years.

[SLIDE 45]

These investments will accelerate the City and the region’s transformation to a diversified 21st century knowledge based economy.  We today possess a strong foundation for future economic growth:

[SLIDE 46]

A culture of entrepreneurship dating back to George Eastman, Joseph Wilson, and Hiram Sibley.

Today that ethos is continued by people like

[SLIDE 47]

Tom Golisano, Danny Wegman, Richard and Robert Sands, and countless other individuals who are building new companies, both large and small;

[SLIDE 48]

National leadership in key areas of future economic growth, such as optics, photonics, and imaging, food production, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, and energy storage and innovation;

[SLIDE 49]

A pipeline of technological innovation led by research at the University of Rochester and RIT – as measured by patents issued per capita, patent royalties, and sponsored research today in the hundreds of millions.

[SLIDE 50]

One of the most highly skilled workforces in the nation – evidenced by per capita degrees in engineering, science, and technology.

[SLIDE 51-53]

But progress is not assured. The City of Rochester faces three fundamental challenges that must be effectively addressed to ensure out transformation:  First, revitalizing Rochester’s economy.  Second, fixing a broken K-12 education system.  And third, substantially reducing urban poverty.

[SLIDE 54]

First, revitalizing Rochester’s economy.  Monroe County and the Finger Lakes region will not fully succeed without a vibrant urban core.  We have begun to make significant progress in our region.  We have far to go in the City of Rochester.

After decades of neglect and the flight of residents and businesses to the suburbs, downtown Rochester is starting to come back.  More than $840 million in real estate development is under way or planned in downtown Rochester, including:

[SLIDE 55]

The Sibley Building, the largest building in Monroe County, located at the heart of Main Street, has begun a comprehensive restoration that will include office, mixed-income residential, and retail space.  The building will be home to the University of Rochester’s High Tech Rochester’s new downtown incubator, RIT’s start-up and business incubation activities, and AIM Photonics’ workforce development efforts.

[SLIDE 56]

Tower280 is completing a $59 million restoration that will convert the former Midtown Tower into 179 residential units, two floors of office space, and ground floor retail space.  The first residents began moving in earlier this year, and Bergmann Associates has announced that it will lease the 55,000 square foot second floor of the building.

[SLIDE 57]

The Metropolitan, formerly Chase Tower, is undergoing a $35 million conversion to 140 residential units, along with retail and office space, with the first residential tenants expected to move in this spring.

[SLIDE 58]

The former Rochester Savings Bank building has been converted to house RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship.  The 47,000 square foot facility that houses incubation activities and start-up companies began operations in 2012.

[SLIDE 59]

Monroe Community College is creating a $72 million downtown campus in the Kodak building on State Street, which will open in the fall of 2017.

[SLIDE 60]

The conversion of a portion of the Inner Loop from a vehicular thoroughfare to usable land will reconnect downtown to the East End and create six acres of developable land in the heart of the city.

[SLIDE 61]

As a consequence of these and other projects, the residential population of downtown Rochester has doubled to 6,000 since 2000 and is expected to exceed 10,000 within a few years.  This is a good start.  But with close to 50,000 people working in downtown and a millennial generation increasingly preferring urban neighborhoods where they can live, work, and play, there is opportunity for much more downtown residential growth.  These trends will be accelerated as more retail, more restaurants, and more entertainment locate downtown.

[SLIDE 62]

The new business incubators at or near the Sibley Building and the existing concentration of 100 companies classified as “creative class” or “innovative” inspired envisioning the Rochester Downtown Innovation Zone, a key initiative in our successful Upstate Revitalization Initiative plan.

[SLIDE 63]

The concept behind the Innovation Zone involves creating a geographic area where inventors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners can build relationships with researchers, experienced business owners, and venture capitalists and create new businesses that will grow and prosper.

[SLIDE 64]

Cities like Los Angeles, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh are models for Rochester.  These examples highlight a common set of conditions that help spur job creation within the urban core – including improving safety and security in order to draw in more businesses and real estate investments, incentivizing and attracting further commercial and retail activity, and improving common neighborhood infrastructure.  These examples also point to the need to concentrate revitalization efforts in a narrowly focused geographic and industry area and later expand from there.

[SLIDE 65]

The Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis, a bioscience and technology innovation district, for example, is the result of a focused and carefully managed effort over more than 15 years to attract new businesses and large anchor tenants.

[SLIDE 66]

The Downtown Innovation Zone is one of two major hubs for future economic growth located in Rochester.  The other is Eastman Business Park.  The revitalization of the Park is an example of how our community can build upon the legacy and assets of our industrial past and repurpose them for the future economic growth.

[SLIDE 67]

The vision for the Park is clear.  During the next 10 years, Eastman Business Park will become one of the nation’s premier locations for technological innovation and business creation.

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council designated Eastman Business Park as the region’s top priority for each of the past five years.  During these five years, New York State committed $100 million to the Park’s redevelopment and to support companies located there.  These efforts are already succeeding.  The Park is now home to 62 companies with a total of 4,500 employees. The majority of employees now at Eastman Business Park are not Kodak employees, and the number both of Kodak and non-Kodak employees likely will grow in the coming years.

[SLIDE 68]

For the City of Rochester to fully succeed, it also is essential that we connect more residents with the training programs that will provide them with the skills necessary to obtain employment and succeed.  This will not only enable more people to start a career, support their families, and lift themselves out of poverty, but it will provide businesses with the talent they need to grow.  For Rochester, job creation is not enough.  We need jobs that Rochester residents can fill.

[SLIDE 69]

If we are successful, these efforts could provide our region with an immediate economic return.  A 2014 survey by the Center for Governmental Research and Monroe Community College (MCC) estimated that there were 26,000 unfilled jobs in our region – primarily because employers could not find workers with the necessary skills and training.  This number will expand as more companies are attracted to Rochester in fields like photonics and advanced manufacturing.

[SLIDE 70]

Working with high school students, the city schools, and local employers, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, for example, has achieved great success in Rochester.  Ninety-three percent of the students in the program who are employed with job partners go on to graduate from high school.  This program works and should be expanded.

[SLIDE 71]

Monroe Community College is a national leader in the field of workforce development.  Two years ago, Vice President Joe Biden visited Rochester to showcase and celebrate the success of MCC’s Applied Technologies Center, which trains individuals in a wide range of industrial skills.

MCC is now establishing an industrial training center in Eastman Business Park that will work directly with the growing number of employers at the Park and beyond.

[SLIDE 72]

A significantly more daunting challenge is the revitalization of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.   While some of the city’s neighborhoods have undergone a renaissance in recent years, large areas in our city have experienced substantial decay.  These neighborhoods are punctuated with abandoned homes and storefronts, crumbling infrastructure, high crime rates, poor public transportation, failing schools, a lack of youth services, and concentrated poverty.

We should all feel a shared responsibility to support efforts to strengthen our inner city.  Ultimately a region is no stronger than its most struggling area.

[SLIDE 73]

But progress in Rochester should be led by those who live in Rochester.  Many of us feel empathy, want to offer support, feel we share the same objectives.  This is to the good.  But not all of us fully understand and feel what it means to be poor, discriminated against because of the color of your skin, or live in fear.

Progress in Rochester will depend on a conversation involving all of us.  The most essential voices are from people who live and work in Rochester.

[SLIDE 74]

Mayor Warren and the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative have proposed focusing initially on the Marketview Heights, Beechwood, and EMMA neighborhoods and have formed a non-profit called Connected Communities to manage revitalization efforts.  The University of Rochester is a member of the organization’s board of directors and has direct interest in this project, with University initiatives such as East High School and UR Medicine’s Culver Road Medical Group.

Job creation alone is not enough.  Employees also must have the ability to perform effectively in 21st century jobs.

[SLIDE 75]

Our second fundamental challenge is to fix the City’s K-12 education system.  The Rochester City School District is the lowest performing school district in upstate New York and has the lowest graduation rate among large school districts in the state.  While 45.5 percent of seniors in the City of Rochester School District graduated in 2015, only 33.3 percent graduated from East High School.  City schools like East are plagued with high rates of absenteeism and disciplinary problems.

The result is that Rochester students are trapped in a system that does not prepare them for college or a job and robs them of the future they deserve.

[SLIDE 76]

We know that shortfalls in education lead to lower earnings, poorer health, and higher rates of incarceration.  Improving school performance is a fundamental economic development issue.  A 2009 McKinsey Study, entitled The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools,showed that eliminating the achievement gap between black and Latino school performance and those of white students would increase United States Gross Domestic Product by $310 to $525 billion.  Other studies have shown that by raising academic achievement, we can reduce income inequality, improve race relations, and reduce crime.

Rochester is not the only city with struggling schools, and it is informative to look at the experience in other communities.

[SLIDE 77]

Massachusetts, for example, has been a national leader in the charter public school movement since the 1980s.  A 2009 study shows that charter schools in the state consistently outperform their counterparts in traditional district schools on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System and in graduation rates in the City of Boston.  The study also showed that charter schools effectively targeted underserved communities – enrollment consisted of 49 percent African American and 46 percent low income students – and credited the charter schools with increasing African American student performance.

[SLIDE 78]

The most prominent K-12 reform effort occurred in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education Joel Klein.

[SLIDE 79]

New York City underwent a massive restructuring of its school system, including centralizing the management structure, implementing a citywide curriculum, and investing in professional development for teachers. The City shut down dozens of failing schools and replaced them with new smaller schools, an effort supported by the Gates Foundation.  Students were given a choice of which school they wished to attend.  The reforms gave principals more control over their schools and fostered innovation.  While the changes were controversial, the results are impressive.  In seven years, the passing rate of fourth graders taking the state math test rose from 53 to 80 percent, and high school graduation rates rose from 45 to 62 percent, even in the face of more stringent graduation requirements.

[SLIDE 80]

These experiences provide some context to what the University of Rochester is attempting to achieve at Rochester’s East High School. With the support of the Rochester City School Board, the State Education Department, four unions, and the teachers and parents of East High School, we are operating under a special statute today as an Educational Partnership Organization, the equivalent to becoming the superintendent of East High School.  We began this past September implementing a transformative plan:

[SLIDE 81]

East High was separated into two schools, a Lower School consisting of grades 6 to 8, an Upper School consisting of grades 9-12, and a Freshman Academy.

[SLIDE 82]

School days were extended to 7.5 hours, with students in grades 6 to 9 receiving increased instruction in math and literacy.

[SLIDE 83]

Students are organized into family groups of 10 students who meet daily with faculty, staff, or administrative mentors.

[SLIDE 84]

Career and technical education programs have been expanded in partnership with local employers.

[SLIDE 85]

Over time, the student population at East High will be reduced in size from 1,600 to 1,200 students, with future admissions being made by student choice with priority given to students living in closest proximity to the school.

[SLIDE 86]

Our aspiration is to dramatically increase graduation rates for all students at East High School.

[SLIDE 87]

Under the leadership of East High School Superintendent Shaun Nelms, we are already seeing progress at East High.  Attendance rates are rising, suspensions are down by 72 percent from nearly 3,000 last year, and we have begun to see improvements in academic performance.

[SLIDE 88]

Progress will require a sustained commitment of resources as well as considerable humility.  We are listening to the faculty, students, and parents at East and are making adjustments to provide the most successful education at East High.  We believe that at the end of the day, the University of Rochester-East High School initiative may serve as a model for revitalizing schools in Rochester and across the nation.

[SLIDE 89]

While East High School is a start, the problems of the City’s entire public school system are more complex.  Ultimately, we need to restructure the manner in which we educate all of the City’s children.

[SLIDE 90]

There is no single right system of providing K-12 education, whether it be traditional public schools, charter schools, or private or parochial schools. Each of these approaches has had successes and also has had failures.  We need to find a means to develop a Rochester approach to build a hybrid system that will incorporate the best of all of our existing types of schools into a coherent system.

This does not mean an attack on teachers or unions, but it does mean renegotiating fundamentally different labor contracts best aligned with the interests of providing effective education for all of the City’s school children.

[SLIDE 91]

It also means empowering local school principals and local parents to identify the most important needs of their students and children.  We are making progress at East High School by honestly identifying key deficits in learning – such as a substantial number of ninth grade students who read at second and third grade levels – and focusing on means to bring their ability up to levels where they can succeed.  We have to be honest that not all students seek an advanced college degree and develop increasing opportunities for technical education and connection to further workforce development.  We have to recognize the severe price that students in Rochester pay because of poverty, urban trauma, and the challenge that for many Rochester City School students English is not their first language.  These are hard problems, where progress can be made if we recognize the challenges involved and galvanize the resources to address them.

[SLIDE 92]

Above all else, we must recognize that the teachers and staff of schools such as those in Rochester are heroes who deserve our support and gratitude.

[SLIDE 93]

Recently, the University of Rochester announced the creation of the Center for Urban Education Success, which will address challenges in K-12 urban schools in Rochester and beyond.  The goal is to expand opportunities to apply quality research-based solutions at East and to leverage the knowledge gained at East to have greater reach in the revitalization of K-12 urban education regionally, nationally, and globally.  This new Center is led by Board Trustee Sandy Parker, former president and CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance, Steve Uebbing, who was the coordinator of our successful East High School plan and Warner School Dean Raffaella Borasi.

[SLIDE 94]

Our third fundamental challenge is closely linked to the deterioration of Rochester’s economy and our failing K-12 school system. Rochester is a city of severe and concentrated poverty.

The data are sobering.  Rochester leads the nation in households subsisting on half the federal poverty level.  Second only to Detroit, Rochester leads in child poverty, with half of all children impoverished and nearly two thirds receiving public assistance.  In many areas, poverty is deeply entrenched.  In the arc of neighborhoods along the City’s northern border, known as the Crescent, the median income is less than half that of the metropolitan area.

[SLIDE 95]

Last year, at the Governor’s initiative, the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, or RMAPI was formed.  RMAPI is co-chaired by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, and now Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.  It was convened by the United Way of Greater Rochester and is composed of more than 100 individuals representing Rochester schools, higher education, community and nonprofit organizations, healthcare, the business community, faith organizations, local government, and members of the community.  Dr. Leonard Brock, who grew up in one of the neighborhoods that forms Rochester’s crescent of poverty is the director of RMAPI.

RMAPI has set an ambitious goal:  Reduce poverty by 50 percent over the next 15 years.

[SLIDE 96]

In September 2015, RMAPI released its initial progress report, A Roadmap for Change.  The report identified three common themes:

  • The need to invest in and create stronger communities;
  • The need to have the difficult conversations about the role that structural racism plays in denying people opportunity and trapping them in poverty;
  • The need to understand and address the impact that trauma has on the lives of the poor.

RMAPI represents a courageous beginning.  We have far to go.

[SLIDE 97]

The success of these anti-poverty efforts will require a close coordination with economic development efforts.  The Finger Lakes Economic Development Council has designated $100 million of the region’s $500 million in Upstate Revitalization Initiative funds to anti-poverty and workforce development projects.  Our Council alone among the seven competitive councils made poverty reduction a core objective.

[SLIDE 98]

Last year, the City of Rochester partnered with IBM and its Smarter Cities Challenge initiative to help design a unified and efficient strategy to help lift more families out of poverty.  This is a critical imperative.  If we do not succeed in reducing the number of people living in poverty, we ultimately could have more people living in poverty in Rochester than there are in the workforce.

[SLIDE 99]

The IBM report, released in January of this year, is informative in identifying the key challenges and opportunities that the city and RMAPI must address.

  • The system of services that support the poor is fragmented, uncoordinated, and misaligned and results in too many people falling through the cracks.
  • We must address barriers that prevent the sharing of data among organizations to improve the coordination of services, measure impact, and drive accountability.
  • As currently designed, service programs tend to be reactive and not proactive.  Attention must also be paid to families that are at risk of falling into poverty.
  • And finally, we must tap into the unrealized potential of our neighborhoods and communities.

[SLIDE 100]

Tapping into the unrealized potential of our communities and neighborhoods is fundamental to what we are striving to achieve for Rochester.  The people who live in our communities possess the talent, the ideas, and the determination to create a brighter future for themselves and their families if part of a unified community effort.

[SLIDE 101]

Make no mistake.  Overcoming the City of Rochester’s challenges will require leadership and resources from our business leaders, from our elected officials, university and college leaders and faculty and from the state and our Governor.

[SLIDE 102]

It will also require the commitment, ingenuity, and hard work of those who have been the victims of history, geography, apathy, racism, demography, and economic trends beyond their control to lift their own communities out of poverty and demand a better education for their children.

[SLIDE 103]

The challenges that face our community are massive and will require that we work unrelentingly to overcome them.  But the level of collaboration we have witnessed over the last several years – whether it be among the 450 stakeholders and Work Group members that comprise the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council or the hundreds of members of the community who have rallied behind RMAPI – shows that we know how to be united and that we are determined not to let this once in a generation opportunity fail.

United we can succeed if each of us, including those here tonight, join in working to strengthen Rochester.  Our future can be transformed.  But our future also must be earned.  This will only occur if we listen to each other and work together as one community.

[SLIDE 104]

As the President of the largest employer in our region and the sixth largest private employer in New York State, I pledge the continued commitment of the University of Rochester to help make Rochester the city of which we dream

[SLIDE 105]

Success in urban revitalization will involve more than dreams.  The plans of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council were developed in partnership with the State of New York, the City of Rochester, Monroe County and city and county leaders throughout our region as well as business, labor and social leaders.  If this partnership continues to work together, we will not fail. The future of Rochester will be an inspiring one, based on our talent, our determination, our spirit of innovation.  But success requires all partners to remain fully committed to our future.  I am hopeful that this will occur.