Skip to main content

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

A Fresh Vantage Point on Rensselaer

October, 2013
Russell Sage Dining Hall Banquet Room

Remarks at 2013 Rensselaer Alumni Association Awards Ceremony

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D. President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Thank you for inviting me to join you on this special occasion. I am very pleased to help you honor the accomplishments of those alumni and alumnae whose service offers an important example for our current students—and a standard everyone in the Rensselaer family strives to live up to.

I also am pleased to welcome all of you back to the Troy campus for Reunion & Homecoming Weekend. We have worked hard to provide you with a multitude of exciting activities to participate in, and I am certain that you will enjoy them.

One of the highlights of the weekend, of course, is the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony tomorrow. In celebration of this occasion, we have brought a Ferris Wheel to the East Campus Athletic Village—the invention of Hall of Fame member George W. G. Ferris of the Class of 1881.

For those thrill seekers who ride the Ferris Wheel, the top offers a fresh vantage point from which to view Rensselaer and the surrounding community. I hope none of you will be too scared to open your eyes—given the quality of Rensselaer engineering, there is nothing to fear. And the scenery below certainly is worth a quick peek.

You will see an Institute that has experienced an extraordinary transformation under The Rensselaer Plan. As you know, working together, we have put into place new platforms such as the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and our Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. These landmarks, impressive as they are, are merely the signposts of the people, programs, and partnerships we also have put in place to advance Rensselaer. In concert, they have been foundational in reshaping Rensselaer into a world-class technological research university.

Now, with our bicentennial less than 11 years away, we are implementing our second generation blueprint, The Rensselaer Plan 2024. With this plan, a plan you helped to shape, we shift gears from transforming Rensselaer, to making Rensselaer a transformative force in the lives of our students, our pedagogy, and in the global impact of our research.

A number of global challenges have emerged in high relief in recent years surrounding energy, water, and food security; human health; national security; climate impacts; and the intelligent management of scarce natural resources. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has much to contribute here, and our research efforts are directed toward these issues.

However, to address these grand challenges, we must summon a great deal of focus, new resources, new collaborations across our diverse communities—and your continuing advice and support.

As we look ahead to a new capital campaign, I am confident that we can make Rensselaer even more of a global force than it is today. I look forward to working with you, as Rensselaer works to change the world.This evening, I have the distinct pleasure of presenting the 2013 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. Created by the Rensselaer Alumni Association Board of Trustees, this award recognizes service of the highest order to Rensselaer, to a profession, to the nation, and to humanity.

Since the founding of this award, the Rensselaer Alumni Association has honored 44 exemplary alumni and alumnae, and friends of Rensselaer. I am very pleased to recognize those past recipients who are with us this evening:

  • Neal Barton ’58
  • Howard Blitman ’50
  • Glenn Brown ’54
  • Nancy DeLoye Fitzroy ’49
  • Nick Donofrio ’67
  • Dave Haviland ’64
  • Paul Severino ’69, and
  • Sam Wait ’53.

Now, please join me in welcoming our 2013 Distinguished Service Award honoree, Paula Loring Simon.

Paula, if you would please join us on the stage.

Rensselaer is privileged to call Trustee Paula Loring Simon of the Class of 1968 one of its own. As Secretary of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees, she consistently offers us thoughtful leadership and generously gives her time to Rensselaer whenever we call upon her. She also is a loyal, generous donor to Rensselaer, having endowed a scholarship, as well as contributing to the Annual Fund and other programs. Her encouragement at every step of the transformational journey that Rensselaer embarked upon more than 14 years ago with The Rensselaer Plan has helped us to become the extraordinary technological research university that we are today.

Paula first came to campus as a member of an elite group of teenagers who had been awarded the Rensselaer Medal, as the strongest science and mathematics students in their high schools. In addition to maintaining high grades as an undergraduate, Paula was very active on campus as a member of Tau Beta Pi, the Rensselaer Orchestra, RPI-Sage Hillel, the RPI Cheerleaders, and the RPI Players.

After graduating cum laude from Rensselaer in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Paula continued her studies, earning a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois in 1969 and a Master of Business Administration at Boston University in 1977. Paula began a rich and varied career in information technology as a member of the technical staff at Honeywell. She went on to serve in leadership positions at organizations that included Cushman & Wakefield, Dow Jones Telerate, MetLife, and the Municipal Bond Insurance Association—helping to set the standard for information technology services within the financial services industry.

In 2000, Paula decided to offer her experience and skills to the non-profit world by joining the Wildlife Conservation Society as Chief Technology Officer, where she set strategic direction and oversaw the creation of modern systems and infrastructure. Paula then served in a similar role at Central Synagogue, one of the largest Jewish congregations in North America, and the oldest synagogue in New York City in continuous use.

Throughout her career, Paula has been a steadfast champion of women in the engineering and technical professions. It was during her undergraduate years at Rensselaer that she first became a member of the Society of Women Engineers. This membership spurred a lifelong commitment to the organization, which included her service as National President from 1978 to 1979 and Trustee from 1989 to 1992. To offer opportunities to talented young women at Rensselaer, she established the Paula Loring Simon ’68 Scholarship in 1994 for female students enrolled in Information Technology, pursuing a secondary discipline in the School of Engineering.

One would be hard pressed to find a more devoted alumna than Paula Loring Simon. A Rensselaer Trustee since 1996, Paula has been Board Secretary since 2007. Among her many commitments to Rensselaer, she was the first alumna to serve as President of the Rensselaer Alumni Association, and continues her involvement with many committees, including serving as Class Officer for the Class of 1968. She also has been an integral part of the Westchester and New York City chapters of the Rensselaer Alumni Association, assisting with a multitude of events and programs, including an extremely popular behind-the-scenes tour of the Bronx Zoo. A longtime volunteer for the Rensselaer Annual Fund, Paula was awarded the Albert Fox Demers Medal in 1996, and the Alumni Key Award in 1982. Paula and her husband Frank have been named to the Amos Eaton Society of Patroons because of their great generosity as donors.

The Rensselaer Alumni Association is honored to add the 2013 Distinguished Service Award to Paula’s long list of tributes from her grateful alma mater.

Once again, we congratulate Paula and all of the others who were honored as part of tonight’s celebration. This evening has been a wonderful way to begin what is sure to be an exceptional weekend, filled with a variety of events throughout the Troy campus and the greater community. To end our evening and to properly kick off Reunion & Homecoming Weekend, please join me in singing our alma mater:

Here’s to old RPI,
Her fame may never die.
Here’s to old Rensselaer,
She stands today without a peer.
Here’s to those olden days,
Here’s to those golden days.
Here’s to the friends we made at dear old RPI.