Skip to main content

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Remarks at Patroon Brunch

Category: University Events
October, 2017
Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Greenspace

Patroon Brunch

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

It is my pleasure to welcome you to our annual Patroon and Donor Recognition Brunch, where we honor the greatest philanthropists in our midst.

It has been quite a weekend, has it not? Reunion & Homecoming always is one of my favorite times of year, because it brings together our entire community.

But this year—with the launch of “Transformative: The Campaign for Global Change”—the weekend has been particularly exciting. I would like to express my deep appreciation for the remarkable leadership of our campaign co-chairs, Kathleen M. Severino and Paul J. Severino of the Class of 1969, as well as those Trustees in attendance today.

I hope all of you had a chance yesterday to attend the lively panel discussion we had with four alumnae: all very powerful women in industry, who offered us fascinating insights about our theme for the year, “Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity.”

We intend to continue producing such leaders well into our third century. As you know, one of the most important pillars of the campaign we are launching is endowing more student scholarships, to help us bridge the gap between the financial need of our students and our ability to offer financial aid—because brilliance does not come exclusively in wealthy packages.

Of course, that gap would be larger if it were not for the people here this morning:

  • Our Annual Patroons, including some of our younger alumni and alumnae who have given at a leadership level,
  • Those of you who gave in honor of your reunion, and
  • Our Lifetime Patroons, some of whom have endowed scholarships, or supported our faculty chairs, or the education and student experience we offer in myriad ways.

I know that many of you were recipients of scholarships during your time at Rensselaer, and that you have made the inspiring decision to "pay it forward," and to help the young leaders of tomorrow finance their education.

Indeed, we are very proud of those young leaders. May I ask our scholarship recipients to stand for a moment, so we can honor them?

Thank you.

All of our students are here this morning to show their appreciation for the support that allows them to attend this great university. This support allows them to concentrate on their studies and gives them time to explore all of the amazing opportunities that Rensselaer offers.

I know that all of them are not only grateful to you—but proud to have been chosen to follow in your footsteps. They share your dreams.

They aspire to have careers as exciting as yours, and to have a positive impact on the world, the way you are. Someday, they may be Patroons, as well.

Our choice of the word “patroon” to honor our greatest donors, of course, hearkens back to our philanthropic founder, Stephen Van Rensselaer, the patroon of a vast inherited landholding known as Rensselaerswyck.

Though he was one of the very wealthiest Americans in the entire history of our nation, he employed his money and power vigorously to create a more dynamic and democratic society.

He understood the art of the “win-win”—that the best way to bring his land into successful cultivation, was to rent out that land on unusually favorable terms—thereby drawing tenant farmers without a lot of capital to his patroonship, and encouraging them to invest in their operations.

If you have not read the founding document he wrote about the Rensselaer School, I highly recommend it. His vision for Rensselaer also was about radically expanding access to education and opportunity for young people of all backgrounds, for the good of the nation.

He initially hoped that the Rensselaer School would educate teachers in great numbers, who could then pass on the scientific knowledge they garnered here to “the sons and daughters of farmers and mechanics.” In other words, to young people of modest means, and of both sexes, who would use this knowledge to improve agriculture, household management, the arts, and manufacturing—and build a raw, but resource-rich, young nation into a great power.

Indeed, his school did just that—and continues to build the physical, digital, and intellectual infrastructure of our nation, and the world.

Stephen Van Rensselaer was explicit that all should have the same opportunity to learn the application of science to the common purposes of life, writing, “It seems to comport better with the habits of our citizens, and the genius of our government, to place the advantages of useful improvement equally within the reach of all.”

Our modern-day Patroons also “place the advantages of useful improvement equally within the reach of all”—or at least, within the reach of students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, with just the right combination of staggering intellect, creativity, tenacity, and leadership to belong at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

And now, as we educate the next generation of inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs, architects, scientists, business leaders, and innovators, we launch a campaign that will allow us to be even more transformative in the world, and in the lives of talented young people.

It is through your continued engagement and commitment that we can, and will, change the world.

On behalf of the students, faculty, and staff of Rensselaer, I thank you for supporting us, as we strive to address great global challenges, shape the opportunities of the future, and offer the best possible education to the world-changers who will follow you.

And now I have the great pleasure of honoring the members of our Stephen Van Rensselaer Society, those whose lifetime giving is $1 million or more, and to present you with certificates expressing our gratitude. May I call each of you to the podium…

  • James E. Alden '58
  • Teresa A. and Mark M. Little '82
  • Nancy and Robert J. Lyons '50

Finally, I have the distinct honor of recognizing members of the 1824 Society, members whose lifetime giving is $10 million or more.

May I ask that Kathleen and Paul Severino please join me at the podium?

I would now ask that Cindi and Curtis R. Priem please join me at the podium.