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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer Alumni Association Awards Dinner

Category: University Events
October, 2017
Hilton Garden Inn

Rensselaer Alumni Association Awards Dinner

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

Welcome, Rensselaer ambassadors, members of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees and the Rensselaer Alumni Association (RAA) Board of Trustees, honored guests, and families, to the Rensselaer Alumni Association Awards Dinner.

We are so delighted to have all of you with us in Troy. Every one of you is here because you are a great champion of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The campaign we will launch tomorrow night is only possible because of your efforts.

Tomorrow, we will consider what we can accomplish, together, moving forward. First, however, this evening, we consider the remarkable legacy upon which we build.

The Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame was conceived in 1995 to honor Rensselaer graduates of particular distinction and achievement. Their fields of endeavor range from geology to botany, civil engineering to chemistry—from metallurgy, to architecture, acoustics, space science and exploration, industrial management, microbial genomics, and to the foundational technologies of our digital age.

Together, the members of our Alumni Hall of Fame have changed the world. Tonight, I have the privilege of inducting three new members into this illustrious group.

Alfred P. Boller of the Class of 1861 was one of the giants among the civil engineers who were responsible for the great progress in bridge building following the Civil War. Mr. Boller was an expert in steel construction and did much to advance the art of bridge design and construction in America. He pioneered the development of swing bridges, building them to record-setting lengths. He also designed the longest cantilever bridge and the longest simple span bridge.

An expert in foundations, as well, he served as chief engineer on the Manhattan Elevated Railroad and the structural contractor on revolutionary high-rise towers in New York City. In all of his work, he paid great attention to architectural details, and urged his colleagues to do the same.

He also was a leader in civic and professional organizations, and, I am proud to say, a past President of the Rensselaer Alumni Association.

Our next inductee is Harry H. Rousseau of the Class of 1891. Early in his career, Mr. Rousseau distinguished himself in the Navy Department Bureau of Yards and Docks, to the point that he was named the youngest chief of the bureau, a record to this day. His tenure as chief was short, however, because President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to serve as a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission in 1907, where he was one of the leaders in the construction and early management of the Panama Canal.

Initially overseeing a staff of 10,000, he became the invaluable assistant to the chief engineer, George Goethals. In 1911, Mr. Rousseau also was placed in charge of the design and construction of the canal terminals, including dry docks, piers, fuel oil plants, breakwaters, and floating cranes. Mr. Rousseau remained connected with the operations of the canal for the remainder of his life, far longer than anyone else associated with the project. For his service in the building of the Panama Canal, Mr. Rousseau was elevated from the rank of Commander to Rear Admiral in 1915 by special act of Congress.

We also honor Wesley A. Brown of the Class of 1951, who broke the color barrier at the U.S. Naval Academy, becoming its first African-American graduate in 1949. He was the sixth African-American to attend the Naval Academy, but the first to graduate. While the others left the school because they were ostracized and subjected to repeated acts of hazing and racism, Mr. Brown endured the harsh treatment with resilience and grace. Mr. Brown continued his education at Rensselaer, earning a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.

He served 20 years in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, overseeing the construction of military homes, roads, and power plants, followed by construction management positions with the State of New York and Howard University. In 2008, the Naval Academy named its new field house in his honor, the first facility at any U.S. service academy named for an African-American, celebrating Mr. Brown as a pioneer of racial justice. Throughout his life, Mr. Brown was a role model to many other members of underrepresented groups aspiring to equal opportunities in education, and in their professional lives.

Before we move on to the rest of our program, I would like to recognize a returning alumnus, here for his 50th-year reunion, who has done a tremendous amount to help people through the barriers broken by Wesley Brown: Dr. Reginald L. Amory of the Class of 1967. Dr. Amory is the first African-American to graduate with a doctorate in engineering from Rensselaer, and is a distinguished educator, as well as engineer. In his over two decades as Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at the historically black Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland—Morgan State has educated more African-American Bachelor of Science graduates in Civil Engineering, as well as more African-American doctoral holders in Civil Engineering than any other such program in the United States.

Distinguished Service Award Presentation

This evening, I have the distinct pleasure of presenting the 2017 Distinguished Service Award to one of the wisest leaders in Rensselaer history, and a great friend to many of us. The Distinguished Service Award is the highest award that the Rensselaer Alumni Association bestows. It was created in 1967 by the RAA Board of Trustees to recognize distinguished service by alumni or friends—to Rensselaer, to a profession, to the nation, or to humanity. One award is presented each year.

Since the founding of this award, the Rensselaer Alumni Association has honored 48 exemplary alumni, alumnae, and friends of Rensselaer. I am very pleased to recognize the past recipients of the Distinguished Service Award who are with us this evening. When I call your name, would you please stand and be recognized?

  • Mr. Howard Blitman, Class of 1950
  • Mr. Richard O. Bollam, Class of 1966
  • Mr. Glenn O. Brown, Class of 1954
  • Dr. Nancy DeLoye Fitzroy, Class of 1949
  • Mr. Gary T. DiCamillo, Class of 1973
  • Ms. Nancy S. Mueller
  • Mr. Roger P. Orloff, Class of 1960
  • Mr. Paul J. Severino, Class of 1969

Now, would the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, the Honorable Arthur J. Gajarsa of the Rensselaer Class of 1962, please join us on stage?

And now, I am delighted to read the citation that accompanies this honor:

Rensselaer is privileged to have a friend and champion as loyal, dedicated, and impassioned as The Honorable Arthur J. Gajarsa, and to call him one of our own. A longtime member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees and past board chair, Judge Gajarsa’s steadfast leadership, abiding spirit, and generosity epitomize the essence and values of our Rensselaer community.

As a longtime supporter of Rensselaer and its extraordinary mission, Judge Gajarsa was previously honored by the Rensselaer Alumni Association with its Albert Fox Demers Medal, the Fellows Award from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Alumni Key Award. He has been a member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees since 1994, and was Chair of the Board of Trustees from 2010 through 2016.

A tireless volunteer, Judge Gajarsa has devoted time to numerous other Rensselaer affiliations, including the Archer Center; the Technology Law & Commercialization Affinity; the Rensselaer Newman Foundation Board; the Rensselaer Council; the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Advisory Board; the Rensselaer New Century Campaign as co-city manager; the Alumni Hall of Fame Selection Committee; and the Patroon Gift Committee.

In representing the Institute in related capacities, he joined Rensselaer President Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson as a keynote speaker at the Empire State STEM Education Initiative Colloquy in 2009, and, as speaker and panelist, has freely shared his knowledge at the Rensselaer High Performance Computation Conference, Admissions Accepted Student Day, and the Rensselaer reception at the American Intellectual Property Law Association.

Judge Gajarsa’s enthusiastic support and unwavering philanthropic efforts make him a member of the Innovators Annual Patroon Gift Society, and the George M. Low ’48 Society of Patroons, which provides important financial support for Rensselaer students.

In the 55 years since his graduation from Rensselaer, Judge Gajarsa has enjoyed a long and successful career in the law and the federal judiciary. He also distinguished himself as a noted author and respected thought-leader. He was nominated to the Federal Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1996 by President Clinton, confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1997, and served for 15 years, retiring in June 2012. Currently, he is senior counsel in the Litigation/Controversy Department at WilmerHale.

Prior to his Federal Circuit appointment, Judge Gajarsa was a well-recognized litigator who also practiced corporate law, intellectual property law, securities law, and general litigation with various law firms as a partner or principal officer. He also served at the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and Department of Defense.

Judge Gajarsa received his bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer in 1962, a master’s in Economics from Catholic University of America in 1964, and a J.D. from Georgetown University in 1967. A member of Zeta Psi Fraternity, he is also an honorary member of Phalanx, Rensselaer’s student leadership honor society.

Judge Gajarsa’s considerable volunteer contributions extend beyond his deep dedication to Rensselaer. He served on the Georgetown University Board of Regents from 1995 through 2000, and the Board of Directors from 2000 through 2006. As a member of the Board of Directors, he served on the Executive Committee for 4 years, the Academic Committee for 6 years, and was chairman of the Audit Committee and the Committee on Law Center Affairs. Judge Gajarsa presently serves on the Georgetown University Law Center’s Board of Visitors, a role he has had since 2007. He was President of the Board of the National Italian American Foundation from 1989 to 1992, and Vice Chairman from 1992 to 1995. Serving on the corporate and advisory board of Outward Bound USA from 1986 to 2001, he chaired its Environmental Committee from 1992 to 1996.

Judge Gajarsa’s additional honors include the Outward Bound Carabiner Award in 1986 and 1992, the John F. Kennedy American Heritage Award in 1974, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1958. He was awarded the Order of Commendatore Medal by the Republic of Italy in 1995.

For his enduring commitment, indefatigable leadership, and abundant support, the Rensselaer Alumni Association is honored to present the Distinguished Service Award to The Honorable Arthur J. Gajarsa.

Congratulations, Judge Gajarsa, on this well-deserved honor.

Now, so that all of us can properly kick off Reunion & Homecoming weekend, and the Capital Campaign we are about to launch, I ask that all of you please join me in the singing of the Alma Mater…

Here's to old R.P.I. 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 R.P.I.