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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

SPAC Dinner

Category: Regional
July, 2019
Hall of Springs, Jazz Bar Patio
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Welcome, and thank you for joining us at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

I would like to take a moment to introduce the Institute leaders who are with us tonight—those who are deeply committed to making Rensselaer transformative in the world at large.

  • Rensselaer Trustee, Mr. Roy Davis of the Class of 1978 and his wife, Louise;

The members of my leadership team:

  • Provost Prabhat Hajela;
  • Mr. Craig Cook, Secretary of the Institute and General Counsel;
  • Mr. Graig Eastin, Vice President for Institute Advancement;
  • Ms. Barbara Hough, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer;
  • Ms. Richie Hunter, Vice President for Strategic Communications and External Relations;
  • Dr. Peter Konwerski, Vice President for Student Life;
  • Dr. Lee McElroy, Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics;
  • Mr. Curtis Powell, Vice President for Human Resources;
  • Mr. Claude Rounds, Vice President for Administration; and
  • Mr. Jonathan Wexler, Vice President for Enrollment Management.

Please allow me, also, to introduce our academic leadership:

  • Dr. Curt Breneman, Dean of the School of Science;
  • Mr. Evan Douglis, Dean of the School of Architecture;
  • Dr. Chanaka Edirisinghe, Acting Dean of the Lally School of Management;
  • Dr. Shekhar Garde, Dean of the School of Engineering; and
  • Dr. Keith Moo-Young, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education.


  •  Mr. Bruce Hunter, Executive Director for the Office of Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, New Ventures, and Emerging Ventures Ecosystem.

Lastly, I would like to introduce the wind beneath my wings: my husband, Dr. Morris Washington, Associate Director of the Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems.

On the celebratory opening night of its summer residency here at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, we are pleased to continue our longstanding tradition of being an event sponsor for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Like the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Rensselaer is proud to play a significant part in the enrichment of arts and culture in the Northeast.

Last October, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, or EMPAC, one of the most technologically advanced performing arts centers in the world, and home to our Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory. 

The unique capabilities of EMPAC have allowed artists-in-residence, Rensselaer faculty and students, and researchers in science and engineering, to turn their ideas into entirely original experiences, and scientific and technological advances.

EMPAC has helped to give life to projects in many domains, including video, dance, musical theater, internet art, interactive installations, intermedia art, and multimedia art. EMPAC has hosted groundbreaking artists, who have built bridges between the quantifiable—photons, sound waves, and digital data—and the unquantifiable—the sense of beauty, wonder, and mystery that the arts, and sciences, elicit in us.

It also has been central to research in cognitive science, data visualization, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and gamification, empowering exploration and serving as inspiration.

In addition to the 10th anniversary of EMPAC, we had another historic celebration last October—a landmark performance by the Rensselaer Orchestra at Carnegie Hall—to officially launch our Bachelor of Science in Music.

We always have attracted students who are exceptionally talented in music and the arts, as well as in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and we are making it increasingly possible for our students to combine these interests.

We have added three new minors in music—in music theory, music performance, and music technology. I also am pleased to announce that this April, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the Lally School of Management introduced a new dual degree program in Music and Management. 

This dual degree will enable students to cross boundaries between disciplines to discover and capitalize on new opportunities at the intersection of music, technology, and business.

We anticipate and look forward to more students pursuing dual degrees, combining their study of music with mathematics, computer science, engineering, architecture, and other disciplines, and we remain highly attuned to the opportunities created by emerging fields to continue expanding our academic offerings.

As The New Polytechnic, through our research, curriculum, and student life experience, we continue to find new ways to facilitate collaborative endeavors across disciplines, sectors, geographies, and generations—harnessing the most advanced tools and technologies to address the key intersecting global challenges and opportunities of our time.

To continue to lead in research, education, and technological innovation requires significant investment in the three pillars of our capital campaign, Transformative: Campaign for Global Change. These include:

  • Bridging the Gap between student financial need and the scholarships and fellowships we are able to provide—aid that enables the majority of our students to receive a Rensselaer education.
  • Endowing more professorships to attract and retain the best academic talent, and to expand our tenured and tenure-track faculty to 500 in critical areas of research and teaching; and
  • Physically and technologically upgrading and expanding our campuses, including building a new multidisciplinary Center for Science, expanding the Jonsson Engineering Center, completing phase two of the East Campus Athletic Village, and repurposing the ’87 Gym.

Many of you here have had the benefit of a Rensselaer education, and have been transformative in your lives and careers. I hope that you will continue to partner with us in support of the Transformative campaign, to ensure that the most inventive, ingenious, and dedicated young men and women from around the world continue to emanate from the classrooms, laboratories, and makerspaces of Rensselaer for generations to come.

For those of you who have sponsored and are currently engaged in raising funds for scholarships as part of our Coast to Coast East: Rensselaer Scholarship Dinner and Signature Concert Performance by Josh Groban to be held on October 5, 2019, I thank you for your commitment and your efforts. I hope all of you will join us for this extraordinary event.

On behalf of the entire Rensselaer community, please accept our heartfelt gratitude for your transformative support of the Institute. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize one couple, in particular, this evening: Frank Schafer of the Classes of 1955 and 1958, and his wife, Lois.

Lois and Frank are both Troy natives. At Rensselaer, Frank earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and his graduate degree in engineering management. Following graduation, Frank was hired by Procter & Gamble, where he enjoyed a 30-year career.

Even longer than Frank’s career is the number of years that he and Lois have made consecutive gifts to Rensselaer. For 38 years in a row, they have generously supported the Institute. Please join me in giving Lois and Frank a round of applause.

This evening, I have the great pleasure of welcoming Lois and Frank into the Stephen Van Rensselaer Society, whose membership reflects a lifetime giving to Rensselaer of one million dollars or more.

Frank and Lois, will you please join me?

Frank and Lois, I am pleased to present you with this certificate as an expression of our sincere gratitude for your generous philanthropy.

I hope all of you will join me back here following the performance for a post-event reception and an opportunity to meet Maestro Stéphane Denève, the Principal Guest Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Music Director of The Brussels Philharmonic, and Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony.