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Bold Action

The inauguration of Jackson as Rensselaer’s 18th president is an important milestone for both Jackson and the Institute. Jackson, the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT in any subject, one of the first two African-American women in the country to receive a doctorate in physics, and the first African-American and first woman to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is now the first African-American woman to lead a national research university.   

A crowd of approximately 3,000 attended the investiture Sept. 24 where she called for “new ideas, new ideals, and bold action.”   

Academics robed in a spectrum of colors filled the Field House—delegates representing more than 100 universities and learned societies from across the nation. Those bringing official greetings and congratulations included President Clinton’s science adviser, Neal Lane; State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno; Laurence Williams, HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations for the United Kingdom; National Academy of Engineering President William Wulf; MIT President Charles Vest; Edward Zander ’68, president and COO of Sun Microsystems; and representatives of the Rensselaer community.   

Jackson declared the fundamentals that will guide her presidency: “Excellence is the mantra and the metric in all that we do. Leadership must be claimed in research and pedagogy. Community is what we are, for there is but one Rensselaer.”   

The themes expressed in Jackson’s inaugural address reflected the approaching millennium and Rensselaer’s 175 years as a leader in science and technology education.


INVESTITURE CEREMONY: (clockwise from top left) Harvard delegate Steven Poskanzer; Rensselaer faculty member Deborah Kaminski ’73 carries the Rensselaer mace; Skidmore College President Jamienne Studley; academics and trustees line up backstage; Vassar delegate Keith St. John; delegates came from across the country; pomp and circumstance in the Field House; Board Chairman Sam Heffner ’56 gives Jackson the presidential medallion; Jackson greets Rensselaer’s trustees; Trustee Harry Apkarian ’46; Natacha DePaola, Rensselaer faculty.

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