Faculty Senate Meeting Minutes
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Fischbach Room, Folsom Library
Present: Patricia Search, Jeanne Keefe, Prabhat Hajela, Larry Kagan, Christoph Steinbruchel, Achille Messac, Jim Napolitano, Roger Grice, Paul Hohenberg, J. Keith Nelson, Ning Xiang, Peter Persans, William Randolph Franklin
Absent: Lou Gingerella, Jacob Fish, Malik Magdon-Ismail, Bruce Nauman, Mike Fortun
Guests: Henry A. Scarton, Erica Sherman, John Harrington, Bernard Fleishman, Alan Balfour, Patrick J. Quinn, Mark Mistur, Bram Van Heuveln, Lester Gerhardt, Mike O’Rourke, Leik N. Myrabo
Approval of Minutes from General Faculty Meeting
Minutes were approved with minor changes: 9 approved, 0 opposed.
Recording Secretary replacing Steve Breyman: Henry Scarton 10 approved, 1 abstention.
Senator at Large to replace Ned Woodhouse representing H&SS. No nominations received, Larry Kagan will canvas for next meeting.
Announcement: President Jim Napolitano announced the date
for the Faculty, Staff and Student memorial
to be held at the
The main difference between the two memorials is that the one during the Faculty Senate Meeting becomes part of the record of minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting whereas the one for Faculty, Staff and Students does not. Additionally, Faculty Senate Meeting Memorial provides an opportunity for eulogies for Emeritus Faculty as well as those who died in service.
Faculty Senate President Jim Napolitano turned the meeting over to Chair of the Faculty, Achille Messac who announced each speaker. A moment of silence was observed following each eulogy.
Michael Abbott – remembered by Professors Joel Plawsky and Wayne Bequette of
the Isermann Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Professor
Joel Plawsky stated, Mike
Abbott spent literally his entire adult life at
Mike was universally loved
and respected by our students and is perhaps the only faculty member in
chemical engineering that every student has fond memories of. Mike was acknowledged as one of the best, if
not the best teacher at
Mike was the professor, the advisor, the colleague, and the mentor everyone wanted. It didn’t take long for everyone, students, staff, and faculty to realize that Mike was the person you could go to talk with about anything; whether you had a serious personal or professional problem, just wanted to laugh about the latest Institute development, or wanted to learn about music and poetry. Mike was the glue that held our Department together, the person who told us what we were supposed to be doing, who kept us accredited, focused and centered, and who was the acknowledged authority on all things that had to do with RPI and its relationship with students, alumni, and their parents.
I speak for everyone in the Department when I say we miss Mike more every day. The Mike Abbott Era may have ended, but his influence will endure for a very long time.
Wayne Bequette: Thank you Joel. You covered many of the topics I planned to cover.
Both Joel and I have very fond memories of Mike, having started on nearly the same day in 1988. Mike was a colleague that did everything well. He was an excellent mentor to undergraduate students, as well as the junior faculty. He was an outstanding colleague, and was very well known in chemical engineering, having authored and co-authored a number of thermodynamics textbooks. In addition to the things that Joel mentioned, Mike certainly helped me tremendously even after his retirement in 2002, when I served as the acting head of our department. Mike was still always around even in retirement to handle many of the important details in running a department including student advising, and providing me with a history of the way things had been done in the department. I have one anecdote that gives you some insight into Mike’s modesty but also into the way he educated his students. I was fortunate enough to co-teach a design course, a Capstone course, with him. When he would find students struggling with certain problems and worrying about their grades, here Mike, a world renowned expert in thermodynamics, would tell his students that he earned a “C” in his first thermodynamics course. He had a take home message that, even though he was an expert in thermodynamics, he struggled just as much as you; if you work hard, you too can be a great success. We all loved Mike dearly and miss him.
Robert H.P. Dunn – remembered by Professor Michael O’Rourke of the Department of Civil and
Environmental Engineering. Captain
Robert “Rip” Dunn passed away this past summer on
Erastus Lee – remembered by Professor Henry Scarton,
Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering. Erastus Ras Lee, age 90,
Ras Lee was born
After the war, he became Assistant Director in
charge of the Technical Engineering Section of the Production Department of the
newly established British Department of Atomic Energy. In 1948, he and his
family returned to the
He is survived by his four children, Michael Lee of Providence, Rhode Island, Martin Lee of Durham, New Hampshire, Margaret Lee of Mill Valley, California, and Susan Greenleaf of Peacham, Vermont; and four grandchildren, Max and Sam Ritzenberg and Willa and Holly Greenleaf. He is predeceased by his wife, Shirley (
On a personal note, Professor Lee was well liked by his many colleagues. We all looked forward to the many garden parties at his home and the lovely Cambridge-style hospitality. He will be missed.
Professor Henry Nagamatsu – remembered by Professor Leik Myrabo, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering. Henry Nagamatsu passed away in May, 2006. Survived by his wife Emily, daughter Nancy, son Brian and their families.
He received his Ph.D. from CalTech. Henry was involved in many research projects including the bumper whack, re-entry nose cones, and re-entry heat shields for manned space flights. In Henry’s honor I am wearing this tie that his daughter Nancy designed which celebrates the golden years of space flight. Henry was a brilliant experimentalist and played a major role in bringing hypersonics and space flight into reality in this country.
When we faced
difficulty in the laboratory, he always had more than one solution for
resolving them. His previous job as a
When he was invited
to join the
Harry Tiersten – remembered by Professor
Henry Scarton, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear
Harry F. Tiersten, 76, Renowned Authority on Interacting Mechanical
and Electromagnetic Fields in Material Continua
Harry F. Tiersten, a faculty member of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
F. Tiersten, born in 1930, was raised in the Far Rockaway section of
Dr. Tiersten had a distinguished and internationally recognized scientific career. One of his early contributions after joining Bell Telephone Laboratories was to write the theoretical section of the ANSI/IEEE Standard 176-1978, "Standard on Piezoelectricity". His first book "Linear Piezoelectric Plate Vibrations", published in 1969 by Plenum Press, has been a major reference on the theory of piezoelectric vibrations ever since its publication. His earlier contributions to the linear theory of piezoelectricity are classic and oft referred to by researchers in the field; there after he developed the theory of nonlinear electroelasticity for large deformations and strong fields, the linear theory for infinitesimal fields superposed on large biasing fields, and the perturbation theory for frequency shifts in piezoelectric resonators. As just mentioned, these theories continue to influence the work of present day researchers.
His contributions also extend to theories for general nonlinear interactions of elastic deformations with electromagnetic fields in continuous media, including thermal effects and conduction or semiconduction. His distinctive viewpoint in this area of work is presented in his second book, completed later in his career, "A Development of the Equations of Electromagnetism in Material Continua", published by Springer~Verlag in 1990. He was also highly regarded in the international mechanics community. He is considered to be one of the founders of the study of macroscopic theories of continuum electrodynamics. His scientific style was exemplary of Mindlin's school of applied mechanics researchers, ranging from fundamental theories to applications in technology. For example, Dr. Tiersten's work on the sensitivity of resonator frequency to acceleration completed in the 1980s is crucial to satellite systems in use today; in layman’s terms, Dr. Tiersten’s works are used for the creation for exact clocks used in orbiting satellites.
his career, Dr. Tiersten was the recipient of a number of honors and
awards. He was a fellow of the
Dr. Tiersten is survived by his wife of 53 years, Helen, by his daughter, Linda, and his son, Steven. Professor Tiersten will be remembered as a man of great character and intellectual ability, with honesty and integrity as his core values. He will be missed by all who knew him; and his family, his former students, and his many colleagues and friends can take consolation in the fact that the work he has created will have an impact on the field of continuum mechanics far into the future.
On a personal note, few persons have the ability to intensely focus on matters of the moment like Dr. Tiersten. A conversation with him, especially in his office, revealed a researcher of great depth. The conversation would begin with a period of transition, from whatever Dr. Tiersten was working on, to the problem of mutual interest; after which an extended often 3 hour vigorous discussion would commence; and usually resulted in clarifications or research extensions, and even entirely new or modified researches. It was a great honor to have published with him. He will be greatly missed, but not forgotten, as his classic works will live into perpetuity.
Professor George Saridis of the Department of Electrical, Computer, and
Systems Engineering passed away on 29 October at his home in
George Saridis was born on
Prior to 1973 his students worked in the area of adaptive control, after that they were focused in the area of robotics and prosthetics. I remember some of the experiments that went on in the lab. Once in a while on the national news there will be a story about the six million dollar man, I get a kick out of that, the bionic arm where the arm actually moves based on electromyographic signals from the arm. I remember seeing those experiments done over thirty years ago in his lab. I remember a few other people at other universities who were working on similar research, but he was clearly in the forefront of that technology.
In 1981 he came to
In 1984 he became the founding president of that society. Today that society publishes the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation which I believe is the number one journal in that area in the world. That society also has the number one conference on robotics and automation. In the past couple of years the Robotics and Automation Society has spun off another publication, the IEEE Transactions on Automation Sciences and Engineering. That group now has its own conference, which again represents another premier transaction and another premier conference. All of that was started by George in 1984.
Fr. Tom Phelan – remembered by Professor Patrick J. Quinn, FAIA
Institute Professor of Architecture, Emeritus. There is a photograph in the Fall 1968 issue
of Good Work magazine which shows Fr. Tom Phelan presenting the annual medal of
the Catholic Art Association to Lewis Mumford, arguably the most incisive architectural
and environmental philosopher of his time.
The ceremony took place in
Tom was only forty-three years old then but the words presaged his own ultimately developed perspective on American culture, for almost 40 years later Kathleen Helfrich wrote that “Tom believed and lived as though one’s work, art and life are an integral whole (not disjointed). This way of living seems difficult for many people in modern society”.
Tom might have added to Mumford’s three Worlds a fourth, the spiritual. Whether he was presiding over the board of WMHT, organizing the Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway, teaching a course on Spanish Mediaeval Architecture, delivering a homily on justice, leading trustees on a boat trip up the canal locks, counseling a despairing student, challenging a faculty member’s philosophy, building a Windsor chair, hosting a gourmet meal Chez Sofie or comforting someone at death’s very door, his priesthood was his driving force, is raison d’etre.
Much traveled as he was and broadly read, his real world was local.
In this he epitomized Friends of the Earth founder David Brower’s dictum “Think globally, act locally”. Tom’s local world was profoundly complex and touched not only academic, ecclesiastical, cultural, political and urban communities of the Capital Region but the very individual lives of thousands therein.
Which brings me to his
Tom was an adjunct assistant
professor and resident Catholic chaplain when RPI President Richard Grosh
recommended to the Board of Trustees that he be appointed Dean of Humanities
and Social Sciences in 1972. It was, I
believe, Dr. Grosh’s most important and longest lasting contribution to the
There was then no selection process comparable to what is customary today, no national search, no faculty-wide evaluation. Just a simple and wise decision. Grosh was savvy enough to realize that dossiers tell only a fraction of biographical story, that the person behind the dossier may be an Einstein or an idiot-savant, but that the driving character is key to the ultimate institutional value.
Grosh became aware of Tom’s
founding of the ecumenically inspired Chapel and
He knew, too, of Tom’s background at Oxford, but even more important, of his impressive perspective on the meaning of arts, literature and technology, something which had been strengthened by Tom’s visits to the unique community of specialists at Ditchling, Sussex, which flourish for over fifty years, from the 1920’s until the seventies.
Even before he became Dean, Tom had proposed to me that RPI ought to have a department of the arts despite the fact that Grosh had indicated that there would not be a nickel in new funding. Our original committee included Arthur Burr, Dean of Engineering, sculptors Larry Kagan and George Kratina, then full-time in architecture, ceramics researcher Bob Doremus, musicologist Ernst Livingston and film expert Frank Hammet, an odd bunch indeed which, however came up with an innovative approach. Architecture and Engineering would each “donate” a full-time position and these, coupled with two H&SS would form the initial Arts faculty. Thus it was done. Tom nourished this fledgling core and without his perseverance, EMPAC would not loom grandly over the campus today.
It is easy to think of Tom Phelan as a persuasive fundraiser/administrator but how did he get to be such? Indeed his talents and mind were valuable but it was his work which shaped them. Never a micro-manager, he might have epitomized Mies VanDerRohe’s motto “God is in the details”.
The Gateway, dedicated to the preservation of the region’s architectural and cultural heritage, is exemplary of this. For many years, Saturday morning bus and car tours of the region’s industrial architecture, painstakingly programmed and wittily conducted, endeared him to students and local citizens, professors and politicians. It was a shoestring beginning in which with self-effacing ingenuity Tom persuaded six of us to join him in a venture which has become a model for educating citizens to the importance of the physical context in which they live and work.
I am sure that the people the
Albany Catholic diocese were bemused when the new Chapel and
The Albany Symphony
orchestra, Nick Brignola’s jazz combo, furniture making, a lecture for 400 architects,
a symposium on Liturgical arts, photographic exhibits all were part of this
unique beginning…all the vision of Tom Phelan.
I was fortunate enough to be invited from
But perhaps the greatest insight I had into the gentle self-questioning and overt enthusiasm of this kindly man was when I was recently asked to go through his personal library and his slide collection and to recommend how to disperse them. Certainly books on religion, literature and the arts formed the expected bulk of the collection. His purview was both Catholic and catholic, academic and pragmatic, spiritual and intellectual and his collection seemed to a who’s who of 20th century scholarship in these areas.
I was taken aback to discover that Tom had trodden some the same paths, geographically and intellectually, which I thought to my own and I wondered how many other lives he had paralleled in his researches. I reflected on the many fascinating persons who were profoundly influenced by him and he by them. The range is great: Lewis Mumford, Dorothy Day, Clarence Rivers, Daniel Berrigan, Eric Johnson, Howard Hubbard, Sidney Archer, Richard Selzer and many, many more most of whom are less known but yet powerfully important in Tom’s world. Ten RPI presidents knew him and he counseled several of them.
A fellow of the Society for
Religion, the Arts and Contemporary Culture, he shared the distinction with
Leonard Bernstein, Louis Kahn, Erich Segal, Paul Tillich and about one hundred
other recognized contributors to those realms.
If you saw him in his jeans sweeping out the floor of the C&CC and
meticulously cleaning up after a major event, if you saw him tending to his
Mumford would have seen this and approved. So would the surgeon-writer Richard Selzer.
But even more so would the greatest woodworker of our time, architecture-carpenter George Nakashima, whose work graces the C&CC and was often featured in the pages of the aptly named journal Good Work.
How fitting therefore to close with such an accolade to the service of our departed friend and colleague…Good Work, Tom!
Graham Williams, Professor Emeritus – remembered by Professor Mark Mistur, Department of Architecture.
To all of us Graham was
committed to ensuring that generations of
Of the school’s seventy-five
year history which we just celebrated, Graham was an undergraduate student, a
graduate student, a professor and emeritus professor - for almost two-thirds of
the schools history. He arrived in 1948 when the school was only eighteen
years old, having been established and built in the year of his birth. He was a
member of the Rensselaer Engineers football team and graduated with a Bachelor
of Architecture degree in 1952 as president of his class. In 1953 Graham
completed his Master’s of Architecture, also at
Over the course of those
years Graham was central and formative to the school in several of its
programs. He taught the comprehensive integrative studio that was
designed to equip bright minds and creative thinkers with the ability to
accomplish their architectural ambitions. This experience was central,
and if we were to assemble the alum that benefited from that studio before they
went out into practice, we would more than fill the
Throughout much of his career
Graham maintained an architectural practice designing residential, religious
and educational buildings. He was a very active member of the Troy
community, instrumental in establishing the Rensselaer County Council for the
Arts which blossomed to become the
Graham was truly a generous
man with a clear mind on the issues and a genuine love of life. Graham
Williams taught us to design and build well, a tradition worth continuing. We
would be remiss if we did not attribute to Graham his significant place in the
formation, development and history of
Professor W. Richard Kolk died on
Warren C. Stoker ’33 founder
of RPI of Connecticut died on
Special thanks to Rebecca Danchak for the information she provided.
graduated with BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from
Corporation asked Rensselaer, in 1955, to establish a new graduate program in
This campus was
dedicated to the idea of education for working professionals, a very new idea
in the 1950's. In 1965, based on a very successful first ten years of
Prof. Stoker received
a number of honors and awards during his time as a researcher, educator, and
innovative administrator. On
Prof. Warren Stoker
Professor Napolitano opened the meeting to any other business:
Item #1) Professor Bill Brower died there will be a memorial service for
him at the
Item #2) The Faculty Senate discussed the recent communications from the Acting Provost and President Shirley Ann Jackson about the definition of faculty.
Professor Napolitano: In response to asking the Board of Trustees to approve the vote we had last spring, their response at the suggestion or encouragement of the Acting Provost, requested of the Senate that we modify the constitution to redefine what we mean by “faculty”. As far as I know because we have refused to do that nothing has changed as to who or what is faculty.
Professor Hohenberg: Referred to an article in the Poly that they have gone ahead and defined faculty. They should be asked to correct their article.
Professor Messac: Stated that we have all have seen the letter, as of this moment that is what the administration will consider as faculty.
Professor Napolitano: There has been no change in status of faculty.
Erica Sherman: Representative of the Poly said we could speak with the author of the article for clarification.
Professor Napolitano: After this happened we asked to meet with the Acting Provost Bob Palazzo. The Executive Committee met with Bob Palazzo and made it clear that we were insulted and that he should take this message to the President of the Board and let him know that we were trying to decide what to do with this. As far as I know the faculty has not been redefined. This raises a larger issue, how do we deal this kind of thing.
Professor Scarton read the following from an email from
Acting Provost Palazzo dated
At a recent meeting, the Rensselaer Board of Trustees considered a Faculty Senate Proposal to change the Senate constitution regarding voting privileges of Clinical Faculty. I was contacted by the Chairman of the Board to offer an opinion, which I provided to the President. I received a memorandum from President Jackson informing the Office of the Provost of the Board’s decision and discussions on the matter. Attached please find copies of these correspondences. Throughout this process, I have shared my opinions and various correspondences with Dr. Napolitano, President of the Faculty Senate.
According to the
President’s correspondence, the Board had an in depth discussion which resulted
in the Board’s definition of Faculty. By a unanimous vote the Board defined the
“Faculty of Rensselaer to be only the active tenured and tenure track faculty
currently holding the titles of Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant
In my own opinion, this decision by our Board of Trustees represents a clear reaffirmation of tenure at a time when other academic entities are considering alternative operational models and recognizes the importance of the privileges and responsibilities of the tenured and tenure track faculty as stewards of the university.
At this time, the Office of the Provost is attempting to organize two meetings, one with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and a second that I hope can be an assembly meeting of the tenured and tenure track faculty as a whole, to allow for an open discussion of our Board’s decision and its implications. These meetings will be scheduled as soon as possible. Dr. Napolitano informs me that he will not be available between the dates of January 4-20, so we will do our best to work around his schedule as I believe it is important for him to attend, as well as other members of the faculty leadership.
R.E. Palazzo, Acting Provost
Professor Napolitano: Key point was the request to change the faculty definition which has not been done. Therefore, nothing has changed.
Professor Persans: For the purposes of Faculty Senate business our definition and the Board’s definition do not have to be consistent. The Board’s definition applies for the business aspects that they have purview over. Our definition applies for Faculty Senate business.
Professor Messac: Then when we speak with the Board about ‘faculty’ our definition and their definition will not match.
Professor Franklin: Our power comes from our electors, we recognize that the Trustees have the right to define ‘faculty’ as they like. But, they should recognize that it does not affect us.
Professor Hohenberg: This can offer the Administration and Trustees an additional reason if they need it to disregard what the Faculty Senate does. After all any decisions we make are tainted by the fact that we not only in the election of Senators and Officers but in the deliberations with the Senate there are non-faculty voting.
Professor Napolitano: Stated that the vote of no confidence last spring was questioned as to how many votes were from emeritus. They like the idea of saying that it’s not really a vote of faculty if emeritus are voting.
Professor Quinn: There
appears to be two parts to this, the first Clinical and Adjunct Faculty have
increased in numbers considerably in the past several decades particularly in
management, architecture and so on. That
has made inroads as well as a broadening of the faculty perspective. Secondly, only in recent years that it was
felt desirable to invite Professors Emeriti to be represented on Faculty Senate.
One might take
Professor Steinbruchel: I think we should continue to be as inclusive as possible in terms of getting input from everyone, including emeriti thereby using all our resources, past and present.
Professor Napolitano requested motions.
Professor Persans: I see two aspects of the Faculty Senate; one has to do with serving as an arm of the Provost’s office taking care of business through the Curriculum Committee, P & T Committee and so on. The second aspect is that it has to do with providing the opinion of the faculty on various issues. I am torn over to whether to propose that the Faculty Senate
What caught us off guard was last year when we were going through the
process. Bud Petersen was a strong proponent of redefining faculty.
Professor Scarton read an excerpt from President Shirley Jackson’s letter dated December 11, 2006:
“It is the unanimous vote of the Board of
Trustees that, henceforth, the Board defines the Faculty of Rensselaer to be
only the active tenured and tenure track faculty currently holding the titles
of Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor at
Furthermore, the Board requests that the Faculty Senate initiate the process to effect the change in Article II.A.i. (and elsewhere as appropriate) of its constitution, and all other aspects of faculty governance, to embrace the will of the Board of Trustees as expressed in its vote.”
Professor Steinbruchel moved - “That the Faculty Senate go on record that we decline making the changes as requested by the President.”
Professor Hohenberg: That raises the question of who should vote on this, it might strengthen it if it’s a vote of those who Administration and the Trustees recognize.
Professor Kagan: The effect of faculty opinions on the Board has proven inconsequential. Can the board change the constitution by fiat?
Professor Messac: They can suspend it but they have not.
Professor Kagan: I think that we should draft a response to the Board and remind them that their vote cannot be construed as the final word. We are willing to get into a dialogue with them, they cannot expect us to do anything if in fact they are saying that the only faculty members that they define as faculty are tenure track position then the Faculty Senate has no standing either.
Professor Napolitano: Another problem is that we don’t have a direct line to the board.
Professor Quinn: It might be worth asking why this decision has been made and request a dialogue with the Board. As it’s been pointed out there is no need to change the constitution and bylaws.
Professor Messac: We have talked at length with the Board Chairman.
Professor Napolitano: There is another issue we are asked to communicate through the Provost’s office and the President is difficult to reach. The only time we have face to face dialogue with the Board of Trustees is at quarterly meetings. I don’t know how to have a dialogue with people who see it as a mechanism to get their point of view across to us. I believe in negotiation by well intentioned parties to achieve mutually agreeable outcomes.
Professor Hajela: Have you approached the Provost?
Professor Kagan: The FSEC met with at which time we expressed our position. He told us what his position was. It was very clear that he took his position without approaching any of the Deans and it is a concern that he would reach that decision without discussion with the Deans.
Professor Hajela: May I suggest to move it forward using the line of communication that has been suggested through the Provost’s office.
Professor Napolitano: We have tried but to no avail, being asked to wait ten weeks to meet shows that our concerns appear to be low on the list of priority for the Administration.
Professor Steinbruchel’s motion was tabled for next Faculty Senate Meeting.