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Developing Potential Through the Totality of the Student Experience

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

East Campus Athletic Village
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, N.Y.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


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A tribute to Dr. Myles Brand, Rensselaer Class of 1964
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Good morning, Rensselaer!  Welcome to the East Campus Athletic Village.

Thank you, Chairman Heffner, for your introduction. I am energized to stand here in this new arena, in this world-class complex, designed for our world-class Rensselaer student athletes, and for all of Rensselaer.

Why did we choose to build this East Campus Athletic Village at this time? Why spend $92 million now? After all, we already have built the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies – supporting world-class, world-changing research. We already have built the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), a transformative cultural and research platform. We already have opened the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations. We already have upgraded, renovated, and re-purposed many platforms – from classrooms and laboratories to dining halls and residence halls.

I will tell you why.

It is often said that it is on the playing fields – and in other athletic venues – that leaders are made. But at Rensselaer, athletics are only part of the equation, because Rensselaer already attracts students who have demonstrated leadership potential. Rensselaer develops that potential through the totality of the student experience – so that our graduates are prepared to become leaders in technologically-rooted fields. This is our Rensselaer heritage.  This is who we are.

With this addition to the Troy campus, we continue to transform the student experience, to go beyond the standard, to excel – across the board, in all endeavors – and to do even more to create leaders.

At the same time, with the initiation of the village concept, we bring our Rensselaer community together in a new way. Our goal – as with all that are doing to transform Rensselaer for the 21st century – is to create a unique residential undergraduate college, within a world-class technological research university.

Just what does this mean? It means that we are creating a true residentially-based education – that is, an intergenerational living and learning community – composed of students, professional staff, and faculty. Together, over the continuum of our students’ college experience, we provide opportunity: for interactions that encourage individual growth and maturity; for innovation – in our students themselves, and in the way they explore in the world; and for leadership.

This inclusive, intergenerational approach to education is found in the best undergraduate colleges in the world. At Rensselaer, we embed this experience within the context of a world-class technological research university. This is unique, because we are enhancing the traditional rigor of our technological education with a strong commitment to research, and with broader experiences in culture and the arts, in athletics, and in global interactions.

This is the ultimate aim of The Rensselaer Plan – it is about the privilege we have, to educate our outstanding young people through exposure to thinking minds of all ages, and through exposure to research – to enhance their already formidable intellects. It is about having a supportive environment, so that these young people can explore who they are, and decide what they will do with their lives. It is about world-class platforms they can experience, work in, and grow from. Athletics provide an opportunity to develop our student athletes, and to build, and to support, the total Rensselaer community. These are the reasons we have built this athletic village.

As you learned, if you attended my State of the Institute presentation yesterday, we are attracting outstanding applicants by the tens of thousands. This interest on the part of the very best students in the nation – and internationally – is proof of the validity of our paradigm. Today, we are attracting students with a myriad of interests, and so they, themselves, are transforming the culture of Rensselaer.  We are committed to providing them with the best possible faculty, programs and facilities across our campuses, so that we are producing a new kind of graduate – a graduate:

  • with very strong scientific and technological skills – as we always have done;  
  • who has honed his or her leadership qualities from day one;
  • who has learned to work in teams, productively and creatively;
  • who has broad exposure to the arts and culture, including athletics;  and
  • who has developed a sensitivity to other cultures, from interactions on campus, or through study abroad;
  • who can thereby approach and solve complex problems;
  • who can lead.

I would like to thank all of those who have supported the idea of this complex – some, for many years – and especially those who have contributed to making it a reality. There are several I would like to acknowledge by name.

First, the Rensselaer Alumni Association Board, which contributed a half-million dollars.  Carrie Eckart, Class of 1985, President of the RAA, would you please stand, and any other RAA Board members who are here today.

Our gratitude goes to Howard Blitman, Trustee, Class of ’50, for his generosity to the Renaissance at Rensselaer campaign and the East Campus Athletic Village – in addition to his support of scholarships, faculty, and the endowment.

I thank Steve “Coyote” Laskey, Class of ’72, for his generosity to the project, and for leading the effort to recognize Hall of Fame basketball coach Bill Kalbaugh.

I thank Dan Shugar, Class of ’86, for his contribution to support the installation of photovoltaic panels to capture solar energy, on the roof of the Houston Field house, and on the south side of this building, which has contributed to the LEED certification of the project. This is a real 21st century investment, which was also supported by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

My sincere thanks go to Barbara Landgraf, a lifetime supporter of Rensselaer athletics, especially men’s ice hockey, along with her late husband and former Rensselaer Trustee, Stan Landgraf, Class of ’46.

For their forward-thinking support of Phase 2 of the East Campus Athletic Village: I thank Susan and Gary DiCamillo, Class of ’73, and Hope and David Hirsch, Class of ’65. Gary DiCamillo joined Steve Laskey, and many others, in the effort to honor Hall of Fame basketball coach Bill Kalbaugh.

I thank the alumni of the champion lacrosse teams of Coach Ned Harkness, led by Woody Phares, Class of ’51 – for never giving up on their dream.

I thank the family and friends of the late Laurie “Shoe” Hendler, Class of ’86, including her parents, Faith and Ed Hendler, and Linda Jojo, Class of ’87, who led the effort to memorialize her.

My sincere thanks go to Mark Clark, Class of ’89, and the varsity football alumni – for raising the funds to name the Football Coaching Suite for the Rensselaer football alumni.

Thank you to Mayor Harry Tutunjian, Deputy Mayor Dan Crawley, and the City of Troy Department of Engineering.

Thank you also to the architectural firm Sasaki Associates, Inc. and construction manager Whiting-Turner.

And last but not least, I thank all of those who contributed to have a paver inscribed out on the concourse – because each gift is important, needed, and appreciated.

There is one other person I would like all of us to remember this morning. His is a presence which infuses not only this project, but reflects our entire outlook at Rensselaer. I am talking about the late Dr. Myles Brand, Rensselaer Class of ’64, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, former president of Indiana University and the University of Oregon, a trustee of Rensselaer, and a member of the Rensselaer Alumni Association Hall of Fame. He was a national leader in the worlds of academe and college athletics, and he was a loyal son and devoted friend of Rensselaer.

Myles Brand was the first college president to lead the NCAA. Dr. Brand made his top priorities academic performance by student athletes, recruiting restrictions, and the advocacy of collegiate sports. He was a champion of academic reform, fiscal responsibility, and student athlete well-being.

Myles Brand was an enthusiastic spokesman for the fund-raising campaign to support this endeavor. He understood that student athletes were scholars, first and foremost. Dr. Brand understood that the playing field yields great lessons for life, and that chief among them was “personal commitment to excellence, and the discipline needed to live up to that commitment each and every day.”

In an interview shortly after the groundbreaking, Myles Brand encouraged alumni and alumnae to support the East Campus Athletic Village.  He said, “I know that I cannot give back. The past is the past. I can, however, give forward.”  That statement is the essence of the man, and I can think of no better way to remember this “true son of Rensselaer,” and a great, accomplished American.

I would like to close this portion of the program with a short video that celebrates the great heart and the enthusiasm of Dr. Myles Brand, Rensselaer Class of 1964. Some of this video was recorded during the groundbreaking celebration of the East Campus Athletic Village.

Let us watch, and listen. Thank you.

Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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