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The Douglas Mercer ’77 Laboratory Ribbon Cutting

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

J. Erik Jonsson Engineering Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, New York

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Thank you, Dean Rosowsky. Welcome, Doug (Mercer), and welcome to the Mercer family. We are pleased that you could be here today.

Welcome to the representatives from Analog Devices, Inc. who are here with us today, especially Mr. David Robertson, Vice President for Analog Technology.

I also welcome our senior administration members, and our distinguished faculty, staff and students who are joining us today.

Today, when we cut the ribbon to open the Douglas Mercer ’77 Laboratory for Student Exploration and Innovation, here within the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, we provide our students with another experiential resource to enhance and build upon an education grounded in disciplinary fundamentals.

An education that has been consistently recognized as one of the best in the world, most recently through the U.S. News & World Report, ranking Rensselaer 41st in the nation among national research universities. This ranking placed Rensselaer 23rd on the list of Best Undergraduate Engineering programs. This is further evidence that our focus on the development of the best educational and research programs and facilities for our faculty and students has yielded significant dividends.

Under the guidance of The Rensselaer Plan, our engineering faculty and students have their sights fixed on the myriad of concerns facing the world today. These concerns, or Global Challenges as they are called, involve the most basic of needs such as natural resources, the environment, the economy, and security, to name a few. Armed with multidisciplinary perspectives and multicultural sensitivities, our engineering students are leaders, innovators, and creative problem solvers who continue to find pathways forward for an increasingly globalized, resource-deprived, and energy-starved world. 

As we collectively prepare for the 200th anniversary of the founding of Rensselaer in 2024, it is imperative that we continue to equip our students with the outlook and the necessary tools to answer the question, “Why not change the world”? Solving the Global Challenges is paramount in our quest to leave the world a better place and truly have a global impact.

A Rensselaer education provides our students with a fundamental understanding of both the physical and biological world; with the ability to frame and to resolve open-ended questions; and, with an appreciation for the value of cross- and multi-disciplinary conversation and exploration.

Both the physical tools that our students and faculty use, and the tools of the mind – such as logic, mathematics, language, and critical thinking – provide what they need to test their ideas and deepen their understanding of new phenomena.

Through the Douglas Mercer Laboratory, students will be challenged to think beyond the lessons learned in the classroom setting. The spirit of competitive discovery and innovation, a spirit that permeates the storied history of Rensselaer, will be encouraged throughout the laboratory. It is the presence of interactive learning environments, such as this, throughout the Rensselaer campus that have sparked innovation time and again.

The Douglas Mercer Laboratory for Student Exploration and Innovation truly provides a rich medium in which to grow the global engineering leaders of the future, as they pursue the ‘lost art of tinkering’, as Mr. Mercer likes to say. 

This art of tinkering and discovery has withstood the test of time, and will keep Rensselaer moving forward as our students of today strive to lead us toward global solutions to our greatest challenges.

Of course, we would not be standing here today to celebrate this laboratory were it not for the generosity of very committed partners: Alumnus Douglas Mercer, Class of 1977 (for whom this lab is named), and our corporate partner, Analog Devices, Inc. The support of Analog Devices, Inc., as the Founding Corporate Sponsor of this lab, significantly advanced our progress toward bringing this state of the art laboratory for independent student projects and competitions to life. For your corporate support, we are grateful. 

It is my pleasure to welcome Mr. David Robertson, Vice President of Technology for Analog Devices, Inc., to the podium. In this position, Mr. Robertson works across all organizational teams to coordinate and leverage ADI's considerable technical expertise to best serve customers. As a small token of our appreciation, it is my honor to present you with this gift. Please say a few words about your involvement with this project.


Thank you, Mr. Robertson. The laboratory, that now bears his name, is truly the vision of Mr. Mercer. Mr. Mercer served as a Fellow at Analog Devices, Inc. from 1995 to 2009, and is now consulting with the company on university related projects.   

A dedicated supporter of Rensselaer, Mr. Mercer is committed to the promotion of exploratory thinking. He truly understands the role innovation plays in enhancing integrative learning and intuition. Mr. Mercer has been actively involved in the entire planning process for the laboratory, and I am pleased to be here today to see the realization of his vision. 

Doug, you are a dedicated supporter of your alma mater and your commitment to Rensselaer over the years has been instrumental in moving our vision forward. Your latest gift will be truly appreciated by our students. You have our profound gratitude.

Please join me in welcoming to introduce Mr. Douglas Mercer ’77 to the podium. Doug, before you begin your remarks, I would like to present you with this gift as a token of our appreciation.


Now, I ask our speakers to join Dean Rosowsky, Professor Boyer, and me to cut the ribbon to officially open The Douglas Mercer ’77 Laboratory for Student Exploration and Innovation.


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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