Athenaeum: What’s in a name?




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In deciding to reduce the number of News & Events print editions produced by University News from 19 to six, we understood the long-standing title, News & Events, no longer fit.

The popularity and immediacy of the aptly named News & Events Daily e-newsletter challenged us to formulate a new name for the print publication you’re holding. The staff at University News searched for a title that describes the mission and tone of a new publication that allows for more in-depth storytelling. We wanted a title that was uniquely RIT, not the overused “Chronicle” or “Review” or “Times.” We wanted to instill pride and tradition on campus.

We went back to RIT’s roots with “Athenaeum,” the forerunner of RIT dating back to 1829. Col. Nathaniel Rochester and other Rochester community leaders founded the Athenaeum, an association “for the purpose of cultivating and promoting literature, science and the arts.”

Later in the 19th century, the Athenaeum merged with Mechanics Institute, a school that provided technical training for skilled workers in industry. The name Rochester Institute of Technology was adopted in 1944.

Today, the name Athenaeum describes the mission and tone of our new publication. Merriam-Webster: 1) a building or room in which books, periodicals and newspapers are kept for use 2): a literary or scientific association, and Wikipedia.com: Athenaeum is used in the names of institutions or periodicals for literary, scientific or artistic study.

Athenaeum also references the name of RIT’s organization for learners over age 50. In 2006, the RIT Athenaeum was renamed Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at RIT when it became part of a national network. The home of Osher, located in the Rivers Run residential complex, continues to bear the name Athenaeum.

Finally, look for our staff listing on the left side of this page. Here, you will notice the placement of the traditional RIT seal. This seal is prominent on the RIT diploma, but is rarely seen anywhere on campus.

Upon graduation in 2006, former Student Government President James Macchiano was dumbfounded when he saw the seal for the first time. “What is this and what does this have to do with RIT?” he asked.

By naming our new publication Athenaeum and by making RIT’s seal part of the publication, we hope RIT students, faculty and staff will have a better sense of the university’s history and tradition.

To read more about Athenaeum’s beginnings, or to leave reader feedback, visit www.thetigerbeat.com.