RIT Trustee Chair Emeritus Richard Eisenhart Passes Away Aug. 29

Beloved benefactor and local businessman dies at age 95

Follow Vienna Carvalho-McGrain on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

A. Sue Weisler

Richard Eisenhart

Chairman emeritus of Rochester Institute of Technology’s Board of Trustees Richard Eisenhart died Aug. 29 at his Pittsford home. He was 95. Eisenhart was the retired founder of R.H. Eisenhart Inc.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 2 at Lutheran Church of the Incarnated Word, 587 East Ave., in Rochester. A reception will follow at the Country Club of Rochester. The family has requested that memorial gifts be made to support the Richard and Virginia Eisenhart Provost’s Award in Teaching Excellence.

Eisenhart was first elected to RIT’s board of trustees in 1972, succeeding his late father M. Herbert Eisenhart, who was the former president and chairman of Bausch & Lomb Inc. and served on RIT’s board for 50 years. Together, their ties to RIT date back to the 1920s. The Eisenhart family began the Eisenhart Award for Excellence in Teaching for RIT faculty in the memory of their late father and the M. Herbert and Elsa Eisenhart Memorial Scholarship, supporting more than 350 students over the past 35 years. In 1999, Richard and his wife established the Richard and Virginia Eisenhart Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes and supports faculty who have taught three years or less. Both Eisenharts have also supported the Eisenhart Memorial Scholarship, the Nathaniel Rochester Society and the Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Interfaith Center.

In 1976, Richard Eisenhart was named chairman of RIT’s board of trustees. Early on, he was conscious of the need to develop a high standard of technical education at RIT. His visions helped propel RIT into a tradition of seeking out students and shared programs from around the world. He also recommended the renovations to RIT’s City Center campus in downtown Rochester and oversaw planning for City Center’s first tenant, RIT’s School of Applied Industrial Studies. He was also instrumental in the creation of the RIT Research Corp. in 1980.

“I think this whole institution is out of the ordinary,” Eisenhart said when he was named chairman of RIT’s board of trustees in 1976. “Just being a pioneer in career education—which is a hot button across the world—we have a tremendous job to do in staying ahead of the pack that is trying to catch up and emulate us.”

The growth of state and private schools was the ever-threatening competition to RIT, and Eisenhart was determined to keep RIT thriving. After a trip to China in 1978, he returned with both the firm idea that technology was in demand the world over, and the conviction that schools that could provide highly trained people for the growing demand—like RIT—would succeed.

“RIT needs to broaden its base throughout the 50 states and internationally,” Eisenhart said after returning from China.

During the years of his tenure on the board, RIT grew to offer more than 230 programs to students from every state and many foreign countries.

Eisenhart attended Amherst College. He worked for Pratt & Whitney Machine Co. in Hartford, Conn., before going to work for Bausch & Lomb Inc. in 1938. He stayed until 1958, when he left to form R.H. Eisenhart Inc., a manufacturer’s representatives firm.

He drew on his work experiences and community spirit to become involved in civic affairs, including service on various Rochester-area boards. Among his affiliations were membership on the boards of Allendale Columbia School, the American Optometric Foundation, Bausch & Lomb Inc., the Brighton Chamber of Commerce, Community Chest, the Council of Governing Boards of Independent Colleges and Universities of New York, and the former Genesee Hospital. He also served on the boards of Hillside Children’s Center, Monroe Community Hospital, the Riverton Foundation, Rochester Savings Banks, the Rochester Regional Health and Hospital Council, and the Third Presbyterian Church.

Eisenhart was also instrumental in heading the committee that organized RIT’s 150th anniversary fundraising campaign in 1979. He and his wife, Virginia, were also members of RIT’s Nathaniel Rochester Society. Upon his retirement from the board he was named chairman emeritus.

“Dick Eisenhart and his family leave an amazing legacy at RIT,” says RIT President Bill Destler. “Dick was an active contributor to RIT until his very last day. He had tremendous vision for both the university and the Rochester community. We will miss him dearly.”

His wife, Virginia, passed away in 2009. Surviving are his two sons, Doug and Rick; and two daughters, Debbie and Susan.