Alumnus Donates $3 Million to Establish Endowed Chair in Critical Thinking

Gift honors professor emeritus Eugene Fram from the E. Philip Saunders College of Business




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Eugene Fram

A Rochester Institute of Technology alumnus has donated a $3 million gift to establish the Eugene Fram Endowed Chair in Critical Thinking in RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business. Fram is a renowned retail expert and marketing professor emeritus who retired from RIT in 2008 after 51 years of teaching in the Saunders College. The $3 million commitment is the second largest single gift ever received from an RIT alumnus.

“It is clear to me, as I imagine to most Americans, that many of us in America seem to lack the essential skill of critical thinking—at least in our public life,” says the donor, who prefers to remain anonymous. “My gift to RIT acknowledges my indebtedness to Dr. Fram for teaching me how to think critically, and I hope it ensures that RIT graduates genuinely appreciate the vital nature of this skill.”

According to RIT President Bill Destler, it’s a wonderful gift for the university. “This endowment not only honors one of RIT’s most distinguished faculty members, but it will ensure that future generations of RIT students graduate with the critical thinking skills that lend to success not only in their careers, but in their lives as well.”

RIT Provost Jeremy Haefner says the chair will be housed in the Saunders College but will be assigned to develop and teach courses specifically directed toward critical thinking throughout the university’s nine colleges.

“There is a sense, shared by many, that RIT is on the verge of a transformation—of leaping into the national spotlight as a great university,” Haefner says. “This gift, to create an endowed chair in critical thinking, exemplifies that. It is rare for a university, particularly one of a technical nature, to have the means to devote a prestigious position such as an endowed chair to supporting and promoting critical thinking in our students’ education.

“The person in this position will be an evangelist for critical thinking, working with faculty and students to elevate the importance of this learning outcome. I am excited to help implement this endowed chair and set a foundation that will affect our students for years to come.”

During his tenure as the J. Warren McClure Research Professor of Marketing, Fram created a legacy of retail wisdom. A tidal wave of reporters from across the U.S.—The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Associated Press,The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Sacramento Bee, Money Morning and CNN.com—have used Fram’s marketing expertise. He has expounded on everything from mall space, eBay, scrapbooking, Black Friday tips and Christmas shopping frenzy to corporate governance, Enron, Walmart, Kmart and Rochester fast ferry strategies.

Fram is also the author of more than 125 published articles and six books. The third edition of his nonprofit governance book, Policy vs. Paper Clips, was published earlier this year.

“I am deeply honored to have the chair established in my name,” says Fram, who was awarded the RIT Presidential Medallion during the 2008 commencement ceremony for his significant contributions to the university.

“Those who hold the professorship will significantly enhance the professional and personal lives of RIT students for many generations. Critical thinking is a mandated process for the 21st century to solve a host of business and societal problems.”

Saunders College Dean Ashok Rao says Eugene Fram exemplifies the kind of teaching for which RIT prides itself. “He connects with students inside and outside the classroom to guide them in their careers and through life. We are grateful for the generosity of the anonymous Saunders College of Business alumnus who appreciates the influence of teachers like Gene. His gift will support our efforts to continue delivering high quality education for future generations of students.”

The anonymous donor is a member of the Ellingson Society at RIT, a philanthropic endeavor that honors those alumni, parents, friends, faculty and staff who establish a planned gift for the university. The Society is named for Mark and Marcia Ellingson, respectively fifth president and first lady of RIT, who together propelled the university to a new level of national and world prominence.

Note: Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging science, sustainability, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. RIT enrolls 17,500 full- and part-time students in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For more than two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is featured in The Princeton Review’s 2012 edition of The Best 376 Colleges as well as its Guide to 311 Green Colleges. The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2012 names RIT as a “Best Buy,” and The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizes RIT among the “Great Colleges to Work For 2011.”

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Eugene Fram