Harvey Palmer Professorship endowed at RIT through the Gleason Family Foundation contribution

Retiring dean honored for his stewardship of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering




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Harvey Palmer

The Harvey Palmer Professorship has been established at Rochester Institute of Technology through an endowment made by the Gleason Family Foundation.

Palmer, who is retiring this month after 16 years as dean, is being honored through the professorship for his leadership in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering, recognized nationally as one of the top engineering colleges in the country.

The endowment will support the chemical and biomedical engineering programs, two degree programs Palmer established at RIT, and will provide resources to support faculty professional growth, research initiatives, student stipend support and student-engagement opportunities.

“One of the best indicators of excellence of an academic institution is a dramatic increase in demand for admittance by a highly qualified and diverse body of students, and the enthusiastic recognition of its graduates by prospective employers. Under the leadership of Dean Harvey Palmer, this has become the hallmark of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. It is truly appropriate that this remarkable record by the dean and his fine faculty be recognized,” said James Gleason, chairman of the Gleason Family Foundation and chairman of the board of Gleason Corp. He is also an honorary member of RIT’s Board of Trustees.

“Chemical and biomedical engineering extended our portfolio significantly and extended it in a direction which inevitably allowed us to do even more in terms of gender diversity and industry partners,” said Palmer, who came to RIT in 2000. “It was critical to the future of the college and its ability to impact the breadth of educational experience of generations of engineers to come. This professorship provides these programs with a source of ongoing funding which will continue to enhance opportunities for them to grow.”

In his 16 years at RIT, Palmer saw its engineering college enrollment increase from just over 2,000 students to 3,494 in 2015, (2,868 as undergraduates, 626 graduate students). Over that time, he also

  • Increased the engineering college’s portfolio of programs to include a Ph.D. in microsystems in 2002, the chemical and biomedical engineering programs in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and a Ph.D. in engineering in 2014.
  • Cultivated the growth of prominent educational and research areas such as nano-engineering, 3D printing, advanced manufacturing and sustainable engineering.
  • Tripled the number of female students in the engineering college to a level of 30 percent women in the incoming class of 2016.
  • Quadrupled the number of female engineering faculty, to nearly 25 percent, (the national average is 16 percent) and helped mentor and promote female engineering faculty and staff into leadership positions in the college and university.
  • Dramatically increased the ethnic diversity of the faculty to levels well-above national averages (14 percent versus 6.2 percent).

The Gleason Family Foundation and Gleason Corp. have been long-time partners with RIT and the engineering college, providing significant financial support for programs and scholarships, professorships, and in donating state-of-the-art equipment for student learning and faculty research. In 2010, the foundation donated $3 million to create the Gleason Family Foundation Faculty Development Fund to help recruit and hire faculty for the chemical and biomedical engineering programs, and to assist these faculty to establish laboratory facilities and teaching resources for students in the programs. Since that time, both programs have seen considerable growth.

An appointment to the Harvey Palmer Professorship will be made by the dean of the engineering college and given to a faculty member from chemical or biomedical engineering who reflects the creativity, vision and student-centered approach Palmer demonstrated throughout his career as an educator, administrator, mentor and leader.

“Harvey is a dean’s dean,” said RIT Provost Jeremy Haefner. “He cared deeply about the students, having taught classes while a dean for many years. He moved the college forward with its research agenda by introducing two Ph.D. programs and helping faculty succeed with their scholarly programs. But his relationships with people stand out as an exemplar for building partnerships which are so important to a career-oriented institution like RIT.

“And there is no more profound example of relationships he has cultivated than the one between he and the Gleason family. The legacy of the Harvey Palmer Endowed Professorship is testimony to the commitment Harvey has made to advancing the Kate Gleason College of Engineering and to Rochester Institute of Technology.”

In 1998, the engineering college was formally named after Kate Gleason—business leader, inventor and the first female member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. It is the only engineering college in the U.S. named after a woman.

The Gleason Foundation invested many years ago in professorships in mechanical and electrical engineering, both disciplines at the core of what the Kate Gleason College of Engineering is all about—providing highly-skilled engineers necessary to advance product development and the manufacturing industry, Palmer explained. “With the further investment in chemical and biomedical engineering, also essential in our society today, we now have an investment that will sustain the strength of these programs. The faculty and I are grateful and humbled by the Gleason Family Foundation’s generosity and for their support for the growth and ongoing evolution of the college. These past 16 years have been transformational for both me and the college. I look forward to watching the college’s trajectory for years to come.”

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Harvey Palmer