RIT president gives final welcome back address

He reflects on accomplishments from the past decade before his retirement next summer

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A. Sue Weisler

RIT President Bill Destler addresses the RIT community at the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year.

Strengthening connections in California’s Silicon Valley, record research funding and astrophysics faculty and students playing a role in proving Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity are just a few of the highlights of the past year at Rochester Institute of Technology.

RIT President Bill Destler cited those accomplishments, and much more, during his presidential speech to the RIT community in the Gordon Field House as the new academic year begins.

“This moment when the campus comes alive with students again is an exhilarating time that reminds us that, for all the varied ways in which we serve our community and the world, our primary responsibility always has been and always will be to our students,” he said.

Also expressing expectations for this year were RIT Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeremy Haefner; Interim Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Keith Jenkins; Associate Professor Christopher Collison, chair of RIT’s Academic Senate; Staff Council Chair Raman Bhalla; and Student Government President Andrea Shaver.

Destler listed just a few indicators of RIT’s success, including a record $73 million in research funding last year.

“And RIT can now boast of a state-funded Center of Excellence in Sustainable Manufacturing and a Center for Advanced Technology in Additive Manufacturing. RIT is also a partner on five of the eight National Network for Manufacturing Innovation centers established by President Obama to increase America’s ability to compete in this crucial economic sector. To my knowledge, no other university comes close.”

Student accomplishments have been many, Destler said.

“This year, a group of RIT students won the State Department’s P2P: Challenging Extremism international challenge to university students to find ways to use social media to combat terrorism,” Destler said. “Our Mini-Baja team finished first and second in the two major national competitions this year, and an all-female team of RIT engineering students competed in the Formula Hybrid competition that took place in May at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and finished third in the electric category.”

RIT’s women’s basketball team and men’s lacrosse team had successful seasons, and the men’s hockey team won the Atlantic Hockey Tournament Championship and advanced to the NCAA national championship tournament for the second year in a row.

RIT faculty and staff have done well too. In the past three years, seven RIT faculty members have been awarded National Science Foundation CAREER Awards.

He said a new construction on campus includes additional housing near Global Village and the MAGIC Spell Studios facility to support the MAGIC Center and the gaming, film and animation programs.

It was his 10th and final welcoming address, as he plans to retire next summer. Destler said he will not coast to his retirement, and thanked RIT’s faculty and staff, and his spouse, Rebecca Johnson, for their dedication and support.

“We are, of course, proud of what has been accomplished during this decade, but mostly we are proud of you. … We hope that you will continue to work with us to keep RIT on its remarkably positive trajectory,” he said.