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The University Magazine

Farewell and Godspeed

Albert J. Simone
Albert J. Simone, RIT's eighth president

This is the final “President’s Message” that I will prepare for The University Magazine. As I look back on my 15 years at RIT, I recognize that this is the best job I have ever held. It seems as if everything I ever did in my professional career was done to prepare me for RIT. As I had the opportunity each year to come to know and work with new RIT students, I saw myself as we discussed their challenges, apprehensions and dreams. Some students, like myself, are the first in their family to attend college. There is no one back home to advise them based on experience; yet there are many people back home who can encourage, provide support and shine with pride as accomplishments are recorded.

Questions that come from students include: Should I change my major? Should I go on to graduate school? What kind of career and job should I seek? That was me, so many years ago. I see hardworking, intelligent students who often portray supreme confidence on the outside but who I know are really scared to death on the inside. I know, because I was there.

As I talked to graduate assistants, instructors, part-time faculty, lecturers, assistant/associate/full professors, department heads, deans and vice presidents, again I saw myself. I occupied each of those positions along the way. I have written books and articles and I wrote and received government grants, just like so many of our faculty; I founded, edited, and refereed journals; consulted with industry and government; served as a formal adviser to a state governor; and incorporated my own consulting firm. I served on many community boards and a number of for-profit boards. I held officer positions in professional associations.

On a daily basis, I talk with RIT faculty and staff who are engaged in exactly the same activities. I revel in the nostalgia of it all. I draw on my own experiences – positive and negative – in similar situations in order to enlighten the conversations. The fun of it all, at least to me, is indescribable.

Prior to coming to RIT, I worked with and came to know boards of trustees at two major universities. The opportunity to come to know and work shoulder-to-shoulder with RIT trustees is a unique experience for me. From conversations with so many other university presidents over the years, I am able to appreciate the almost textbook description of an ideal board – the RIT Board – which is relatively rare in academia these days.

Before coming to RIT, all of my education and academic experience was at research universities, some of which were the very best, some were in the middle, and some were aspiring. I had the opportunity to be educated at two Division III universities and participated as a Division III athlete; all of my other full-time university appointments (four universities) were at Division I athletics schools.

I was an assistant professor for three years at the largest and second oldest cooperative education university in the country and, for 15 years, a full professor at the oldest and second largest cooperative education university in the country. So when I said at the outset of this essay that it seemed as if I had prepared my entire life for RIT, you can see why I was so attracted to this university and why I feel as I do.

Throughout all of these experiences, there is one activity that stands out and provides always the greatest satisfaction. That is the opportunity to be in the classroom and to teach. I have had the opportunity to teach undergraduates, master’s and Ph.D. students in subjects ranging across the spectrum of mathematics, statistics, industrial and systems engineering, operations research, economics and business.

I have been able to keep in touch with individual students at every university at which I had a full-time appointment over all of the many years. Nothing is more satisfying or gratifying than to get a call or a note, often at Christmastime, from one of these students; these days, they often come with photographs of children and even grandchildren. Teaching, and bringing into play the latest scholarship in the field in order to enrich the learning and motivate the students, is the most exciting thing I have ever done throughout my career.

When everything that is important is considered, weighted, and balanced, a true strength of RIT – and I saved this for the last – is the staff which, on a day-to-day basis, makes everything I have described above possible because of the pride it takes in RIT’s accomplishments and the loyalty it has for RIT’s mission.

I see myself (I am referring, here, to the good parts only) in RIT students, faculty and administrators every day. Universities across the board are great institutions. I have been blessed over the past 15 years to be at what I think is the best of the best.

To my successor, Bill Destler, I leave you a wonderful university that is ready for you to take it to the next level. You inherit a fabulous team of vice presidents and other direct reports to the president. They are collectively and individually brilliant, dedicated, loyal, and – most importantly – they enjoy working together. I know they will counsel and support you, as they have me, to the fullest.

To everyone at RIT – students, faculty, staff, administration, trustees, and alumni – thank you for the opportunity. To the talented and warm Rochester community outside of RIT, thank you for embracing Carolie and me 15 years ago. To Bill Destler and his wife, Rebecca Johnson, welcome, good luck, and Godspeed. I wish you all of the fun and all of the opportunities to work hard and creatively that I have enjoyed these past 15 years.

Cordially Yours,
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Albert J. Simone