Grand challenges, convergence and retirement

Mike Bradley

RIT President Bill Destler walks across campus during the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival.

Oh what I would do to turn back the clock and be a freshman at RIT this semester. As we prepare to welcome back a record 19,000-plus students, the university is already brimming with activity that I see as a collision of the left brain (math, logic) and right brain (creativity).

For example, construction will soon be underway for MAGIC Spell Studios, a program that will link RIT’s internationally ranked academic programs with high-tech facilities needed to commercialize computer gaming, film and animation, graphic design and imaging sciences projects.

We are also beginning our new “Signature Interdisciplinary Research Areas” in sociotechnical approaches to cybersecurity, personalized health care technology, remote sensing with unmanned aerial vehicles, computational relativity and gravitation and the future photon initiative. It’s these convergences of disciplines that are making up the fabric of RIT. And this aligns perfectly with the shifting needs of our planet. This was noted by RIT commencement speaker France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation.

“The grand challenges of our time— harnessing big data, ensuring access to clean water, designing and managing a technology-embedded society—these will not be solved by one disciplinary field alone. They will require the expertise of an array of disciplines, a diverse group of passionate people. They will require us to work together, to listen and learn from each other,” Córdova told our graduates.

If I were a freshman today at RIT, I would want to explore everything on campus! Instead, I will explore a new chapter in my life. It is with very mixed emotions that I am informing you that I will retire from my position as president of RIT on June 30, 2017. At that time, I will have completed a 10-year term leading this remarkable university.

These years at RIT have been the most fulfilling of my professional career. On a more personal note, I want to thank my spouse, Dr. Rebecca Johnson, for bravely joining me on this adventure and for all she has done to provide a human face to our work.

As I enter my final year, the RIT community cannot rest on its laurels if we are to continue to be a great global university. And frankly, if we continue to improve in the right ways, the world will be better served by RIT as a result. I plan to roll up my sleeves during the next year because we still have a lot of work to accomplish before I retire.

So this is not the final goodbye. I look forward to working across the campus to collaborate and converge our collective talents as we make an impact on the world.

Yours in Tiger pride,

Bill Destler, President