Papers and Speeches

Reflecting on the Legacy of President Simone’s Leadership

When I was first contacted in reference to the search for Albert Simone’s successor as President of Rochester Institute of Technology, I took an outsider’s look at RIT. What I found was a truly unique institution of higher education that has been forever changed by Dr. Simone’s leadership. For those in the Rochester community who have lived with this change and perhaps taken it for granted, I would offer the perspective of an outsider looking in. What I have found is a national treasure.

First, I will focus on what I have found that RIT is not, because there is a tale to be told there. Perhaps most surprisingly, RIT is not one of the 500 or so U.S. institutions striving to become research universities in the mold of Stanford or the University of California, Berkeley. Research, scholarship, and creative activity play an important role at RIT, but not for their own sake. Rather, these activities take place as part of a broader institutional commitment to serve Rochester, New York State, and the nation with programs that specifically support private and public sector needs. RIT is also not a typical “institute of technology,” with programs focused primarily on science, engineering, and technology. RIT has strong programs in those areas, of course, but they are complemented by unique and extraordinary programs in the imaging arts and sciences, the creative and design arts, and business that are not typically found at such institutions. Finally, RIT is not just an increasingly diverse community, as are many of our colleges and universities, but a university in which the National Technical Institute for the Deaf adds a dimension of diversity that is simply not available anywhere else.

What RIT is is due in large measure to Dr. Simone’s leadership over the past 15 years. In every area that can be measured, and in many that cannot, the university has progressed markedly under his direction. In many areas, such as Microsystems Engineering and Color Science, it has emerged as a national leader. Public and private support for RIT’s education and research programs has increased dramatically under Dr. Simone’s leadership, and enrollment at RIT has grown to the point where it is one of the ten largest private institutions of higher education in the nation for undergraduates. Educational and research facilities are now comparable to those at the best institutions in the nation.

Looking ahead, Dr. Simone has left as his legacy a university which I will be proud to lead into the future. Taking RIT to the next level will require making creativity and innovation the norm for all students rather than the exception, introducing technology entrepreneurs to the creative process in the arts, forming teams of Ph.D. students to attack truly complex societal problems such as global warming or information security, and helping U.S. companies to find at RIT a low-cost, low-hassle alternative to in-house research and development efforts.

Albert Simone will leave RIT a larger, stronger, and more vibrant university than the one he inherited 15 years ago. His are big shoes to fill, and I can see that I am going to need to wear extra socks if they are not to fall off. Given Rochester winters, of course, that might not be a bad idea.