Papers and Speeches

Convocation for New Students and Families

President Bill Destler
Aug. 27, 2007  

Welcome to RIT!

It is with great pleasure that I welcome all students, both new and returning, to RIT.  As a first-year Tiger myself, I am as excited to begin the academic year as any Freshman might be, and like all of you, I am looking forward to immersing myself in this extraordinary campus and learning about all RIT has to offer.

RIT is truly a “category of one” university.  Where else can you find students on the same campus studying photography and engineering?  Where else can you find students who are studying business and furniture design working side-by-side?  Where else can you find deaf students and hearing students working together on team projects?  Here are just a few examples, and there are so many more:

  • Our students demonstrate ingenuity that goes beyond the expectations of the classroom. A great example is a class assignment to develop an awareness campaign for a special needs group. This has evolved into a nonprofit organization to help the blind and visually impaired shop for clothing and coordinate their outfits through the use of an interactive, talking Web site and standardized Braille-embossed clothing tags made of cloth rather than aluminum. Asmah Abushagur from the Saunders College of Business and Jaimen Brill from the College of Liberal Arts traveled to Rome last month to pitch their idea for their company, White Cane Label, to fashion leaders of the world. They have garnered an incredible amount of support, both locally and nationally, for their idea and we look forward to tracking the progress of their company.
  • Our students continue to earn national and international attention for activities that build upon their classroom experiences. Note the 2007 Baja SAE Rochester World Challenge hosted on our campus earlier this summer. One hundred and forty-one teams from around the world participated in the event with RIT entering two cars in the competition. WXXI, Rochester’s PBS affiliate, is producing a documentary about the competition that will include footage from three of our film students – a great example of cross-disciplinary collaboration.
  • And then there are two students who, at the urging of one student’s dad, created, a social networking site designed not for teens or college students, but for parents, grandparents – anyone over the age of 30. The site offers a unique emphasis on recognizing “time heroes” – those who have traveled through life and shared their experiences with others – just one more example of the innovation and creativity that thrives on our campus.
  • This fall we will offer a new doctoral degree in color science, the only one of its kind in the United States. Color science is RIT’s fourth Ph.D. program. The others are imaging science, microsystems engineering, and computing and information sciences. We have two more in the works in the areas of astrophysics and sustainability.

This kind of intellectual and cultural diversity is available only at RIT, and it provides an extraordinary outside-the-classroom educational opportunity to all students. How much you benefit from it, however, is really up to you. I encourage all of you to first find your footing in your academic studies, and then branch outward into the various opportunities for campus engagement that are available to you. It is this opportunity to grow intellectually in areas inside and outside of your major that makes an RIT experience so special.

One cautionary note, however. The United States is a wonderful country and one of the best things about this nation is the extent to which you can always start over. Regaining your personal reputation for honesty and integrity, however, is not so easy. So avoid the temptation to cheat or plagiarize others’ work as you pursue your studies. This is the place where you begin to build your reputation for honesty and personal integrity that you will carry for the rest of your lives.

The faculty and staff at RIT are here to support you on this journey, and I encourage you to take advantage of all they have to offer you. Also, please feel free to contact me should you feel that there are ways that we may serve you better. I will look forward to watching your progress and celebrating your achievements.

To families, we invite you to return to campus in just six weeks to RIT’s Brick City Homecoming – October 4th through October 7th. This year’s Brick City Homecoming features comedian Howie Mandell, best known for hosting Deal or No Deal. He is also the creator and producer of the Emmy Award-nominated animated children’s series, Bobby’s World, and frequently appears on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

We are excited to also feature Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, a Silicon Valley icon and philanthropist as the 2007-2008 Horton Distinguished Speaker. His honors and awards include the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor for innovators, and being inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame. Watch the mail or visit for more information about the weekend.

Finally, GO TIGERS!