RIT’s first president was Carleton Gibson, when the university was still known as the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute. The Institute was established in 1829 but had not been led by a president until the board appointed President Gibson. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the namesake of the dorm building Carleton Gibson Hall. He was president from 1910-1916, and in 1912 he instilled what would become the cooperative education program. President Gibson placed emphasis on industrial education and students being able to work and gain experience during half their time in school. Now students are able to split their time at college between classes and co-ops, gaining and using knowledge on the job. President Gibson cut his presidency short when President Hoover asked him to be a member of the American Commission for War relied in Belgium, starting in October 1914. It was meant to be three months and it lasted much longer, causing him to officially resign in July 1916. June 2016 will mark the 104th anniversary of RIT’s co-op program, all thanks to President Gibson! It began with just a handful of students, but now thousands of students are completing coops required for their degree in all sorts of areas of expertise.
Our current president is someone we all know and love— President William Destler! He became president in 2007, and is the ninth president RIT has appointed in its 187 year history. While sometimes we make jokes about his “weather machine” and massive banjo collection, President Destler is so much more to us than that. Since his presidency started, RIT has become the 10th largest private universities in the U.S., the second largest producer of undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and a math, and has been recognized as a leader in green initiatives. President Destler keeps pushing RIT toward a better future.