Transforming the Landscape: 50 Years on the New RIT Campus, an illustrated history of the Henrietta campus architecture and how it was built, will be available in early September from RIT Press, the scholarly publishing enterprise at RIT.
“Don’t get 100 acres. Buy enough land for the next 100 years.”
— James Gleason, chairman of the RIT Board of Trustees, 1961.
RIT’s history is fascinating and eclectic. Our university started with a progressive vision and uncommon ambition.
First, we were born of an unlikely institutional marriage of an influential cultural association, the Rochester Athenaeum, founded in 1829, and a technical training school, the Mechanics Institute, founded in 1885.
Yet it was the 1961 decision to leave downtown Rochester for farmland in the town of Henrietta that put RIT on its path to preeminence as a global university. The Board of Trustees’ — led by Chairman Gleason — bold move allowed President Mark Ellingson to start fresh with a new canvas. The new landscape also led to RIT being chosen as the home campus for the federally sponsored National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
The rest, as they say, is history as creativity and innovation began to flourish on the modern-day campus at a brisk pace. Since the grand opening of the Henrietta campus in 1968, RIT has grown rapidly under forward-looking leadership.
We are now one of the top few universities in the nation working at the intersection of technology, the arts and design. We are global with partnerships on nearly every continent and overseas campuses located in China, Croatia, Dubai and Kosovo. We are 135,000 alumni strong with Tigers shaping the future and improving the world.
While we celebrate the growth of the campus we affectionately refer to as “Brick City,” let us never forget it is truly our people — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends — who propel this university forward.
What’s next? Together, we have many more chapters to write in the evolving RIT story. I am convinced that we have covered only the early volumes.
Has RIT transformed us, or have we transformed RIT? I believe both are equally true.
In the middle of the 20th century, RIT was already making an indelible mark in higher education, shaping careers for its students, providing the workforce that served as the economic backbone for the Rochester region, and acting as an invaluable partner to companies and industries across the country. In the fifty years since the Henrietta campus began to rise up from fields and wetlands south of the city of Rochester, RIT has expanded its reach and reputation around the globe, and deepened its impact on the lives of our students and alumni.
Brick City has become a beacon of knowledge and innovation. The university has been transformed by the leaders, scholars, alumni and students who have trod the campus pathways. It has altered the trajectory of entire industries, and changed the lives of many of its alumni and supporters. It has been embraced by the Rochester community as an integral part of its history and a vital part of its future, and it is heralded by industry, education, and global leaders as a truly great university.
With all that has happened since 1968, it is stunning to consider that the transformation is not complete. As we look back on how much has changed since we placed the first brick in Henrietta, the potential for RIT to be transformed and to continue to transform the lives of RIT family members, is awe-inspiring.
Our past is being celebrated, but our future awaits.
Bill Buckingham ‘64
Honorary Chair, 50th Anniversary
RIT Trustee (Chair Emeritus)