RIT gifted 177-acre estate to expand research, educational offerings

Aerial view of large cabin and grounds surrounded by water.

Rochester Institute of Technology will use a substantial gift of real estate in Penfield to expand the university’s research and educational offerings in ecology, agriculture, sustainability and other fields.

Amy Leenhouts Tait and Robert C. Tait, Rochester natives and highly successful real estate entrepreneurs, have gifted to the university their 177-acre property, which includes a 60-acre lake and a private mile of Irondequoit Creek adjacent to Ellison Park. The site, home of a former Dolomite sand quarry, will be dedicated as the Tait Preserve of RIT.

“With this generous donation, the Tait family is providing RIT a transformative opportunity to expand our experiential education and research opportunities in many of our programs,” said RIT President David Munson. “The Tait Preserve of RIT will provide nearly endless possibilities for RIT and the broader community. We are deeply grateful to the Taits for their magnificent gift and commitment to this university and the Finger Lakes region.”

Over the past four years, the Taits have worked to clean up the abandoned industrial site and restore its natural beauty, constructing a 5,000-square-foot luxury lodge amidst its wooded hills and open meadows. The Leenhouts Lodge, named in honor of the Leenhouts family members, has geothermal heating and air conditioning, a chef’s kitchen, a massive stone fireplace and an open concept interior with huge sections of glass walls that mechanically open to the outdoor patios, firepit and view of the lake and surrounding hillsides.

“Bob and I are delighted that this property, which has special meaning to our family, will be loved and enjoyed for generations to come under the responsible stewardship of RIT,” Amy Tait said. “We are so inspired by RIT’s vision, which will benefit its constituents, the Penfield community, the broader region and potentially even the planet.”

The Tait Preserve of RIT is located 25 minutes from the RIT’s Henrietta campus and 10 minutes from downtown Rochester. Given its convenient location, RIT expects to use the facility for a wide variety of education, research and conservation activities including:

  • Environmental education and research, incorporating K-12 programming
  • Agriculture and aquaculture research and education, including sustainable agriculture and community engagement
  • Conservation, sustainability and urban ecology research and training
  • Events and hospitality community functions
  • Youth recreation

“With the Tait Preserve’s close proximity to downtown, we also see this as an opportunity to offer the City of Rochester’s K-12 students unique experiences they would not otherwise have access to,” said James Watters, RIT senior vice president for Finance and Administration and treasurer. “The Leenhouts Lodge will provide a first-class event center where we can engage the RIT and Rochester communities in ways that fascinate and inspire.”

RIT says it is committed to preserving and protecting the ecosystem and only anticipates adding infrastructure as required to maximize the site’s potential. Portions of the land have been earmarked for agricultural research and education to develop farming practices that benefit both the land and community.

 “The Tait Preserve’s local field sites will be highly advantageous for our environmental science and biology programs,” said Sophia Maggelakis, dean of RIT’s College of Science. “Exclusive and protected access to the property is particularly valuable, as it will give access of the available field sites to our faculty and undergraduate and graduate students to work on research projects in a number of areas such as ecology, agricultural biotechnology, wildlife management, plant biology, wetland biogeochemistry and geographic information systems, just to name a few.”

The Taits are longstanding business and community leaders. Bob and Amy Tait, together with Norman Leenhouts, co-founded Broadstone Real Estate in 2006, following their leadership roles at Home Properties. Their involvement with real estate and their demonstrated support of the community is modeled, in part, after Amy’s parents, Norman and Arlene Leenhouts, and Norman’s twin brother, Nelson Leenhouts, founders of Home Properties.

This is the second major gift the Taits have made to RIT. The former Rochester Savings Bank building, located at 40 Franklin St., was donated to RIT in 2012 by Amy and Robert Tait through Rochester Historic Ventures. The building, now called the RIT Downtown Center for Entrepreneurship, is home to RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, which provides business, mentoring and consulting services targeting new urban entrepreneurs or individuals who have an existing business or are hoping to launch a new business within the City of Rochester.

RIT is in the midst of “Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness” which aims to raise $1 billion to fund the university’s future by attracting exceptional talent, enhancing the student experience, improving the world through research and discovery and leading future special initiatives. With this gift, the Campaign has now secured nearly $665 million in gifts, research grants and other support.

Rochester Institute of Technology will use a substantial gift of real estate in Penfield to expand the university’s research and educational offerings in ecology, agriculture, sustainability and other fields.

Amy Leenhouts Tait and Robert C. Tait, Rochester natives and highly successful real estate entrepreneurs, have gifted to the university their 177-acre property, which includes a 60-acre lake and a private mile of Irondequoit Creek adjacent to Ellison Park. The site, home of a former Dolomite sand quarry, will be dedicated as the Tait Preserve of RIT.

“With this generous donation, the Tait family is providing RIT a transformative opportunity to expand our experiential education and research opportunities in many of our programs,” said RIT President David Munson. “The Tait Preserve of RIT will provide nearly endless possibilities for RIT and the broader community. We are deeply grateful to the Taits for their magnificent gift and commitment to this university and the Finger Lakes region.”

Over the past four years, the Taits have worked to clean up the abandoned industrial site and restore its natural beauty, constructing a 5,000-square-foot luxury lodge amidst its wooded hills and open meadows. The Leenhouts Lodge, named in honor of the Leenhouts family members, has geothermal heating and air conditioning, a chef’s kitchen, a massive stone fireplace and an open concept interior with huge sections of glass walls that mechanically open to the outdoor patios, firepit and view of the lake and surrounding hillsides.

“Bob and I are delighted that this property, which has special meaning to our family, will be loved and enjoyed for generations to come under the responsible stewardship of RIT,” Amy Tait said. “We are so inspired by RIT’s vision, which will benefit its constituents, the Penfield community, the broader region and potentially even the planet.”

The Tait Preserve of RIT is located 25 minutes from the RIT’s Henrietta campus and 10 minutes from downtown Rochester. Given its convenient location, RIT expects to use the facility for a wide variety of education, research and conservation activities including:

  • Environmental education and research, incorporating K-12 programming
  • Agriculture and aquaculture research and education, including sustainable agriculture and community engagement
  • Conservation, sustainability and urban ecology research and training
  • Events and hospitality community functions
  • Youth recreation

“With the Tait Preserve’s close proximity to downtown, we also see this as an opportunity to offer the City of Rochester’s K-12 students unique experiences they would not otherwise have access to,” said James Watters, RIT senior vice president for Finance and Administration and treasurer. “The Leenhouts Lodge will provide a first-class event center where we can engage the RIT and Rochester communities in ways that fascinate and inspire.”

RIT says it is committed to preserving and protecting the ecosystem and only anticipates adding infrastructure as required to maximize the site’s potential. Portions of the land have been earmarked for agricultural research and education to develop farming practices that benefit both the land and community.

 “The Tait Preserve’s local field sites will be highly advantageous for our environmental science and biology programs,” said Sophia Maggelakis, dean of RIT’s College of Science. “Exclusive and protected access to the property is particularly valuable, as it will give access of the available field sites to our faculty and undergraduate and graduate students to work on research projects in a number of areas such as ecology, agricultural biotechnology, wildlife management, plant biology, wetland biogeochemistry and geographic information systems, just to name a few.”

The Taits are longstanding business and community leaders. Bob and Amy Tait, together with Norman Leenhouts, co-founded Broadstone Real Estate in 2006, following their leadership roles at Home Properties. Their involvement with real estate and their demonstrated support of the community is modeled, in part, after Amy’s parents, Norman and Arlene Leenhouts, and Norman’s twin brother, Nelson Leenhouts, founders of Home Properties.

This is the second major gift the Taits have made to RIT. The former Rochester Savings Bank building, located at 40 Franklin St., was donated to RIT in 2012 by Amy and Robert Tait through Rochester Historic Ventures. The building, now called the RIT Downtown Center for Entrepreneurship, is home to RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, which provides business, mentoring and consulting services targeting new urban entrepreneurs or individuals who have an existing business or are hoping to launch a new business within the City of Rochester.

RIT is in the midst of “Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness” which aims to raise $1 billion to fund the university’s future by attracting exceptional talent, enhancing the student experience, improving the world through research and discovery and leading future special initiatives. With this gift, the Campaign has now secured nearly $665 million in gifts, research grants and other support.

 

RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf signs MOU with Beijing Union University

Two men and a woman sit at a table signing papers.

Administrators from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and a delegation from Beijing Union University in China signed a Memorandum of Understanding at a ceremony Nov. 22, establishing a cultural and educational partnership between the two institutions.  

The Memorandum of Understanding will establish student and faculty exchange programs and short- and long-term teaching, learning, research, innovation, discovery and global outreach missions. The colleges also are exploring the feasibility of developing a center of excellence in deaf education with a focus on English language instruction, American Sign Language instruction, postsecondary preparation, access technology and related research.

Beijing Union University, established in 1985, is a comprehensive university attached to Beijing Municipality. Over the past 40 years, the university has become one of the largest universities in Beijing and focuses on undergraduate education while promoting coordinated development of postgraduate education, higher vocational education, continued education and international education. The Special Education College of Beijing Union University, established in 2000, is the first school offering inclusive education to disabled and non-disabled students in China.

Participating in the signing ceremony were Teng Xiangdong, professor and dean of the Special Education College at Beijing Union University; James Myers, associate provost, RIT Global Education; and Gerry Buckley, NTID president and dean.

NTID has set up or reinvigorated partnerships with four universities in the past two years. In addition to PEN-International and Pre-College Education Network (P-CEN) Program partners, NTID has more than 14 institution partners throughout the world, including partnerships with De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Philippines; Tianjin University of Technology, China; Changchun University, China; and University of Rwanda, Rwanda.

“Today’s agreement of cooperation between RIT/NTID and Beijing Union University marks a significant step forward in providing educational opportunities between our two great institutions,” said Buckley. “We look forward to working with the BUU delegates and developing collaborative coursework that will benefit deaf and hard-of-hearing students in China and the U.S.”

RIT/NTID students and faculty develop new app to enhance accessibility for museum visitors

Person holding a cell phone with numbers in pink on the screen.

A new app developed by students and faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is making its national debut at an exhibit at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

The app, known as MUSEAI, is a new self-guided tour platform designed to enhance accessibility for all visitors in museums. Visitors use the app by inputting a number that is placed next to the artwork, which will provide them with the information about a specific artwork, including descriptions, historical facts, media (video/audio) with captions and audio descriptions. More.

RIT/NTID hosts award-winning actress Marlee Matlin Dec. 5

light skinned female with long blonde hair wearing gold hoop earrings and black turtleneck sweater.

Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin will be the featured presenter at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf on Thursday, Dec. 5, as part of the college’s Edmund Lyon Memorial Lectureship Series. The event, which is open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. in Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, on the RIT campus.  

Matlin will present on the topic of addiction and recovery, based on her 2009 book I’ll Scream Later. Her talk is one of several events celebrating the 40th anniversary of RIT/NTID’s Substance and Alcohol Intervention Services for the Deaf. A question-and-answer session will follow Matlin’s remarks.

Matlin won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God in 1987, and to date is the only deaf performer to have won an Academy Award. She has appeared in many popular television series such as Dancing with the StarsSwitched at BirthQuantico and The L Word, among others.

RIT/NTID’s Substance and Alcohol Intervention Services for the Deaf provides drug and alcohol information, education, prevention, intervention and referral services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community residing in the Greater Rochester area and to deaf and hard-of-hearing students at RIT/NTID.

Named for noted Rochester manufacturer, inventor, humanitarian and philanthropist Edmund Lyon, the Lyon Memorial Lectureship Series brings presenters to campus whose expertise and scholarly contributions stand on the cutting edge of advancement in the education and career success of deaf persons.

Tickets for Matlin’s presentation are $5 and can be purchased through the RIT Box Office. The event is not recommended for children under 13.

RIT named among top ‘green’ colleges by Princeton Review

Three wind turbines stand in front of glass building.

For the ninth consecutive year, Rochester Institute of Technology has been named one of the greenest universities by The Princeton Review. RIT moved up to No. 34 this year out of the 413 schools profiled in "The Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges: 2019 Edition." RIT is commended for its fervent focus on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified new construction, RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability, and serving as headquarters to the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute. More.

E. Philip Saunders gifts $7.5 million to RIT

stage with man at podium, interpreter to his side, three people sitting in chairs.

At an Oct. 29 celebration at Rochester Institute of Technology, E. Philip Saunders announced a $7.5 million gift to the business college that bears his name. Saunders, president and CEO of Saunders Management Co. and a longtime supporter of RIT, has gifted more than $25 million to the university. The latest transformational gift will be used to help fund a major renovation and expansion of the facilities in Max Lowenthal Hall, home of Saunders College of Business.

The gift will help add much-needed space to the college for innovative research in business disciplines, multidisciplinary student and faculty work, and experiential learning projects. The expansion will include learning laboratories, collaborative student spaces and room for the addition of the hospitality and service innovation programs to Saunders College. Plans are also underway to construct event spaces that will accommodate business conferences and speakers.

In July, majors in hospitality and tourism management and graduate majors in hospitality and tourism management, service leadership and innovation, and human resource development, as well as advanced certificates in organizational learning and service leadership and innovation, transitioned into Saunders College from the College of Engineering Technology. As a result of the transition, the programs contribute to a 10 percent growth in enrollment for Saunders College.

“My love for RIT goes back many years,” said Saunders. “I feel so good about the college. I am pleased that we are going to make another expansion here. This money is going to a good cause and will take Saunders College of Business and move it to the next level.”

RIT President David Munson thanked Saunders for his confidence in RIT’s work and for helping to craft the vision for Saunders College of Business. 

“Phil Saunders has helped set this college on a great path for almost 20 years, and we’re here to celebrate another leap forward for the Saunders College of Business,” said Munson. “Phil’s dedication to RIT and to this college has had a profound effect on our capacity to prepare the business leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful for his confidence in our work at RIT and in the Saunders College of Business, and I would like to call on the entire RIT community to join me in thanking Phil Saunders.”

Dean Jacqueline Mozrall thanked Saunders for his commitment and the impact that he continues to make on the university and its students.

“Saunders College has made significant strides over the past decade,” said Mozrall. “E. Philip Saunders helped initiate this unprecedented period of progress when he placed his trust in us by attaching his name to our business college in 2006. Phil invested in us, but has also committed his time and energy. He is an inspiration to us and this community. His spirit is a driving force in everything we do, and we cherish the active role he takes in helping us to pursue our mission and engage with our students, alumni, faculty and staff. It is truly an honor for us to be part of this amazing college that bears his name.”

In 2006, Saunders’ $13 million gift to the university boosted the visionary plans of RIT’s Saunders College. In 2010, he enhanced his support with an additional $5 million and a challenge to all Saunders College alumni and friends to raise $15 million to support future endeavors.

He also funded the E. Philip Saunders Endowed Business Scholarship, which has supported more than 85 undergraduate students since it was first awarded, and recently created a graduate endowed scholarship to expand graduate student learning and career potential. RIT student Kate Ferguson, a fourth-year finance and international business double major from Dansville, N.Y., and RIT alumna Rebecca Ward ’14 (accounting), ’15 (MBA), a senior accountant at Insero & Co., thanked Saunders and said the scholarship made their educations possible.

Saunders was named RIT’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year and also received the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award in 2005 and the Nathaniel Rochester Society award in 2011.

A trustee emeritus of the university, Saunders created an empire of truck stops known as the TravelCenters of America Inc., which led to a lifetime of diversified interests in energy, auto and truck rental, recreation and tourism, packaged foods, property management, banking and business ventures.

Today, Saunders College enrolls more than 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students in programs across RIT global campuses in Rochester, N.Y.; Croatia; Dubai; and China. Saunders College works in partnership with RIT’s entrepreneurial Venture Creations incubator and top-ranked Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to integrate business education with RIT’s world-leading technical and creative programs. With more than 25,000 alumni worldwide, Saunders College offers undergraduate, master’s, Master of Business Administration, and Executive MBA programs where students gain real-world business experiences through a tradition of applied learning, internships and capstone programs.

Saunders College’s online Executive MBA program was named the top online Executive MBA program in the country and in the top 10 online MBA programs in the nation by Poets&Quants, a leading resource for coverage of graduate business education. Saunders College undergraduate programs were recently ranked No. 66 in the nation in the 2020 edition of U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges, making it the top undergraduate business program in western New York.

This gift is another contribution to Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, a $1 billion university fundraising effort.

De’VIA exhibition reception open to the public

multicolor strands coming from outlined hands with blue and black background.

The Rochester Memorial Art Gallery’s reception and opening of the “De’VIA: Manifesto Comes of Age” exhibition takes place 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Avenue, Rochester, NY.

A limited number of tickets are available for community members to purchase at $35 each. Registrants for the Articulating Deaf Experiences conference may attend as part of their registration,

Featured will be work by the genre’s precursors, founders, and artists whose work, while they may not specifically identify with De’VIA, reflect the movement’s enduring influence. The exhibition draws principally from the permanent collection of RIT’s Dyer Arts Center. MAG is honored to celebrate De’VIA’s significance during the movement’s 30th anniversary.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at this link. Don’t miss this opportunity to be among the first to see “De’VIA: The Manifesto Comes of Age.”

 

RIT/NTID Career Fair to bring record number of employers to campus to recruit deaf and hard-of-hearing students

RIT/NTID students meet with employers at Career Fair.

Representatives from more than 50 local and national corporations, federal agencies, and nonprofit organizations looking to diversify their workforce will meet with hundreds of deaf and hard-of-hearing students—who also are prospective employees—at the 19th annual RIT/NTID Career Fair on Thursday, Oct. 17, at Rochester Institute of Technology. Companies and government agencies, including Apple, Microsoft, Draft Kings, Merck, IBM, Texas Instruments and the New York State Unified Court System 7th Judicial District, are participating in this year’s career fair. More than half of the companies will bring their employees who are RIT/NTID alumni back to campus serving as recruiters and role models for deaf and hard-of-hearing student job seekers. More.

Screening of “Moonlight Sonata” during Brick City Homecoming

dark blue background with image to resemble piano keys with outline of young boy and older man.

A new documentary by Oscar-nominated, Peabody and multiple Emmy winning director and former RIT Trustee Irene Taylor Brodsky, "Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements," features Brodsky's deaf son and her parents, RIT/NTID retirees Paul and Sally Taylor. The film will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, in RIT/NTID's Panara Theatre, as part of Brick City Homecoming & Family Weekend. The screening is free, but seating is limited to first-come, first-served attendees. Paul and Sally Taylor, along with Irene and her son, will be in attendance and will be available for a question-and-answer session at the end of the film.

To learn more about "Moonlight Sonata” and nationwide screening venues please check out www.moonlightsonatadoc.com