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

3 Dec

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.

 

E. Philip Saunders gifts $7.5 million to RIT

30 Oct

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.

RIT receives multiple accolades for promoting diversity and inclusion

23 Sep

African American male faculty showing scientific slides to three African American female students. All are in blue lab coats.

Two national organizations focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education recently presented Rochester Institute of Technology with multiple awards for the university’s work in the field.

RIT received the 2019 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. As a recipient of the annual HEED Award — a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion — RIT will be featured, along with 92 other recipients, in the November 2019 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. This is the sixth year in a row RIT has been named as a HEED Award recipient.

For the third year in a row, RIT is being honored as an institution committed to diversity for 2019 by Minority Access Inc. Minority Access is a nonprofit organization committed to increasing diversity, decreasing disparities and reducing incidences of environmental injustices. Each year the organization identifies exemplary colleges and universities whose commitment to diversity and efforts to implement it serve as an example for other institutions. Fewer than 200 colleges and universities nationwide were recognized by the organization this year. Minority Access will make a formal presentation in recognition of RIT’s commitment at their National Role Models Conference, Sept. 26–29 in National Harbor, Md.

Professor André Hudson, head of RIT’s Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, is among the individuals Minority Access will celebrate at the National Role Models Conference this year. Hudson is trained as a biochemist and his research focuses on biochemistry and microbiology, specifically, in amino acid metabolism, structural analyses of enzymes involved in amino acid and bacterial peptidoglycan metabolism, and the isolation, identification and genomic characterization of plant-associated bacteria. The organization aims to identify and recognize inspirational role models in various categories to inspire others to emulate them, and thereby increase the pool of scholars and professionals who will find cures for illnesses or solve technological problems or address social disparities in society.

“We are honored to be recognized nationally for our tireless work providing more underrepresented men, women and deaf and hard-of-hearing students, faculty and staff opportunities to learn, grow and succeed,” said Keith Jenkins, RIT’s vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion. “Congratulations to Professor Hudson and the countless other RIT community members who work tirelessly to make RIT a diverse and inclusive community.”  

Earlier this year, RIT was named a Diversity Champion by INSIGHT Into Diversity for the fourth consecutive year. The magazine named RIT a Diversity Champion for its cumulative efforts in the area of diversity and inclusion throughout its campus communities, across academic programs and at the highest administrative levels. RIT was one of the first colleges and universities in the nation to receive this designation given by INSIGHT into Diversity.

RIT opens its doors for the most academically qualified freshman class

20 Aug

two light-skinned females in

Thomas Hargrave Jr. drove to Rochester last night from his home in Corning, N.Y., so his daughter, Megan Hargrave, an environmental sciences major at Rochester Institute of Technology, could move into her residence hall at 7 a.m. today.

“I hope she does all right,” the proud father said. “She’s never been away from home before other than two or three days. But she’s ready.”

More than 4,300 first-year, transfer and graduate students were expected and were greeted by more than 200 RIT student orientation leaders who helped families unload cars, put belongings in carts and wheel them to their rooms.

“We’re all about helping new RIT Tigers and their families,” said Eric Pope, associate director for New Student Orientation at a morning pep rally just prior to move-in. “You’re going to show students what it means to be an RIT Tiger.”

The freshmen are the most academically qualified class RIT has had, with an average SAT score exceeding 1300 for the second year in a row. Fifty-one students had a perfect SAT score, and 52 of the undergraduates ranked first in their high school graduating class.

The undergraduates are coming from 47 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; and 42 countries.

New graduate students are coming from 52 countries – the most outside the U.S. coming from India, China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Taiwan.

A record number of incoming Ph.D. students – 90 of them – were also expected this year.

RIT/NTID graduates advised to “Find the joy in being you”

11 May

large screen showing action on stage - Gerry Buckley and student hug while other faculty and trustees look on.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf wrapped up celebration of its 50th anniversary year with a commencement ceremony Saturday, May 11, in RIT’s Gene Polisseni Center.

A total of 350 students graduated, including 308 undergraduates and 42 graduate students. Among the undergraduates were 114 with associate degrees and 194 with bachelor’s degrees, including 33 from NTID’s ASL-English Interpretation program. The college’s master’s degree program in Health Care Interpretation graduated 12 students, and seven graduated from the master’s program in secondary education along with 23 students who graduated from master’s degree programs in the other colleges of RIT.

Israelle Johnson, a laboratory science technology major from Baltimore, Ohio, the college’s undergraduate delegate shared her experience with her fellow graduates.  

“Through my education, I found this quote by Theodore Isaac Rubin, ‘Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.’ I started with the laboratory science technology program just to try science and see what would happen. Well, it stuck. I learned so much; normal science things and the complexity of science in the world. It has taught me many different perspectives. It taught me friendship, dedication, team work, independence, how to ask questions and find confidence in who I am.

“So be proactive, meet people, do self-care, volunteer, find your balance, explore your world, find the joy in being you. Do not let the challenges limit you.”

Jeanne D’Arc Ntiguliwa, a master’s in secondary education major from Rwanda and RIT/NTID’s graduate delegate, reflected on her academic journey.

“My ambition to be useful in this world led me to RIT/NTID. At RIT/NTID, for the first time in my academic journey, I had direct communication with my professors, asked questions, participated in group discussions and activities. It was a whole new experience. I am deeply indebted and thankful to NTID for all those experiences, and for exposing me to what a genuine inclusive world looks like.

“What dream can you accomplish now with your degree? Believe in yourself, be bold and creative and go make a difference! It is my hope that we all leave well-equipped to begin new chapters and that one day we will proudly look back and nostalgically say, ‘Yes, I made it, thank you RIT/NTID for empowering me.’”

Prior to graduation, 24 students and three faculty members were inducted into the Epsilon Pi Tau Honor Society, an international honor society for professions in technology. RIT/NTID has the first deaf chapter of this society. 

Historically, 96 percent of RIT/NTID graduates, who work in all economic sectors, have found employment in their chosen fields within a year of graduation. Associate and bachelor’s degree graduates earn 95 and 178 percent more, respectively, than deaf and hard-of-hearing graduates from other postsecondary institutions.