A01.0 History, Accreditation and Legacy


The Rochester Athenaeum, a society devoted to learning about recent developments in science and technology, was founded in 1829, with Nathaniel Rochester as its first President. Several decades later, in 1885, the Mechanics Institute was founded by a group of Rochester citizens, including Henry Lomb, Max Lowenthal, and Frank Ritter, to provide training in technology and industrial arts in a humanistic context.

In 1891, these two institutions—the then Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Association and the Mechanics Institute—merged to form the new Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, the name proposed by Ezra Andrews, who became President of the new Board of Trustees (1891-1899).

The Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute of 1891 continued to expand its offerings to meet the needs of its students and industrial partners. Beginning in 1912, it offered cooperative education programs, combining classroom instruction with the world of work. In 1944, the name of the institution was changed to the Rochester Institute of Technology to reflect its range of technological, artistic, and commercial studies.

In 1950, RIT became the first institution in New York State to grant the Associate in Applied Science degree. In 1953, the New York State Board of Regents authorized the university to offer the Bachelor of Science degree; in 1956, the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree was authorized. The first graduate degrees were offered in 1958, and the first doctoral degree program in 1992. In 1966, RIT was chosen by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now the Department of Education) as the sponsor for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

In 1968, when RIT moved from downtown Rochester to its new campus, the university's academic portfolio further broadened. Today RIT is comprised of eight colleges and one degree-granting university: the College of Applied Science and Technology; the E. Philip Saunders College of Business; the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences; the Kate Gleason College of Engineering; the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences; the College of Liberal Arts; the National Technical Institute for the Deaf; the College of Science and the Golisano Institute for Sustainability. Few universities provide RIT’s variety of career-oriented studies, which include more than 90 bachelor’s degree programs in art and design, business, engineering, science and mathematics, the liberal arts, photography, environmental studies, hospitality and service management, computer science, information technology, bioinformatics, and many others.

The university is governed by a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees. The Board has responsibility for the selection of the president, the financial strength of the university, and the approval of its overall policies. It has an extensive committee structure to assist in its work.

The President is the chief executive officer of the university. The six major areas of university activity are Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management and Career Services, Finance and Administration, Student Affairs, Development and Alumni Relations, and Government and Community Relations. Each of these divisions is led by a vice president. The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs serves as the chief academic officer. The Secretary of the Institute assists the Board of Trustees and the President to carry out their related responsibilities.


The history of the Rochester Institute of Technology is the story of remarkable men and women—visionary leaders, student-centered faculty, imaginative staff, generous benefactors, and generations of talented students who have gone on to make distinguished contributions to their communities, places of work, and professional fields. It is a story replete with the names of good and wise people, some well known and some unknown, whose commitment to constantly improving education has brought RIT to the reputation it gratefully enjoys today.

Mrs. Grace Dalbridge Watson may be regarded as a symbol of this history and of all the women and men whose generous personal efforts and talents have, since 1829, built the visible and invisible fabric of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Grace Watson was a quiet woman, unknown to the university, living on Hayward Avenue in Rochester. When she died on January 7, 1961, at the age of ninety, she left the university a surprising gift of $3.27 million, then the largest in the university's history. Her bequest gave the Board of Trustees the courage to buy new land south of the city and build the new RIT campus, subsequently opened in 1968.

Today, when faculty and staff teach and work on the 1300 acre campus Grace Watson's gift made possible, in the halls named for so many other benefactors, and when residential students take their meals in "Gracie's”—as they familiarly call the Dining Hall named in her honor—we all do so in gratitude for the Grace Watsons of our history: the past benefactors, faculty, administrators, staff, trustees, and students who created the legacy which the policies and procedures in this library seek to safeguard and promote.

Accreditation and Affiliations

The university is chartered by the Legislature of the State of New York and accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In addition, many of the university’s professional programs are accredited by their disciplinary professional organizations.

RIT holds memberships in the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, the American Council on Education, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Association of Independent Technological Universities, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association, the Empire 8 Athletic Conference, the Atlantic Hockey Association, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (New York), and the Association of Colleges and Universities of the State of New York. In addition, each college and division holds membership in organizations appropriate to its endeavors.

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Policy History:
Edited August 2010
Edited October 2010