Staff Editorial: Gift brings opportunities, challenges to community

The Institute announced last month the gift of $130 million to RPI by an anonymous donor. The money was donated specifically for the construction of the new performing arts and biotechnology buildings. Unprecedented in size and scope, this represents a huge step towards the goals we have set for ourselves as an Institute, and will hopefully inspire an increase in donations to RPI in the future.

At eighteen percent of the size of RPI’s endowment, it is tempting to wish that a donation this large would go toward some of the more immediate and mundane needs we have, such as beefing up the aforementioned endowment, funding more research, or new faculty. But it is almost certainly the bold steps forward we’ve taken recently that inspired this gift. And we may not be able to wait until our infrastructure and endowment can fully support us to jump into areas like biotechnology or else we will miss the boat.

At the same time, it is very tempting to rest on our laurels, so to speak. In this case, RPI is merely at the beginning of a major fundraising effort. But we distinguish ourselves by the programs that we build as much as the programs that we buy. Rensselaer faculty and students have been doing innovative work in every research area for years, pioneering some of those areas themselves. With the first wave of new buildings built and new faculty arrived, we must focus as much on accomplishing the Institute’s goals as on enabling them.

But a gift like this is certainly a start. With much-needed facilities, we will be able to devote more energy to moving up that would have otherwise been spent bootstrapping up. And it’s great to know that someone believes in us as much as we believe in ourselves. The timing, at the beginning of a major fundraising effort, is worth almost as much in inspiration as the buildings themselves will be. So, to whoever made this donation, thank you from all of us here at The Poly. To RPI: Let’s get to work.