RPI launches $1 billion campaign

On Friday, October 13, President Shirley Ann Jackson officially launched the public portion of Rensselaer’s new capital campaign, Transformative: Campaign for Global Change, with an event held in the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.

During the keynote address, Jackson announced that the campaign’s goal is to raise $1 billion over several years. The Institute has already raised over $400 million. Assistant Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Travis Apgar said in a Union Executive Board meeting on September 7 that institutions typically raise a majority of the money in the “silent phase.” The Polytechnic reached out to Jackson to determine when fundraising began and why the decision was made to announce the campaign before it reached the fifty percent milestone, but did not receive a comment.

The night’s events started with a cocktail hour in the science quad and moved into the Folsom Library for dinner. Though the event was sold out, many of the tables that were set up on the second floor of Folsom had empty chairs. A reception in EMPAC followed dinner.

After a concert from the Rensselaer Orchestra, Jackson gave a keynote speech. She outlined many of RPI’s accomplishments from her 18-year tenure as president. Specifically, Jackson stated that for the last year’s admissions, the Institute had 20,000 freshman applications—a number that is “quadruple what it was 20 years ago.” She then reiterated the three goals of the campaign: closing the financial aid gap, expanding the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty to 500 people, and modernizing the Troy campus.

After Jackson spoke, a few members of the Board of Trustees shared how RPI has affected their own lives and the ways through which they personally give back to the Institute. Campaign Co-Chairs Paul Severino ’69 and Kathleen Severino gave a few remarks on how they have contributed to Rensselaer through the endowment of the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship. Jackson described him as a serial entrepreneur who has successfully founded and operated several businesses in the technology sector.

After the Severinos spoke, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Arthur F. Golden ’66 delivered his own brief set of remarks on how he has given back to his alma mater. Specifically, he addressed the many changes that Jackson and her staff have implemented at Rensselaer by saying that “transformation is the new baseline, not the endgame—not by any means.”

After Golden, Secretary of the Board of Trustees Curtis R. Priem ’82 addressed the audience and said that “Rensselaer invested in me years ago,” so he only saw it fit to give back once he had the means to do so. He was a member of the Rensselaer Orchestra while he was a student. As an alumnus, he wanted to see the Institute have a greater focus on arts and electronic media. Priem also recognized Jackson’s donations to RPI specifically for the purpose of expanding student scholarships.

After Priem’s remarks, a video was shown on Rensselaer’s potential for transformation as it approaches the bicentennial of its founding. It featured the testimony of members of the president’s cabinet, dean’s council, and a few select students. Next, John E. Kelly III ’78, a member of the Board of Trustees and the senior vice president of IBM, recounted IBM’s history of contributing to Rensselaer that goes back to the 1960s.

Jackson, her husband, and the Board of Trustees then celebrated the launch with champagne on stage. Many guests went outside to watch fireworks, which were launched from the hill next to EMPAC above 8th Street.