Entrepreneur James Hammer’s $1 million donation to Rochester Institute of Technology will create the Hammer Family Packaging and Graphic Media Center, a comprehensive, dedicated space for advancing research and learning in emerging packaging and print applications.
The donation is part of Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, RIT’s $1 billion blended campaign. The fundraising effort has raised $867 million to date.
The new center is timely, says Hammer, former president and CEO of Hammer Packaging, as multiple market segments integrate print and packaging technologies. The digital convergence of these industries has ramped up the need for research and development of new materials, processes and sustainability initiatives in commercial printing and packaging.
“As the packaging and print media industry continues to consolidate on a global basis, it is imperative that RIT stays on the leading edge of technology and innovation. With sustainability and environmental concerns continuing to evolve, it is imperative that RIT maintain the number one position in attracting top talent to train in these critical issues in the packaging and print media industries,” Hammer says. “With this gift, the Hammer family is extremely proud to assist RIT through state-of-the-art R&D to address these many challenges. The future is now.”
Hammer is a member of the Center for Electronics Manufacturing and Assembly’s Dean’s Advisory Council and recently became a member of the RIT President’s Roundtable, an advisory board of national representatives who assist in addressing strategic issues.
Hammer Packaging’s ties to RIT span many years. The company has been involved in research and educational exchanges. Several undergraduate and graduate students have participated in co-op opportunities at the company, and more than 40 RIT alumni are currently employed by the company. Hammer Packaging was sold in March 2021 to Fort Dearborn Co. of Elk Grove, Ill.
The new Hammer Family Packaging and Graphic Media Center will combine packaging science and graphic media science and technology, two programs that are part of RIT’s College of Engineering Technology. It will co-locate laboratories focused on materials testing, distribution, digital processing, and workflow analysis for packaging and commercial printing.
Collaborative and integrated programming in packaging and engineering technology is underway in the graphic media science and technology program, RIT says. The interdisciplinary aspects of these programs aim to better position students for careers and research in industries like e-textiles and the printed electronics industry. This initiative will also leverage the Center for Electronics Manufacturing and Assembly, an established education and research center in CET, officials say.
Both packaging and print are new economy majors, those that combine multiple, integrated disciplines to produce graduates who are highly sought after today, says S. Manian Ramkumar, CET dean.
“This center will model the collaboration and forward thinking needed to integrate print, graphic media, and packaging technologies,” Ramkumar says. “Our faculty-researchers, students, and corporate partners will be on the front lines of discovering—and implementing—new and novel solutions in the evolving print and packaging industries. This center is also expected to serve as a world-class workforce education and training center.”
RIT’s packaging science department’s expertise in product, materials, and distribution testing is known nationally. Faculty research reflects industry trends, including a long-time focus on sustainability, circular economy, and the impact of e-commerce.
Work on the new center will begin toward the end of the spring semester and continue throughout the summer and the next academic year.