RIT to name endowed professorship recipients

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Jeffrey Harris and his partner, Joyce Pratt, donated $2 million for two new endowed professorships in the College of Science. (Photo: RIT)

Rochester Institute of Technology will name inaugural recipients of two endowed professorships in its College of Science in the fall. These positions are made possible by a $2 million gift from alumnus Jeffrey Harris and his partner, Joyce Pratt.

RIT has matched the donation from Harris and Pratt with $4 million in funding as part of a $20 million challenge to encourage alumni, parents, and friends of the university to support faculty recruitment, retention, and research critical to the university’s priorities and trajectory, officials say.

“There is a close relationship between having superior faculty and producing highly-achieving students,” Harris says. “As the university continues to flourish and grow, its research portfolio is increasingly focused on innovative, game-changing solutions. These professorships can help RIT continue to attract and retain world-class faculty who lead graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom and in research projects that extend and reaffirm learning outcomes.”

The 21st chairperson of RIT’s board of trustees, Harris was a student in the university’s imaging science program. The new professorships honor his parents, Gerald W. Harris and Jane King Harris. They helped Harris to find a major that connected to his interest in photography and imaging technology.

“We believe Jeff’s parents are strong role models for this effort because they both had an insatiable curiosity and recognized the importance of education and technology,” says Pratt. “We are proud to establish the first two endowed professorships as part of this challenge and to get this effort on the path to success.”

The 10 endowed professorships are part of RIT’s $1 billion blended fundraising effort, Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, which was publicly announced in 2018. The university matches a $1 million donation with $2 million in institutional funding for a total of $3 million for an endowed professorship.

As of July 18, the fundraising campaign had reached 92 percent of its goal, or $916 million. The campaign is designed to raise dollars from a mix of donors including alums, parents, friends, government and business. 

So far, examples of the campaign’s success include its largest construction project on campus in more than 50 years—the Student Hall for Exploration and Development. RIT is expected to unveil the SHED, a more than $100 million effort, in fall 2023.

The SHED will cover more than 120,000 square feet of new construction and many more thousands of square feet of renovations in two existing buildings. The facility is expected to foster student collaboration among project teams, performing arts groups and others who use the makerspaces.

Other ways that sources of public, private and government funding came together include expansion and upgrades at the Saunders College of Business, the creation of ESL Global Cybersecurity Institute (with a $3 million commitment from ESL for naming rights, and donations from IBM and Cloud Cover and Lenel), and renovations at the College of Art and Design (funded by a $3.5 million gift from alumnus Chance Wright and his mother, Pamela Mars Wright).

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

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