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Donald Fry: Engaging and Energizing Alumni

Donald Fry

Photo by Mark McCarty

Donald Fry couldn’t have joined the Rensselaer community at a more exciting time — construction of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center is progressing at a dizzying pace; plans for the East Campus Athletic Village are under way; the spirit of exploration, collaboration, and discovery are alive in the labs on campus; and the goal of the Institute’s fund-raising campaign, Renaissance at Rensselaer: The Campaign for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has expanded from $1 billion to $1.4 billion.

Fry says there are close to 90,000 alumni worldwide in the Rensselaer family. In his new role as vice president for institute advancement, he’s committed to engaging and energizing each of them about the evolution of their alma mater.

Since arriving at Rensselaer in July, Fry — a retired Army major, former director of advancement for the College of Engineering at Purdue, and most recently vice president for development and advancement at Colorado State University — has been a tireless advocate for the Institute, working hard to open lines of communication and build relationships with Rensselaer’s many constituencies.

“I’m here to expand the culture of engagement with the institution and to help those outside of Rensselaer understand the great things happening here,” he says. “I see my job as finding ways to reach out to people, including those who’ve lost touch with the Institute; understanding what’s meaningful, important, or unique about this place to them; and then helping them think about the ways in which Rensselaer could be a partner for them in a variety of collaborations.”

Fry says part of Institute Advancement’s charge is to spread the word about the many changes that have taken place and to increase the philanthropic investments made at Rensselaer.

“Rensselaer today is a very different place than it was 20 or 30 years ago. I want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to take a look at the strides the Institute has made and the positive direction it’s headed.”

Fry says the campaign — which funds the initiatives laid out by The Rensselaer Plan — will require a campuswide effort in order to reach its goal of $1.4 billion by 2009.

Like most campaigns of this magnitude, the majority of Rensselaer’s funding has come from generous commitments and gifts from a small portion of donors, according to Fry. Now, he says, “is the time to make sure everyone understands what the campaign is about, because we’ll need everyone’s participation in order to reach our goal.”

“The purpose of the campaign is to build excitement, create energy, and raise awareness,” he says. “The campaign keeps us in the national spotlight, it shows that we have the financial backing of our constituents, and allows us to fund new initiatives, which helps us move up in the national rankings and remain competitive.”

Building lifelong relationships and encouraging alumni to get involved and excited about Rensselaer’s evolution, Fry says, is just as important as meeting the campaign goal, funding new initiatives, and growing the endowment.

“Under Dr. Jackson’s leadership the Institute has become a highly regarded, top-tier institution, and I know our alumni can take pride in their alma mater’s progress,” says Fry. “It’s not just about how much money we’ve raised or need to raise, it’s about encouraging our graduates to come back to campus, to get involved, and to be a part of the phenomenal transformation that’s taking place at Rensselaer.”

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Wei Zhao * Wei Zhao has been appointed dean of the School of Science. Prior to joining Rensselaer, Zhao served as senior associate vice president for research at Texas A&M University. In 2005, Zhao became director of the Division of Computer and Network Systems at the National Science Foundation. Last year, his division awarded research grants of more than $190 million, comprising 80 percent of total federal research funding in the area of computer and network systems. Zhao received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the Shaanxi Normal University in 1977. He earned a master’s degree in computer science in 1982 and a doctorate in computer science in 1986, both from the University of Massachusetts.
Pulickel Ajayan Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, was named by Scientific American magazine as a Research Leader within the 2006 “Scientific American 50” — the magazine’s prestigious annual list recognizing outstanding acts of leadership in science and technology. He also received the MRS Medal from the Materials Research Society.
Frank Spear, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, has been elected a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). This designation is conferred upon not more than 0.1 percent of all AGU members in any given year, and new fellows are chosen by a Committee of Fellows. According to the organization, the AGU is “a worldwide scientific community that advances, through unselfish cooperation in research, the understanding of Earth and space for the benefit of humanity.”
John Gowdy, the Rittenhouse Teaching Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences, was appointed treasurer of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE). The ISEE facilitates understanding between economists and ecologists and the integration of their thinking into a trans-discipline aimed at developing a sustainable world.
Shirley Ann Jackson Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer, has been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was cited for “her exceptional support of national education efforts, for her outstanding contributions to the field of physics, and for her exemplary national leadership.” President Jackson also was appointed by the National Governors Association to a 17-member task force to guide the Innovation America initiative. The task force brings together a bipartisan group of governors and members of the academic and business communities to oversee efforts to strengthen the competitive position of the United States in the global economy by improving the nation’s capacity to innovate.
Linda Schadler Linda Schadler, professor of materials science and engineering, has been elected a fellow of ASM International, a worldwide network of materials engineers and scientists dedicated to advancing industry, technology, and applications of metals and materials. Schadler was cited for “outstanding contributions to understanding of the nano and micromechanical behavior of polymer composites, and for educational leadership in materials science and engineering.”
William Walker William Walker has been appointed vice president for strategic communications and external relations effective Feb. 1, 2007. Walker is responsible for managing this new Institute division, created to advance pubic understanding of and advocacy for Rensselaer, and to ensure robust communication with the Institute’s constituencies. Walker was most recently vice president for public affairs at Dartmouth College, and was responsible for public relations programs for the institution, as well as overseeing media relations, publications, periodicals, Web site development, conferences and special events, internal communications, community relations, and photography. Walker received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.
Gwo-Ching Wang Gwo-Ching Wang, department chair and professor of physics, applied physics, and astronomy, has been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She was cited for “distinguished contributions to the fields of surface and overlayer phase transitions and dynamics of thin film growth using electron diffraction.” President Jackson and Wang are two of 449 fellows elected this year in recognition of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications, according to AAAS.
John Brunski, professor of bio-medical engineering, received the 2006 Jerome M. and Dorothy Schweitzer Research Award from the Greater New York Academy of Prosthodontics. He was the 39th recipient of the award and only the third engineer to receive the accolade. Previous recipients include P-I Brånemark, the originator of modern oral implants, and former Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research Harold Slavkin.
Linda Layne Linda Layne, the Alma and H. Erwin Hale ’30 Teaching Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences, has received the Council on Anthropology of Reproduction’s (CAR) “Enduring Influence” book prize for Transformative Motherhood (NYU Press, 1999), a collection of case studies that she edited. Layne received the honor at the CAR meeting in San Jose, Calif., in November.
Warren Cady Stoker ’33 Warren Cady Stoker ’33, of Manchester, Conn., died on Nov. 16, 2006. Stoker enjoyed a long career at Rensselaer, in which he held many positions. A year after graduating from the Institute, he became a professor in Rensselaer’s electrical engineering department, a position he served in until becoming head of the computer lab in 1952. In 1955 he moved to Hartford, Conn., to become founder of the Hartford Graduate Center. Stoker served in that position for two years before becoming associate dean of the Hartford school in 1957; he later was appointed vice president of the Hartford Graduate Center, and in 1975 he was appointed president. In 1976, Stoker was appointed president emeritus and trustee of the Hartford Graduate Center. The Hartford Graduate Center — now called Rensselaer at Hartford — celebrated its 50th anniversary in May 2006. During the ceremony Stoker was awarded the Rensselaer at Hartford 50th Anniversary Medal.
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