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Senator William H. Hernstadt ’57 and Jerene Yap Hernstadt Gallery Dedication

“A Crossroads for Expediting Serendipity”

Remarks by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Good morning, and welcome. I am delighted to join with you today to dedicate the Senator William H. Hernstadt ’57 and Jerene Yap Hernstadt Gallery in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

We are grateful that Senator Hernstadt and his wife, Jerene, made the long journey to Troy from their home in Singapore, so we can honor their generosity to Rensselaer.

The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies—or CBIS—was designed to advance the extraordinary opportunities for discovery and innovation at the intersection of the life sciences with engineering, and the physical and computational sciences.

As Senator and Mrs. Hernstadt learned on their tour, important advances are being made here:

  • Rensselaer researchers are improving drug safety, with new high-throughput platforms that enable the rapid identification of potential toxins;
  • They are making significant strides in molecular bioprocessing, including the development of bioengineered heparin that can be used as a contamination- and disease-free replacement for the animal-sourced drug.
  • They are developing new strategies for defeating pathogens such as MRSA and listeria without the problem of antibiotic resistance. Bio-nanocomposites that include lytic enzymes—or enzymes that rupture cell walls—which can be incorporated into antimicrobial paints and coatings—are proving remarkably effective.
  • They are developing a molecular and cellular understanding of the mechanisms behind Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.
  • And they are advancing tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

One never knows where the next research breakthrough will come from, but conversation is key to expediting serendipity. This gallery space outside of the CBIS auditorium has become a vital hub for the exchange of ideas and fostering of collaborations, often across the disciplines. For that reason, it is the ideal place to honor the generous contribution by the Hernstadts, to support our researchers in their quest to change the world.

Clearly, Senator Hernstadt himself understands the intellectual energy that is unlocked as we encounter new fields, new colleagues, and new points of view. Senator Hernstadt has had a wide-ranging career. He has been a mergers and acquisitions specialist; assistant treasurer at a major corporation; head of broadcast stations in Miami and Las Vegas; and an entrepreneur and founder of DPSearch, a successful IT recruitment firm in Singapore. He also has held elective office, serving with distinction for seven years in the Nevada State Senate.

The Hernstadts have been strong advocates for education and generously have supported other causes at Rensselaer, including the Rensselaer Annual Fund. In fact, their support has earned them membership in the Stephen Van Rensselaer Society of Patroons.

Now, this unrestricted gift to the Rensselaer endowment will support new discoveries to improve human health, and new technologies that employ biological processes to answer the world’s great challenges, including food, water, and energy security.

It is largely because of philanthropy such as the Hernstadts’ that we have experienced an extraordinary transformation under The Rensselaer Plan over the last 14 years. We have built platforms such as CBIS to anchor and animate Rensselaer education and research. Now, with the bicentennial of our founding less than 11 years away, we shift our focus to The Rensselaer Plan 2024, and we move from transforming Rensselaer, to making Rensselaer even more of a transformative force in the lives of our students, in our pedagogy, and in the global impact of our research.

Senator Hernstadt and Mrs. Hernstadt, your support is going to allow Rensselaer to realize this vision.

Now, to close our ceremony, please join me as we unveil the plaque that bears the gallery name.

Thank you.

Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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