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Rensselaer Club Reception

“Bringing Rensselaer Together Through Friendship”

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

Pat’s Barn
Rensselaer Technology Park

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I am delighted to be here for the Rensselaer Club Fall Reception. The Rensselaer Club always has been a welcoming and convivial group. I suspect that our attendees this evening who are not yet members will have so much fun that membership will seem irresistible.

Thank you for gathering in this beautiful space. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at the plaque that commemorates the dedication of this building. The barn named in honor of Pat Roberts. Pat was the wife of Trustee Emeritus C. Sheldon Roberts of the Class of 1948, a brilliant scientist and entrepreneur who played a significant role in shaping Rensselaer in the last part of the 20th century. Pat, however, was a catalyst in her own right. In other words, she was an exceptional person who knew how to get things done.

Pat Roberts first visited this property on a tour organized for Trustee spouses, before it was developed into the Rensselaer Technology Park. She fell in love with this barn and the old brick house next door, and she became determined to preserve them. The house dates to the mid-18th century and contains bricks carried as ballast by early Dutch trading ships. This barn was built in the early 1800s, with some materials that were re-used from an older structure.

Pat Roberts put her heart and soul into saving the little house and this tumbledown barn in the woods, so that they could serve as a reminder of the sweep of history, for the brilliant people making history at the innovative companies and partnerships now in residence here in the Rensselaer Technology Park. I wanted to tell you about Pat because she was a person who came to know Rensselaer through her spouse’s association with us.

The Rensselaer Club was founded generations ago by like-minded spouses of Rensselaer faculty, who, at that time, were primarily women. Although it once was called the Faculty Wives’ Club, over the years its membership has expanded to include faculty and staff, as well as spouses of both sexes.

Throughout its history, the Club has promoted friendship and collegiality in our university community, and a high quality of life on campus and in our surrounding communities. Historically, some Club members became civic leaders in Troy and the wider region.

Today, Club members support our local food pantries and elementary school students. In addition, the Club supports Rensselaer students through a scholarship fund, which provides a stipend to allow for travel to an international conference.

Most significantly, however, the Rensselaer Club is here to bring together the Rensselaer family through friendship. It is an important way for newcomers to connect to Rensselaer.

The Club also creates opportunities for Rensselaer faculty and staff to get to know each other outside of their departments or schools.

As we implement our strategic blueprint for the next 11 years, The Rensselaer Plan 2024, one of our great strengths is the interdisciplinary nature of so much of the research that takes place at Rensselaer. We have put in place programs, platforms, and partnerships that encourage new collaborations across traditional academic borders. We understand very well that groundbreaking ideas often arise from a clash of cultures, and from the refreshing experience of working alongside someone with different training, towards a shared goal.

So, we encourage our faculty—and staff—to meet outside of typical academic and office settings. It is in casual and relaxed conversation that we can learn about each other, and perhaps find the serendipity of a mutual interest, or a research connection, or an entrepreneurial concept. The Rensselaer Club is an important part of this formula.

Who knows? It is quite possible that something great will arise from chatter at a Rensselaer Club luncheon, or wine tasting, or dinner. In any event, these occasions are time well spent because they are so enjoyable.

So if you are not a member yet, please consider becoming one. My husband, Dr. Morris Washington, is an honorary Club member, and he takes a special interest in Rensselaer ice hockey and the Big Red Freakout in February.

So please get involved, and as I like to say, each one, bring one. The expanding circle of friendship fostered by the Rensselaer Club makes us a stronger community—which in turn, empowers us to change the world.

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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