The Green Ceiling. Parents and students alike might feel as though the cost of higher education is an endlessly increasing figure. We can’t speak for other institutions, but here, there’s a reason the cost per student has increased: our endeavor to be “ever better” has actually made us better—inside and outside the classroom. The real problem is there are too many deserving students and too few financial aid dollars. The answer is a deeper pool of endowed scholarships and fellowships.
“When I was a boy, scholarships were only $30.” That would make you about 164 years old. Endowed scholarships have existed at the University since its founding in 1850. Among the first were the New York Baptist Union scholarships, which covered three terms worth of tuition. Endowed scholarships and fellowships have the potential to reach a high level of prestige and endure for centuries.
SCHDPF. Endowed scholarships and fellowships are critical resources because of the financial assistance they provide students and the way they benefit the University. Use “SCHDPF” as a simple way to remember how they help the University: Stay Competitive, often being the difference between students coming here or going elsewhere; Honor Diversity, ensuring high-performing students from all backgrounds are able to attend; and Provide Freedom from heavy student debt. Remember SCHDPF!
The Meliora Club. There’s a movie from the 80s (“The Detention Gang?”) where a character writes this amazing “essay,” that captures the essence of a Rochester student. To borrow from that, each of our students is a scholar, an engineer, a caregiver, an artist, and a prankster. Every year since 2009, scholarship and fellowship donors have been able to see this first hand at the Celebration of Scholarships. While the annual event recognizes donors’ generosity and scholarship recipients’ accomplishments, it also provides a unique opportunity for donors and students to meet and interact with students.
Getting down to brass tacks. An endowed scholarship or fellowship can be created with a minimum gift of $50,000. There are three additional giving levels that provide partial tuition, full tuition, and full tuition with room and board (or graduate stipend). There are still more options for those looking to commit less than $50,000. And for those looking for fun, making a gift that also creates a good old-fashioned challenge could be a great way to add excitement and impact to philanthropy.
Not-so-Brief History of Data. According to IBM, we are now creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day—90% of the world’s data was created as recently as two years ago. That means the only thing we have more of than data is stars. This ridiculous amount of information is known as “big data.” Data science comprises the concepts, methods, and applications we use to slog through it all and extract something meaningful, like millions of Stephen Hawkings creating constellations.
Better living through data science. Do you use Google? Data science. Check the weather? Data science. There’s a reason Netflix is recommending that you watch “Mac and Me.” Data science told it to. Data science is everywhere, and it’s helping us analyze information in a way that the microscope helped early researchers view tissues and organisms. Current University research is using data science to help us understand political campaigns, track the spread of disease and identify at-risk individuals, and improve decision-making.
Ever better than everyone. When it comes to data science, we’re no slouches. Over the past five years, we have invested more than $50 million for faculty, staff, and a computing infrastructure. But our motto isn’t “Meh” it’s Meh-liora. So that’s why the Data Science Initiative seeks to create a $50 million endowment, which will be used primarily for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art building, as well as the recruitment of 20 outstanding faculty members.
Our data base. Our data science HQ, the Institute for Data Science, will be a 50,000 gross-square-foot addition to the River Campus, adjacent to Hopeman Hall, which allows us to assemble our existing strengths in data science together, under one roof. It also completes a science and engineering quad, shaped by Hutchison Hall, Goergen Hall, Carlson Library, and the Computer Studies building. Researchers within the Institute will initially focus on predictive health analytics, cognitive systems, and analytics on demand.
Our wish list. The new building is expected to use approximately half of the endowment we seek. Beyond that, over time, we would like to support 20 new faculty members with professorships. We would also like funding for The Center for Energy and the Environment, a directorship (see, professorships) for the Institute, and research funds. We logged all of this on Amazon.com (which, by the way, is powered by data science).
Rock star funding. An endowed professorship is among the highest honors a University professor can receive. They are reserved for those who rock the hardest as educators, scholars, and clinicians and provide funds that enable the University to offer competitive salary, benefits, and support for their research. The benefactors and holders of these positions are recognized during installation ceremonies, which President Seligman discusses in Endeavor, Issue #3.
The heart of our University. The mission of Meliora starts with our faculty. That’s why our Campaign has a Faculty Support goal of $350 million. We aim to create at least 80 new endowed professorships to help us reach our goal. These positions are critical to our ability to retain outstanding faculty members and attract renowned professors from around the world.
Generations of scientific genius. One of the most valuable benefits of an endowed professorship is it can last for centuries. There may not be a better example than Cambridge’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Stephen Hawking, arguably the most brilliant scientist the world has known since Einstein, held the position of Lucasian Professor more than 270 years after it was held by Sir Isaac Newton. This impressive lineage should tell you something about this guy.
“Telegram!” In 1851, Don Alonzo Watson and business partner, Hiram Sibley, helped found the company that would become Western Union. Watson is also among the University’s earliest endowed professorship benefactors. After more than 100 years, while Western Union is no longer in the telegram business, the Don Alonzo Watson Professorship of History and Political Science still exists.
How they work. A gift that establishes an endowed professorship is invested as a permanent, dedicated fund in the University’s endowment. The principal of the gift remains intact, and a portion of the annual earnings provides a perpetual source of funding. Those earnings typically provide the salary, benefits, and professional activities for professorship holders.
Hearts. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. In addition to providing excellent clinical care, the URMC has an international reputation for landmark studies in cardiac devices. The Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute has more than 100 scientists, students working tirelessly to create new devices, develop new therapies, and make discoveries that move us closer to finding cures.
Minds. Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a stroke. Alzheimer’s has become an epidemic we cannot delay, prevent, or cure. URMC researchers are on the cusp of finding a cure for muscular dystrophy. Collaborative approaches in stem cell research and therapy hold potential for treating multiple sclerosis and repairing damage from spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury.
Kids. A new, state-of-the-art Golisano Children’s Hospital will take patient- and family-centered care to a new level, providing a unique resource to children and families in our region. Through seven priority programs (autism, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neonatology, eating disorders, surgery and the supportive care team) we are working to prevent childhood disease and help keep those who are living with, or were treated for, diseases healthy throughout their lifetimes.
Cancer. “The cure starts here” is more than marketing for the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, it’s a track record. URMC researchers helped develop the world’s first cancer vaccine. Research continues to focus intensely on ways to kill or “turn off” cancer cells without damaging normal cells. In addition, protocols, programs, and services are being developed to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors (more than 12 million in the U.S.).
Mobility & Prevention. Preventing disease—more than treating or even curing—is the future of health care we all want. The URMC has an international reputation for vaccine development. Currently, we are working on ways to prevent MRSA, AIDS, and new strains of “super flu.” We also seek to improve overall health and mobility and promote healthy aging through an array of clinical and research programs, many of which are housed in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research and the Center for Community Health.
All in favor? Soon after our founding trustees decided to buy the United States Hotel (the building where the University first established its campus), a temporary seal had to be created for the purchase’s legal documents. On May 15, 1851, faculty voted that the board adopt “Meliora” as the motto for the University’s seal.
Surprise, surprise. Meliora is most likely to have been proposed by Greek and Latin Professor Asahel Kendrick, one of the University’s original faculty members. University Professor Alfred Geier believes Kendrick was inspired by lines from the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses: “video meliora proboque,” which means “I see and appreciate better things.”
We chose wisely. As an adjective, Meliora translates to “better.” However, it can also be used as a noun, in which case it can mean “better things,” “always better,” “ever better,” or in a way that most fully conveys the meaning, “for the pursuit of the better.” This translation is the foundation of our mission statement: Learn, Discover, Heal, Create—and make the world ever better.
“Ever better” squared. Over time Meliora has effectively Meliora-ed itself. Meliora has transcended its status as a motto to become an ethic, a value, and a way of life we all share. It is now a characteristic that is used in the description of Rochester alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents, and friends.
Meliorist. It’s a real word. Not only is it a real word, by definition, it is also what we are. A meliorist is a believer in the concept that the world may be made better by human effort. At the very least, from reading these five things, you are now a better “Balderdash” player.