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Robert A. Altenkirch To Be Inaugurated May 2 as President of New Jersey Institute of Technology

Idealism, celebration and commentary from leading state dignitaries will mark the inauguration of New Jersey Institute of Technology’s seventh president, Robert A. Altenkirch, Ph.D.

Altenkirch will be inaugurated May 2, 2003, beginning at 2:45 p.m.. The ceremony will occur in a large white tent on the campus green.

(Editors Note: To attend the inaugural events, contact Sheryl Weinstein at 973-596-3436.)

The day begins at noon with two on-campus luncheons for faculty, staff, friends and dignitaries. An impressive academic processional, starting at 2:45 p.m., will lead into the inauguration. New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey and Newark Mayor Sharpe James are expected to speak prior to the presentation of the president.

Altenkirch’s remarks will describe his vision for NJIT and the future. Later, at 6 p.m., a short reception celebrating both the day’s events and NJIT’s long-standing ties to Newark will be held at the Newark Museum.

All the events will be funded with dollars raised for institutional purposes-- approximately $140,000. “The university is not scaling back anything but will hold an inaugural that is appropriate to the office,” said James A. Kennedy, chairman of the NJIT Board of Trustees. “The inaugural event will be modest but dignified.” The Foundation at NJIT, chartered in 1934 as the Newark College of Engineering Research Foundation, raises funds in support of research, fellowships, and university programs.

Altenkirch’s speech will provide one of the day’s brightest spots.

“As we enter the first decade of the 21st century, the educational challenge for NJIT is two fold,” said Altenkirch in a recent interview previewing the speech. “We must continue to make the opportunity for higher education inclusive. As a technological research university, we must make the search for new knowledge integral to the student experience, for graduate students and undergraduates as well, enabling all students to partner with faculty in the enterprise of scientific discovery and technological invention.”

Dignitaries are expected to have much to say. Although NJIT’s new president has only been a New Jersey resident since August of 2002, Altenkirch has already made himself highly visible and active.

Altenkirch’s appointments in 2003 include the seven-member Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation, the Governor’s newly-created Commission on Jobs, Growth and Economic Development and the Amistad Commission. The latter commission was created in 2002 by the New Jersey legislature to facilitate wider appreciation of the significant role African-Americans played in building the U.S.

In 2002, Altenkirch was appointed to the board of directors of the Research and Development Council of New Jersey; the board of trustees of Prosperity New Jersey; and the review, planning and implementation steering committee of the Governor’s Commission on Health Science, Education and Training.

The university chose the Newark Museum as the site for the final celebration, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., because of its symbolism. “We consider NJIT to be not only a state institution, but since its inception, an important resource for Newark residents,” said Henry Ross, Ph.D., chief of staff at NJIT. “NJIT owes its origins to Newark Technical School, founded in 1881 by Newark City Fathers. It is proper for NJIT to visibly support a sister cultural and educational institution.”

“One of the roles of a university is to provide academic buildings of high caliber;” says Urs Gauchat, dean of the New Jersey School of Architecture (SOA) at NJIT. “NJIT has, over the last few years, added a series of spectacular buildings designed by noted architects such as Michael Graves, Robert Hillier and Charles Gwathmey. These buildings create an atmosphere conducive to learning; they provide an inviting gesture to the community.” NJIT students often contribute to the city. This past year, architecture students in the master of infra-structure planning program in SOA developed a proposal for the Business Improvement District in the Ironbound section of Newark. “The plan not only filled pedagogical objectives, but it is helping shape the future of that part of Newark,” says Gauchat.

In addition, during the past academic year, more than 450 NJIT students volunteered more than 18,000 hours to benefit the city. Projects included literacy tutoring in neighborhood schools and libraries; computer technology assistance for nonprofit community groups and centers; and support of community housing development for local nonprofit agencies.