Some 300 students, faculty, staff, alumni and others gathered at dusk Oct. 21, 2005, in the lobby of the newest building at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The assemblage heard Robert A. Altenkirch, PhD, president of New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Kathleen Wielkopolski, NJIT Board of Trustees Chair, dedicate the six-story modernist structure to the work of Saul K. Fenster, PhD, president emeritus of NJIT.
In accepting the honor, Fenster, who led NJIT for a remarkable 24 years (1978-2002), warmly thanked past and present university trustees who helped and encouraged him to make his vision come true. That vision, which the other speakers addressed, included creating not only the newest structure, now appropriately called Fenster Hall, but a dozen more notable, architectural statements, built under Fenster’s direction and foresight. The buildings forever changed NJIT’s 45-acre urban campus and the Central Ward, an undeveloped section of Newark.
Joining Fenster, were his wife Bobbi and their adult children Lisa Garrison, Deborah Seliga, and Jonathan Gordon Fenster. Also on hand were Lisa’s husband, James, and their children, Samantha and Mitchell; Deborah’s husband, Ed and a special friend of Jonathan’s, Sherry Gunsberger.
Although Fenster started the project, which now provides first class teaching and administrative space, its completion was left to his successor Robert A. Altenkirch, PhD, president of NJIT, since 2002. The ceremony included the dedication of a plaque, pictorial review of the Fenster years and comments from Altenkirch and Wielkopolski.
“Saul K. Fenster led this university for 24 years,” said Wielkopolski. “He built, not only the physical campus that we see today—which more than doubled in size during his tenure—but also the philosophical underpinnings of NJIT’s role within the State of New Jersey and beyond. His foresight and determination transformed the institution from a good engineering school to a leading public research university.” Wielkopolski noted how Fenster emphasized information technology with two aggressive computing plans in 1999 and in 1983. She highlighted his belief in the strong applied research program as the core of the public technological university.
Altenkirch spoke about the changes in the student population during Fenster’s tenure. “It has become more richly diverse, making a statement about NJIT’s commitment to extending the benefits of a college degree to talented students regardless of race, gender, national origin or personal economic circumstances,” Altenkirch said. He spoke of Fenster’s concern for the community. “This building and the others added to our campus while he was president are part of a very positive vision of Newark’s future. Conceived at a time when many did not share such optimism, the continuing physical transformation of our campus is an anchor of Newark’s renaissance,” Altenkirch said.