NJIT President Saul K. Fenster Announces His Retirement After Serving 23 Years
NEWARK, Oct. 8-- After nearly a quarter century as president of New Jersey Institute of Technology, Saul K. Fenster, having transformed a small engineering school into the nationally known public research university it is today, will retire in summer 2002.
“It’s a propitious time to retire,” Fenster said in announcing his decision to the university community Monday. “The university is now nationally ranked, fiscally sound and is about to launch a huge construction program.” This past July, the university broke ground for an $83 million campus complex designed by the international architectural firm Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, he explained.
“The stage is set for the next phase of robust university growth,” Fenster said. “It’s always sad to leave, but I’m optimistic. The events of the past weeks have only strengthened my deeply held feelings of affection for this magnificent university community.”
When Fenster, a mechanical engineer, was named the university’s sixth president in 1978, NJIT was a modest commuter school with 5,000 undergraduates and no residence halls. This fall, the university enrolled 5,600 undergraduates and 3,200 graduate students. It has grown from a significant engineering college and a new school of architecture to a comprehensive university comprised of six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College, and the new College of Computing Sciences.
In 1979, Fenster opened the university’s first residence hall-which was also the first university residence hall in the City of Newark. Today, more than 50 percent of freshmen chose to live on campus. Fenster would eventually oversee the building of a new structure on the university campus nearly every year, which more than doubled the university’s physical size. This past fall, the university opened its fifth residence hall, the second designed for NJIT by internationally renowned architect Michael Graves. Other relatively new construction includes the Otto H. York Center for Environmental Engineering and Science, William S. Guttenberg Information Technologies Center, the New Jersey School of Architecture building, and a 1700 car parking structure. The university is home to three-dozen start-up businesses in its two incubators, called Enterprise Development Centers (EDC). A third EDC is under construction, which will bring the number of NJIT-housed businesses to at least sixty.
The university not only grew in size during his presidency but also in quality and diversity. From a relatively modest fraction of underrepresented minorities in the student population two decades ago, NJIT now ranks seventh in student diversity among national universities (U.S. News and World Report) and in the top ten percent in graduating minority engineers (National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering). Endowments have risen from $3.2 million in 1992 to $53 million in 2001. Today, the university annually grants approximately 60 doctoral degrees in 18 different disciplines.
Research funding today stands at $51 million compared with $500,000 in the 1970s. In 1994, NJIT’s Carnegie classification was raised to that of a research-intensive university.
Under Fenster’s presidency, the university adopted economic development as a fourth mission element. Illustrations of that commitment include NJIT’s seminal role in the creation of University Heights Science Park, which Fenster serves as vice chair, and his establishment of NJIT’s Center for Manufacturing Systems, the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the New Jersey Technical Assistance Program which helps New Jersey businesses comply with environmental regulations.
Fenster’s watch has been so effective that in 1996, the state legislature named NJIT as one of three public research universities, describing it as “essential and necessary for the welfare of the state and the people of New Jersey.”
For almost a quarter of a century his voice has passionately championed the benefits of science and mathematics intensive education. Within a few years of Fenster’s arrival, he developed and implemented a plan for the future of computing resources. Subsequently, the university became one of the nation’s most computing-intensive campuses. This past fall, Yahoo! Internet Life magazine cited NJIT as a “perennially most wired” university inasmuch as it has ranked in the top ten every year of the ranking’s five-year existence.
More technological firsts under Fenster include NJIT’s opening of perhaps the only Class 10 Cleanroom at an academic institution in the U.S. The facility, the NJIT Microelectronics Research Center, aids the development of microchips because it offers scientists an essentially dust-free environment.
Fenster, who has made New Jersey his home since 1963, has been an active player on the state and national levels, helping to shape higher education, economic development and technology policy through service on various boards of directors. Organizations receiving his time and attention include Prosperity New Jersey; the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce; the Edison Partnership; the Research and Development Council of New Jersey, which he chaired; and the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology of which he is a founding member.
Others include the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering; the Council on Competitiveness; the New Jersey Alliance for Action, vice chair; New Jersey Association of Colleges and Universities; and Liberty Science Center.
Fenster has also served on many other statewide task forces, commissions and committees. His past assignments include the Hudson River Waterfront Study and Planning Commission; the Governor’s Citizens Task Force on Water Management Emergency, which he chaired; the Governor’s Commission on Science and Technology; the New Jersey Water Supply Commission of which he was vice chair; the board of trustees of the Fund for Educational Advancement and Newark Academy.
He has also been a board member of the Regional Plan Association, the Public Affairs Research Institute of New Jersey, Union County College and the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame, founded and sponsored by NJIT.
An active and enthusiastic voice in Newark’s ongoing renaissance, Fenster has been a member of the board of directors of Metro Newark Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Business Partnership. He helped found the Council of Higher Education in Newark, was past chair of the Newark Collaboration Group and vice chair of the Business-Higher Education Forum.
Prior to joining NJIT, Fenster served Fairleigh Dickinson University in various faculty and administrative capacities, including six years as provost of the Rutherford campus. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education and vice chair of the education foundation of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. He is a past member of the United States Air University Board of Visitors.
Engineering education especially interests him. He is a member of the advisory board of the International Network for Engineering Education and Research, and on the steering committee for the International Conference on Engineering Education.
He was recently appointed to the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association and is vice chair of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, an advisory body comprised of the presidents (who serve ex officio) of all public institutions of higher education and those independent institutions receiving State aid.
Fenster earned a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York, a master’s degree from Columbia University and his doctoral degree from the University of Michigan. He has authored or co-authored numerous publications including research papers, technical articles and textbooks, most notably Advanced Strength and Applied Elasticity, now in its third edition. His industrial experience included a period as senior and research engineer with the Sperry Rand Corporation and as a partner in an industrial consulting firm. He currently serves on the board of directors of IDT Corporation and several mutual funds of Prudential Insurance Company. He was recently named co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Building a World Class Economy.
Fenster said he looks forward to spending more time with his family--his wife, Roberta, their three children and two grandchildren--as well as with a number of outside corporate and public interests.
And he’ll be on hand, he said, to help during the transition as NJIT’s Board of Trustees begins looking for a new president.
“I, of course, will be available and willing to assist in ensuring a very smooth and seamless transition,” Fenster said. “I am very optimistic about the prospect of new leadership to help the university to be even more successful in achieving its strategic objectives, thereby moving to the next level of excellence and national recognition.”
NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics, multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar astrophysics. Yahoo! Internet Life magazine cites NJIT as a “perennially most wired” university.