Rochester Institute of Technology

Remaking of RIT has focus on performing arts

Mar 11, 2020
Max Schulte / WXXI News

Dr. David Munson points to an empty stretch of wall near the ceiling in his seventh-floor office on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology.

“Yeah,” he says, “we still have some shadows of banjos up on the wall there.”

Indeed, the vague outlines of banjos — perhaps it is dust out of reach of the custodians — can be discerned on the wall of the university president’s office, nearly three years after Munson moved in. The banjos belonged to RIT’s former president, Bill Destler, who played the instrument, and owned hundreds of them.

Gabriel Ponte-Fleary/RIT

According to a national registry, only 13 percent of the more than 10,000 sign-language interpreters in the U.S. identify as people of color.

RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf is trying to change that.

About a year ago, NTID established a two-year preceptorship called the Randleman Program, which specifically addresses the need for diversity in the interpreting field. 

The program was named for Valerie Randleman, the first black interpreter in RIT's Department of Access Services.

Denis Defibaugh and RIT Press

Several years ago, Rochester Institute of Technology photography professor Denis Defibaugh stumbled upon 85-year-old lantern slides that captured the vast landscapes of Greenland.

The slides, which are transparent photographic images mounted on a glass plate and viewed via a projector, were created by Rockwell Kent.  In the 1930s, Kent spent years on the island nestled between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.


Two well-known local real estate entrepreneurs are making a substantial gift of property to RIT.

Amy Leenhouts Tait and Robert Tait are giving the university their 177-acre property in Penfield, which includes a 60 acre lake and a private mile of Irondequoit Creek adjacent to Ellison Park.

Evan Dougherty / University of Michigan Engineering

A researcher at the Rochester Institute of Technology has teamed up with universities across the country to build a neuron from scratch.

“Neurons are one of the most complex cells in our body,” said theoretical physicist Moumita Das, the RIT member of the six-university team. “So the experiments are quite challenging and, at the same time, exciting.”

A. Sue Weisler/RIT

A local entrepreneur and philanthropist and is donating $7.5 million to the business college that bears his name.

E. Philip Saunders announced the gift on Tuesday to RIT, to help fund the expansion of the Saunders College of Business.

Officials say that gift will add much-needed space to the college for innovative research in business disciplines, student and faculty work and learning projects.

RIT and three local community colleges are launching a new way for students to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Monroe Community College, Finger Lakes Community College and Genesee Community College have a program where some students can enroll for one year in their schools, and then transfer to RIT for the remaining three years.

Marian Nicoletti is RIT’s director of undergraduate admission. She says this program is aimed at students who have potential but may not quite be ready to start at RIT right away.

Provided photo

An overwhelming number of residents along the Lake Ontario shoreline in the Rochester area say it was Plan 2014, and not climate change, that caused recent flooding.

Those are the preliminary findings of a study led by the Rochester Institute of Technology and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Students from across the country conducted the study by talking to shoreline residents both online and in person in July.

RIT professors and staff are involved in an effort to find solutions to the huge amounts of food waste generated in New York State and across the U.S.


A 2018 advertising photography alumnus is making a $3.5 million gift to RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. It is the largest single gift ever made to RIT’s College of Art and Design.

The gift comes from Chance Wright and his mother, Pamela Mars Wright, whose late father was the co-president of Mars, Incorporated.

Mars, based in Virginia, is a global manufacturer of candy, other food products and animal care services.