Ualbany Update
Skip navigation buttonss
Home Page/ Front Page/ Campus News/ Features/ Sports/ Excellence Awards



New Center for Jewish Studies Celebrated
On April 25, the University at Albany celebrated the inauguration of its new Center for Jewish Studies with the assistance of Itamar Rabinovich, a noted expert on the Middle East and president of Tel Aviv University since 1999. During the 1990s, Rabinovich served as adviser to the Knesset Committee on Foreign and Defense Affairs. In 1992, he was drafted by the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to serve as Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria, and later served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 1992 to 1996.

The scholar-diplomat spoke of a day when there will be peace in the Middle East. “It is understood on both sides that there is no military solution to this conflict,” he said. “The bulk of the Arab world wants this conflict to end. There will be a political solution.”

The new center’s goal is to consolidate and strengthen Jewish studies in public higher education to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to first-rate academic programs dedicated to the study of Jewish history and life. The center also focuses on strengthening the education, research, and public service mission of UAlbany by promoting a deeper understanding of the social and historical dimensions of Jewish civilization. Furthermore, the center’s vision is to establish UAlbany as a flagship of Jewish studies for public higher education in the nation.

The center and its advisory board are focused on the creation of a new endowed professorship in European Jewish studies with expertise in the Holocaust. In addition, the center’s Jewish Educational Initiative taps the resources of UAlbany’s School of Education and the community to bolster the quality of Jewish educational institutions in the Capital Region and the Northeast.

The new center was launched last year with the support of a $25,000 challenge grant from Marty Silverman of New York City. Several hundred people, including alumni, attended the inauguration in the Campus Center Ballroom. While the center is new, UAlbany is home to one of the oldest Judaic studies departments in the nation. In the keynote address - “The Middle East Peace Process - What Went Wrong?” - Rabinovich described his crucial role in the peace talks among Israel, the Palestinians, and neighboring Arab countries in the mid-1990s. Rabinovich said that the Arab world delayed working for peace and assumed that, in time, it would prevail. While the 1990s brought some progress, he said peace talks failed because Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would not compromise. Now, however, with concern growing in Europe over the escalation of fighting and the loss of life in Israel and the Arab world, Rabinovich is optimistic about the chances for peace. “This is my hope: that we will put an end to the current fighting and the current violence, and we will start getting back to the peace process,” he said.

During the inaugural ceremonies, President Karen R. Hitchcock presented Rabinovich with the Medallion of the University, the institution’s highest honor.

In presenting the award, Hitchcock said that recipients of the Medallion must show “in both word and deed . . . that they appreciate the symbiotic relationships among academic quality, societal and economic vitality, and cultural richness.”

She said, “Dr. Itamar Rabinovich has demonstrated these values and qualities throughout a truly distinguished and remarkable career as scholar, educator, diplomat, national adviser, and peace-maker.” She noted that he is “deeply committed and dedicated to the values of the academy, as well as to the belief that mutual understanding and respect can lead to a lasting peace.”

Also featured at the ceremony were Jewish Studies Advisory Board Chair Alan Goldberg, president and co-chief executive of First Albany Corporation; Carl H. Rosner, former CEO of Intermagnetics General and advisory board vice chair; and Mark A. Raider, founding director of the Center for Jewish Studies and chair of the Department of Judaic Studies. Hedy Bagatelle ’60, a member of the advisory board, marked the occasion with the gift of a damaged Czech Torah scroll, rescued from the Holocaust, that will be used for educational and research purposes to be conducted by the center. The scroll will be housed in the Special Collections and Archives Department of the University Libraries. Bernard Arbit ’42 was also recognized for his recent gift of $50,000 to establish a new endowed Jewish studies scholars fund, as was Nolan Altman ’77 for his gift of $30,000 to establish an endowed undergraduate research fund in Jewish studies.

Raider has played a key role in the vision to establish the center, and has raised more than $750,000 to date for the endowed professorship and other projects.

Raider said, “Today marks a turning point for Jewish studies at the University at Albany and for public higher education. With the inauguration of the center, we are literally redrawing the landscape of the academy. We are also giving voice to the conviction, so cherished in the academy, that ideas and knowledge matter, that it is possible to educate future generations and instill in them the confidence and critical thinking skills required to help build a better world.”

New Dean of Arts & Sciences Appointed
President Karen R. Hitchcock has announced the appointment of Joan Wick-Pelletier, a mathematics professor at York University in Toronto, Canada, as the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Wick-Pelletier will assume her duties effective September 1.

“Dr. Wick-Pelletier’s appointment culminates a year-long, international search for leadership of this core unit of the University,” said Hitchcock. “She brings to this critical role a strong background in scholarship, teaching, and administration.”

In addition to being professor of mathematics and statistics at York, Wick-Pelletier is also chair of the University Senate.

At that institution, she has served as associate vice president for research (from 1990-94), and as chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statis-tics (from 1985-89). A full professor since 1982, Wick-Pelletier’s degrees are from Smith College (A.B., magna cum laude), where she studied mathematics and music, and McGill University (M.Sc. and Ph.D.). Her professional knowledge and experience will be instrumental in further strengthening the programs and reputation of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Hitchcock said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the search committee, chaired by Professor Lynn Videka-Sherman, for their hard work in conducting the search and recruitment process for this appointment. The outcome is a direct reflection of their dedication and commitment to the future of the college and of the University at Albany. We extend heartfelt thanks, as well, to Interim Dean V. Mark Durand for his service and leadership in sustaining the college and its programs during the search period.”

Itamar Rabinovich
Rabinovich honored

Kennedy Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
By Karl Luntta
University at Albany Professor of English and New York State Writers Institute Executive Director William Kennedy has been inducted into the 2002 class of Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kennedy is the author of numerous works, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Ironweed and this year’s Roscoe, the latest in an acclaimed cycle of fiction set in Albany. He began his writing career as a journalist in the Capital Region, during which time he authored O Albany! In addition to the novels of his “Albany cycle,” Kennedy co-authored children’s fiction with his son and wrote the full-length play Grand View. He also contributed to screenplays for the movies The Cotton Club and Ironweed, from his 1983 novel.

As an inductee into the Academy’s Class of 2002, Kennedy joins more than 200 luminaries, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, former Senator Warren Rudman, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Academy Award winner Anjelica Huston, author and physician Oliver Sacks, and Nobel Prize winning chemist George Olah. The academy is the nation’s preeminent learned society and research institution.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was established in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members elected in the 222 years since its founding have included the most influential thinkers and leaders of each generation, from Ben Franklin in the 18th century to Albert Einstein in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 150 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners.

This year’s new Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members will be welcomed October 5 at the annual Induction Ceremony at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For a full list of new members, visit http://www. amacad.org/members/new2002list.htm.

William Kennedy

Hitchcock, Brokaw Talk Tech Valley
By Carol Olechowski

University at Albany President Karen R. Hitchcock believes that the quality of life, educational opportunities, and technology development in New York’s Capital Region, combined with Tech Valley’s great potential for both entrepreneurs and job seekers, means economic growth for the area. And she joined other regional academic and business leaders at the April 30 Summit in Tech Valley II to share that optimism with NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw - and 400 businessmen and -women gathered at Albany’s Marriott Hotel.

In fact, Tech Valley - a 17-county area extending from Dutchess County to the Canadian border and from Fulton County east to Columbia County - already enjoys great success as a venue for the development of high-tech companies, with more than 1,000 such firms employing 50,000-plus workers, generating a yearly payroll of $2 billion, and impacting the state’s economy to the tune of $5 billion annually. But the best is yet to come, promised Hitchcock and the nine other panelists who participated in two Tech Valley Summit discussions moderated by Brokaw.

Susan Arbetter of WAMC Public Radio opened the program by introducing Elliott Masie, a Saratoga Springs-based author and consultant who is also president of The MASIE Center, a learning and technology think tank. Masie’s talk, “A View on the Future of Technology,” focused on “the distinct characteristics of this region, such as quality of life and talent, that we could leverage” in attracting entrepreneurs and talented workers to the area. Among the other advantages he cited are the Capital Region’s educational institutions; its proximity to such major metropolitan areas as New York City and Boston; and opportunities for collaboration among the corporate, government, and academic sectors.

Masie, a Manhattan native who relocated to Saratoga by way of Boston, noted that he was attracted to the Capital Region because it is “a unique area that has blended the best of technology with the best of liberal arts. There is a history in this area around learning and knowledge.” The leader of a consortium of such Fortune 500 companies as Domino’s Pizza, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and Federal Express also praised “the pragmatism of people who live north of New York City.” Observed Masie, who was appointed in 2000 to a three-year term with the White House Task Force on Expanding Training Opportunities: “I was smarter in Manhattan. I’m richer and more practical in Saratoga Springs.”

In order to draw more high-tech companies to the Capital Region, Masie noted, “we have to stop using the language that alienates us from the people in the community.” As a child, he developed a fascination with technology, which he viewed as a means “to solve problems and create a better world.” Passing that belief along to the general population of the region will require that “we describe ourselves in ways that people understand. I happen to believe that the Capital District - the Tech Valley - is absolutely the best place in the world to do business.”

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also offered brief remarks. “Our goal has to be to get more venture capital in Tech Valley and to the cities and towns across the upstate region that have been left behind even in times of economic growth,” said Silver. “The Empire Zones program, the best economic development program ever instituted in New York State, is providing virtually tax-free environments that create businesses and jobs.” Such initiatives are particularly important given that “at least eight out of ten jobs created in New York are developed by small and medium-sized businesses,” the speaker added.

During the next segment of the program, two panels responded to questions posed by Brokaw. As members of the first panel, Mark Cattini of MapInfo Corporation; Thomas D’Ambra of Albany Molecular Research, Inc.; Glenn H. Epstein of Intermagnetics General Corp.; and George C. McNamee of First Albany Companies discussed “Tech Valley Today,” which focused on such issues as the availability and recruitment of qualified workers. The four also touted the partnerships their firms have established with other businesses, government, and higher education.

Brokaw addressed to Hitchcock the second panel’s initial question: “How much of a draw [are these partnerships] for students to come here and stay?” The president responded that UAlbany’s work with corporate, public sector, and academic partners provides “a wonderful opportunity to attract very highly talented students. But it goes beyond that: The research partnership that has developed has enabled us to create facilities that will attract new companies, as well. We have so many things that small and growing businesses need.” Those necessities include incubators at both the Center for Environmental Sciences and Technology Management (CESTM) and at the University’s East Campus. The incubators house state-of-the-art laboratory and office space useful to start-up companies in a vast array of fields, including microelectronics, atmospherics, semiconductors, photonics, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.

UAlbany also has much to offer larger, well-established firms, according to Hitchcock’s “Tech Valley Tomorrow” fellow panelists Scott Donnelly of the GE Global Research Center and Bernard Meyerson of IBM Microelectronics. “We’ve been here for 100 years,” Donnelly said of General Electric. “Albany and RPI continue to provide the kind of resources we need. It’s a wonderful collaboration.”

Meyerson mentioned Albany NanoTech, a UAlbany-based global research, development, technology deployment, and education resource that supports accelerated high technology commercialization and job creation through leveraged partnerships among business, government, and academia. He also pointed out that three of the greatest technological innovations - including “the most advanced level of semiconductors - came out of Tech Valley, not Silicon Valley.”

The six panel members also included Wadsworth Center Director Lawrence C. Sturman, M.D.; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Vice President for Research Arthur C. Sanderson; and Albany Medical Center President, Chairman and CEO James Barba. Alluding to his fellow panelists, Barba commented: “Each of us has a piece of the biotechnology puzzle to contribute. What we have to do is continue to build a common platform through collaboration.”

NBC will broadcast portions of the Tech Valley summit following “Meet the Press” Sunday, May 12.

The morning session concluded with Arbetter’s presentation of a Tech Valley fly-fishing vest and a signed copy of Roscoe, the latest novel by UAlbany Professor of English and New York State Writers Institute Executive Director William Kennedy, to Brokaw.

The afternoon portion of the program included a keynote address by Gov. George E. Pataki; a two-hour presentation, “Tech Valley: A New Energy Powerhouse”; and the announcement of Starfire Systems Inc. of Watervliet, one of five finalists, as the winner of the $100,000 Business Plan Competition. In addition, Michael D. Marvin, MapInfo co-founder and chairman emeritus, was honored with the MIKE Award recognizing his contributions to the community: “Mentoring, Inspiration, Knowledge, and Entrepreneurship.”

Tom Brokaw

Home Page/ Front Page/ Campus News/ Features/ Sports/ Excellence Awards