This story appeared in the RBJ’s commemorative 30th Anniversary section. See more content related to the RBJ’s anniversary here.
In his 15 years as president of Rochester Institute of Technology, Albert Simone led the university through dramatic growth in programs and buildings. The sense of optimism and action he brought to campus carried over to the Rochester community through tireless involvement in myriad local committees and projects, observers said.
Highlights of Simone’s leadership at RIT include the university becoming a key driver in the regional economy as it shifts from reliance on manufacturers; the launch of the nation’s first undergraduate program in software engineering; and the opening of the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies.
Also under Simone, RIT began its First in Class initiative to foster partnerships with industry and government; renovated the Kate Gleason College of Engineering; and opened the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences and the Gordon Field House and Activities Center.
The RIT budget doubled from when he arrived from the University of Hawaii system in 1992, to $500 million. The endowment grew from $190 million to $600 million. Facilities grew 20 percent, by 1 million square feet.
University leaders attributed to Simone a significant cultural change on campus. Among other things, he worked on establishing a sense of shared governance, creating a staff council so administrative workers could have a voice in decisions top officials were considering.
He routinely worked 15 or more hours a day, officials said.
Among his first efforts was to inspire a sense of trust among faculty and staff after previous President Richard Rose resigned amid controversy over secret agreements for work by RIT for the Central Intelligence Agency.
In Rochester, Simone was the first college president to serve as president of the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce Inc., which he led in 1997 and 1998. In that role, he oversaw a study that recommended a merger of the chamber and the Industrial Management Council, which later joined to become the Rochester Business Alliance Inc.
In addition to his job responsibilities, Simone served a number of organizations, including a stint as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He was appointed by the Federal Reserve System board of governors and Chairman Alan Greenspan.
“I love what I do. I always have,” Simone said. “I see myself as an academic who is doing education administration.”
Simone retired from the RIT presidency in 2007. He was succeeded by William Destler, who retired this year from RIT. David Munson Jr. succeeded Destler as president. Munson, the former dean of the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, is the 10th president of the university.
RIT has some 15,400 undergraduate and 3,250 graduate students. It has 1,081 full-time faculty and 2,382 staff.