The Rensselaer community gathered November 5 to commemorate the founding of the Institute with a celebration including the annual weR Bright tree-lighting ceremony and the premiere of a crowd-sourced video featuring alumni and students.
November 5 is the 190th anniversary of a letter written by Institute founder Stephen Van Rensselaer announcing the formation of a new school and declaring his intent to educate students “in the application of science to the common purposes of life.” With that letter, the school that would come to be known as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was born. Today, Rensselaer is a world-class technological research university with global reach and global impact, and the oldest technological research university in the United States. This year’s celebration marked the 190th anniversary of the founding and was part of a decade-long series of celebrations marking a bridge to the Institute’s bicentennial in 2024.
In celebration of the Institute’s rich history, members of the Rensselaer community gathered on ’86 Field with President Shirley Ann Jackson and members of weR, a student organization supported by the Rensselaer Alumni Association with a mission to build a strong community of students and alumni around the Institute’s unique traditions. Every winter, weR Bright lights up the trees along ’86 Field. This year the switch was flipped by President Jackson to light the trees on November 5, earlier than ever, and the event featured more lights, all of which are environmentally friendly LEDs. The lights will be turned on nightly until March 14, often referred to as “Pi Day.”
“This event is a celebration of who we are and where we come from. It is part of our 2014 observance of 190 years of history at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as we embark upon the bridge to our bicentennial in 2024,” said President Jackson in her remarks. “The positive spirit of weR is infectious, and exemplifies the optimism and enthusiasm inherent in the very founding of our university.”
“weR is very excited to continue our lively tradition of placing lights on campus around the ’86 Field, especially in conjunction with this year’s celebration of Founders Day. These lights bring additional brightness and a sense of warmth to the Rensselaer community during the long winter months,” said Soraya Fouladi ’16, weR’s chief visionary. “At Rensselaer, we bring light, and we bring hope to the larger world. So it is fitting that, on Founders’ Day, we illuminate these trees—with, of course, highly efficient LED lights,” said President Jackson before throwing the switch on the lights.
Before the lights were turned on, President Jackson debuted a Founders Day video for which alumni and students were posed the question: How has Rensselaer changed your world? Their answers to that question were compiled in person and via social media.
The event concluded with refreshments and a performance by campus a cappella groups Earlier in the day, WeR cut and shared a birthday cake to mark the Institute’s 190th anniversary.