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President Bharucha descending the grand staircase at 41 Cooper Square, greeting students.
BY CLAIRE MCCARTHY | On Oct. 18, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art ushered in a new era for the esteemed 152-year-old institution with the inauguration of its 12th president, cognitive neuroscientist Jamshed Bharucha. The ceremony took place in the historic Great Hall and the academic procession crossed from the institution’s LEED-Platinum academic building at 41 Cooper Square to its landmarked Foundation Building.
Drawing inspiration from the genius of founder Peter Cooper, President Bharucha, standing at the lectern where candidate Abraham Lincoln spoke in 1860, pointed to “four areas that stand out as academic challenges and opportunities: fostering innovation, promoting access, serving the public good and embracing a global perspective — while maintaining the highest standards.”
The inauguration ceremony was a hallmark moment at the institution, where noted scholars such as Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and president emeritus of Brown University, spoke. Shashi Tharoor, a member of the Indian Parliament, offered video congratulations and provided insight into the influence of our global community on education. President Bharucha, a classically trained violinist, joined violinist Andy Stein and other friends for a performance. The musical performance included selected movements from Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3” and Mendelssohn’s “Octet.” The day before the ceremony, Fareed Zakaria of CNN, TIME and The Washington Post led a pre-inaugural colloquium.
Since President Bharucha’s arrival at Cooper Union this past July, he has had the pleasure of meeting many members of our academic community to talk about the future of the institution and the current economic stresses at large. Cooper Union, like governments, nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education throughout the world, has not been immune to recent financial strains. Cooper Union as a community is facing this urgent challenge now. President Jamshed Bharucha is implementing a bold plan of reinvention based on the founding vision and principles of Peter Cooper. Using the institution’s greatest resource — its talented and innovative students, faculty and alumni — a revenue-generating task force is being created to evaluate all options and recommend a revenue enhancement plan by early spring.
Cooper Union is irrevocably committed to Peter Cooper’s crucial vision of providing access to top-level higher education to those who can least afford it. Working together to build on Cooper Union’s strengths and legacy, the institution can achieve its goals, maintain the highest academic standards and implement a financially sustainable model for the future.
Peter Cooper wanted this institution to be “equal to the best,” and his writings offer a wealth of possibilities as we consider our options. Cooper was convinced that almost anything was possible, “with patient industry and minds that soar.”
McCarthy is director of public affairs, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art