Volume 81, Number 20 | October 20 - 26, 2011
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Photos by Tequila Minsky

Jamshed Bharucha performing at the
Great Hall at his inauguration on Tuesday.

Jamshed jams at inauguration as Cooper’s president

By Lincoln Anderson

Tuesday in The Cooper Union’s Great Hall saw Jamshed Bharucha inaugurated as the school’s twelfth president — and also saw him jamming on some Bach and Mendelssohn classical pieces on his violin.

An accomplished violinist, Bharucha is an expert in the study of how the brain processes music.

The son of an American mother from Oregon and a father from India, he graduated from Vassar, where he studied biopsychology.

He went on to receive a master’s degree in philosophy from Yale in 1979 and a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Harvard in 1983.

He taught at Dartmouth, where he became deputy provost and faculty dean. In 2002, he was appointed provost and senior vice president of Tufts.

In his remarks, Bharucha said his academic interest in music and the brain is a combination of his father and his mother: His dad was the first engineer in Mumbai to use a computer for architectural design, while his mom once composed a performance piece for organ, dentist’s drill and shattering glass.

“In just over three months at Cooper Union, I have learned more than any equivalent period,” he said. “Cooper Union students are committed to their work in a way I have never seen before.”

The new president related an inspiring tale of the free-tuition school’s founder and namesake, Peter Cooper, to help give an idea about the kind of man he was: The effort to lay the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable in the mid-19th century foundered when it broke off 600 miles before reaching Ireland. While other partners in the venture despaired and gave up, Cooper stuck with it; a year later, the cable was amazingly retrieved from the ocean floor and fixed, and the trans-oceanic cable was hooked up.

Sounding a bit like N.Y.U., Bharucha said, “Cooper Union has no walls — we are in and of the city.” He noted that he had just experienced that fact firsthand during the procession of faculty and administration members from 41 Cooper Square to the Great Hall in the Foundation Building: While the procession had marched on, Bharucha had to wait on the east side of Third Ave. after the light turned red.

President emeriti of Dartmouth, Vassar and Tufts spoke, all testifying to Bharucha’s abilities and talents.

After his remarks and being draped with The Cooper Union medal, signifying his presidency, Bharucha joined a group of fellow musicians from the schools where he’d worked in a performance of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, 1st Movement” and Felix Mendelssohn’s “Octet, 1st Movement.”

Meanwhile, activists trying to save the St. Mark’s Bookshop hoped Bharucha was able to neurally process the meaning of a protest performance they gave before his inauguration.

During the procession to the Great Hall, members of the Cooper Square Committee serenaded Bharucha with some music of their own. They were accompanied by Robyn Creswell, an N.Y.U. Ph.D. student, on violin. The song was sung to the tune of “Home on the Range,” with lyrics by legendary activist Frances Goldin. It was Goldin, 87, who started the petition effort to save the Third Ave. bookshop by trying to get landlord Cooper Union to drop its rent by $5,000 a month.

Oh give me the word
That we long to be heard
That the St. Mark’s Bookshop will be saved.

That you know it’s a gem
With a stroke of your pen
That it’s future’s forever engraved.

It just needs less rent
And if that’s your intent
You will most likely earn
Real High Marks.

Said Goldin afterward, “All we’re asking for is until the economy improves — a $5,000 reduction. They know we were here — it was hard to miss us. A number of the faculty assured us that they were pushing the administration to resolve the problem. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Goldin said they had Creswell join them on violin, “because the president is an accomplished violinist — we got our own.”

Goldin has said she’s confident a deal to save the bookstore will be reached by the end of this month.

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