Home / Summer Table of Contents / Highlights / Snapshot / Campaign News / Generous People: Janice Rittenburg Rossbach '49

"I BRING YOU GREETINGS FROM a million children in New York City: All of whom want some day to be where you are, all of whom in their heart of hearts believe very strongly that they can do something that you've done.

"I'm reminded this afternoon of the fact that my father, who was a jazz musician, spent a fair amount of time talking to me about the future. And I want to talk to you about your future. My father played music early in the Harlem years with Duke Ellington. And he and other black musicians would get together on the weekends, and he'd bring me along just `cause I needed somebody to baby-sit me. And he'd say, 'I want you to listen to these older black men, Rudy, because they may teach you saomething.' And I would sit and I would listen, and eventually at the end of the set one of them would say, `Well, you know I learned to play music but I never got to play in Carnegie Hall, I never got to play in Lincoln Center, I never got to play in the big jazz bands of the time.' I'd say, `Well, why not?' and they'd say, `Well, because life was hard, life was very hard, we couldn't get there. For all kind of reasons we just never got a chance to get there.' And my father would turn to me and say, `Rudy, listen, your world is going to be shaped by virtue of you understanding how to get there; how to be there; and more importantly how to help somebody else get there.' And the second thing he said to me was `Be ever so humble, but keep going.'

"Now those of you who understand, having lived and worked in and ultimately now graduating from a public institution, you know how much `public' is in this place. And how much public schools mean to countless millions of children across America and to their families. I want you to understand that part of your mission as you go forward beyond this day " [loud cheers from the audience] "There's one right there getting ready to be the next chancellor. Part of what I think Jesse said to you was `Carry yourselves with the humility and the respect and the beauty of who you really are.' Jesse, you the man, you did a nice job, you did a nice job. But also, carry yourselves like you intend to be somebody. Don't walk out of here like you're some sort of average person. You are a UMass grad, you're not average. The new millennium will ask people to be something more than average.

"Another thing my father said to me, he said, `Rudy, why are you doing the obvious? You don't need to do the obvious. Think differently; create something on your feet.' Do what the engineers and all you folks have done here" [loud cheers] "Calm down, engineers Be what you are instinctively, creatively. Do yourselves the honor of thinking about the world's problems differently and uniquely, characterizing those problems as problems that can be solved, rather than as problems of personhood, and who you like and who you don't like, and what party is in and what party is out. Frankly the only party that really makes sense other than the one you're getting ready to go to after this the only party that makes sense is the party that invites human beings to be better than they were the year before.

I WOULD ALSO SAY, as a person who really enjoys the arts, that I fundamentally believe that our civility, our humanity, is tied to whether or not we understand, as my father would say, `bringing flowers to sick people.' To find a way of being more decent and more kind of making this world respond to kindness is really an art form anymore. Find a way of making sure that you in fact create a world that embellishes the arts, that takes the beauty of what they are and gives them to the soul of mankind around you.

"Last and certainly not least, I want to say a little bit about Monet. Monet was an artist who, you well know, went blind at one point, and during the time that he was going blind someone said to him, `Well, how do you explain your ability to do such beautiful artwork even though you're going blind.' And he said to them, very simply, `I am following the instinct that was given to me from birth.' I want to leave this graduating class with the notion of doing two very important things. Follow your instincts, it's a beautiful guide to a future that in fact is yours and mine. And the second thing is to recognize to all these folks that's your parents and friends and platform guests and everyone who came here to well wish you today that you didn't get here alone. You stood on somebody's shoulders to get here. You now need to stand strong in the world and let someone stand on your shoulders.

"And if you hear somebody whisper in your ear, `How do I get there?' I guarantee that's a little child trying to figure out how to do exactly what you're doing. Be good to those children, be good to this country, be good to yourselves. Thank you very much."

Chapel rocks: The heavy-duty stonework lately undergone by UMass's Old Chapel was acknowledged this spring by a Massachusetts Historical Preservation Award, the state's highest honor for such work. The 1885 building , the bell-tower of which was completely disassembled and rebuilt last year, is deemed "the emotional as well as the physical center of campus" by devoted supporter RICHARD NATH-HORST '79. He is shown here with the reconstructed weathervane.

Successful slumming: "Slumming," a short story set in working-class Brooklyn, has won inclusion in this year's "Scribner's Best of the Fiction Workshops" for UMass MFA student NICHOLAS MONTE-MARANO . The collection includes twenty up-and-coming authors nationwide; last year, UMass student TIM WEST-MORELAND was represented with the story "Near to Gone."

Love that job: A designer for Barbie dolls, an FBI agent, a web-surfing soybean farmer these are three of the highly job-satisfied people profiled by RICHARD I. FEIN , placement director at the Isenberg School of Management, in his recently published 100 Great Jobs and How to Get Them. What do they have in common? One interesting feature:"Some caught a lucky break along the way, but none have their job through sheer luck, favoritism, or privileged background," says Fein.

Funding disaster: Presidential declarations of "major disasters" hurricanes, coastal erosion, wildfires, and earthquakes are skyrocketing, writes UMass geosciences professor RUTHERFORD PLATT in a new book, and those disasters create, on average, $20 billion annually in direct costs to government, insurers, and victims. Platt's Disasters and Democracy: The Politics of Extreme Natural Events raises serious questions about who should pay for foreseeable disasters. Among them: "Are people more likely to invest in property in hazardous locations in the belief that, if worse comes to worst, the federal government will offer financial relief?"

Endowing excellence: Over his years as admissions chair for the higher education doctoral program, CHARLES ADAMS watched many good applicants enroll at schools that could offer more financial support. This was frustrating for Adams and his colleagues, including his spouse, PATRICIA CROSSON `72G, `74G. Last spring the couple addressed the issue head-on by announcing an intended bequest of $250,000 to endow a scholarship fund in the School of Education. "We want to attract, support, retain, and graduate really outstanding students, particularly minority students," Adams said. He retired last year after thirty-four years at UMass; Crosson joined the faculty in 1985.

Getting out: Your chances of dying in an airplane accident may be two million to one, but the thought is so horrible that every safety improvement is welcome. "If you look around an aircraft, most of what you see is not metal, it's polymeric," says PHILLIP WESTMORE-LAND of the UMass chemical engineering faculty. "Just about everything except the chair supports is made of polymers." The development of fire-resistant polymers by Westmoreland's group could save many lives, says RICHARD LYON `75, `85G head of a FAA fire research program and one of West-moreland's collaborators.

Scholars sighted: A hundred and forty-eight top-ranked graduates of Massachusetts high schools have been awarded annual stipends of $8,000 to study at one of the four residential campuses of UMass, and 110 were planning to come to Amherst, the president's office reported in June. Twelve community college students have also been named University Scholars, and five will transfer to Amherst. PRESIDENT WILLIAM M. BULGER saluted this year's University Scholars at a State House reception in May.

Stemming strokes: In the not-too-distant future, computers "trained" by UMass researchers may help doctors see how well stroke patients are responding to treatment. A UMass group led by JOSEPH HOROWITZ of mathematics and statistics has been working on this problem in collaboration with colleagues at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. "Of course we love to do beautiful mathematics, but here we want to do sound math and statistics for a problem that's clinically important," Horowitz says.

Clearing the way: A car-pooling program offering preferred parking and guaranteed rides home for emergencies is among the strategies for getting more people to campus on fewer wheels, administrators said this spring. The appointment of ROB HENDRY `73G as rideshare coordinator came as the valley braced for reconstruction of Route 9 and the Coolidge Bridge, scheduled to begin this fall.

Conundrum solved: The ability to perform split-second calculations may explain why men out-score women on math tests but trail them in classes, says UMass psychology professor JAMES ROYER. " This is an enormous puzzle that has perplexed the scientific community for years," Royer says. He believes that as early as the primary grades, boys begin completing calculations "in their heads," and over time become better and faster at this task than girls. This advantage on tests disappears in the classroom, where preparedness, study habits, and behavior areas where girls often do better are keys to success.

Sad news, welcome addition: The skeleton of Staccato, a fifty-ton female northern right whale who was found dead off Cape Cod in April, has become part of UMass's natural history collection. Biology prof WILLIAM BEMIS, who was featured in the Winter 1999 UMass, says scientists believe fewer than 350 northern right whales remain in the world, making them among the rarest of large mammals. During the era of commercial whaling, says Bemis, many specimens were prepared incorrectly or incompletely, and today there is "surprisingly limited knowledge" of the complete skeleton of these animals.

Problem boys? He took some hits from the commentocracy for saying this, but no one has refuted this point by communication professor SUT JHALLY : Agreeing that last spring's school shootings affirm that the nation has not learned the lessons of past tragedies, Jhally adds that "When you look at the media coverage of these events, all the headlines are about `kids killing kids.' But this isn't kids killing kids, it's boys killing other boys and girls. There's something about the way in which we're raising boys that leads to this."

Top three: The 1999 Index was one of three New England yearbooks honored in the Gallery of Excellence Awards of the Walsworth Publishing company, which publishes some 4,000 yearbooks nationwide. Editor-in-chief YVONNE YANG `00 and adviser JUDY GAGNON '88G of Campus Activities joined yearbook staffs from Wellesley College and Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire in accepting the award in Fitchburg in April.

IPF, Tilson Farm - April 17 - 11 a.m.

The car-trunks and truck-beds were like a time-capsule of the electronic pleasures of the last forty years. Remember listening to the Beach Boys on eight-track tape decks? Remember when Dolby was the new sound sensation? Recall the days of wonder when, thanks to an invention called Beta Max, you could rent a thing called a video and spare yourself the crush of the public cinema?

Out of vehicles, that Saturday morning in April at the campus recycling facility at Tilson Farm, came old RCA television sets that had probably aired the original episodes of I Love Lucy and imitation-walnut Zenith ColorTraks from an era when color TV was only enjoyed by the most well-off family in the neighborhood. (Though even they could never manage to get all the green out of the Flying Nun's complexion.) A grandfatherly man opened the trunk of his Buick Park Avenue to pull out a double armload of dusty rumpus-room geegaws, topped by a "TV Scoreboard" from Radio Shack.

Economists call them durable goods: computers, televisions, stereos, VCRs, telephones. But durable as they may be in theory, the end often comes quickly as technological innovations make them all but obsolete. To keep them out of landfills from Springfield to Franklin County, UMass held two electronics collection days at Tilson Farm last spring days open to households and municipalities who want to do right by the environment even as they shed their old technologies for the latest. One impetus was a new law, effective this fall, that will ban lead-containing television and computer monitors from landfills in Massachusetts. The state gave a grant to the campus to catalog what kinds of electronics the public is throwing out locally, as insight into how much is being dumped on a larger scale. While they were at it, UMass recyclers decided to make a collection of household and office electronics of all kinds.

"It's to people's credit that we got this much," remarked Barry Parker, the soft-spoken man who coordinates the general flow of recyclables in and out of UMass. "They hung onto stuff because they felt guilty throwing it out. It's been sitting in cellars and garages, but when they heard there was a program where they could bring it, they came."

In all, some thirty-two tons were dropped off at the UMass Intermediate Processing Facility on two days in April and May. On each of the days a steady stream of vehicles poured through the gates of the IPF. After a check-in, the vehicles were directed down an aisle of humongous boxes known in the freight business as "gaylords" containers made of especially sturdy cardboard that can hold up to 800 pounds. Each box was labeled for a different device. Into these receptacles, yesteryear's gadgetry was tossed.

As each box filled up, a forklift scooted over, slid its tines underneath, and whisked it inside the IPF building the steel-frame structure some older alumni may recall as the old Tilson Farm riding arena. Some things will be shipped to far-flung plants and retrofitted for new use. Others will be dismantled by IPF workers who strip away plastic housings to "demanufacture" the electronic innards, removing unspooling copper wire, retrieving gold bits, and so on. Much of value will be salvaged and sold, and thanks to the state grant and a near-doubling of use of the facility in the last couple of years, the IPF is now on the plus side of breaking even.

So UMass appears to be on the forward edge of the curve in a trend without end. In fact the campushas come up with good ideas for a lot of the waste generated by local communities: from scrap-wood recycling to composted food scraps to handling the highly profitable stream of waste cardboard generated by local supermarkets. When the IPF opened, says Parker, just two recyclers of electronics waste, or "brown goods" as the stuff is called, existed in New England. More than forty are vying for business today. Now that the word is out, householders and municipalities are continuing to drop their old electronics off it's not necessary to wait for a special day. Disposal is free, unless you brings in more than five monitors as many area schools and colleges do in which case there's a charge of $5 per item.

- Ali Crolius

Pitching in, or, How I got the picture and came to love Campaign UMass

THEY'RE MY PALS NOW, so now I can say it publicly: I used to be one of those "communications types" who enjoy referring to "development types" as "the dark side of the Force."

This is because I bought the conventional rep of fund-raising as not only distasteful, but somehow greedy somehow unnecessary, at least in a public school. "The state should be paying for that," or "Isn't the state paying for that?" are a comment and question I'd heard over and over at UMass and other public institutions. To this attitude, without much thinking about it, I dimly subscribed.

Debate over the comment The State Should Pay! is rendered moot by the answer to the question, Isn't the State Paying? Which is: Not for most of it. The commonwealth's contribution to the campus budget is its largest single component. It's indispensible not only financially but philosophically, as a two-way street linking public education and public policy. But it's also less than half of what it takes to run the place. The balance of the operating budget, and the improvements in plant and programs we all desire, must come from other sources: among them ourselves.

"State funding provides the fundamentals for a fine, affordable education at UMass," says vice chancellor for advancement Royster Hedgepeth. Many private schools, he notes, "have more coming in from tuition than we have coming in from the state." In this sense, state funding stands in for private wealth, subsidizing the cost of tuition and keeping UMass accessible.

"The state's ability to do extraordinary things for the university, though, is periodic, not routine," the vice chancellor says. "And that's understandable, because we're competing with roads and prisons and public schools and a lot of other things that serve the public good. But it means that for UMass to ensure a continuing margin of excellence, it needs the help of alumni and friends."

There's another reason I've actually found myself getting worked up about Campaign UMass. It's the fact that I've gotten worked up about the land-grant tradition. This campus has its roots in a radical democraticization of education. On this campus, in its early days, students and professors worked side by side to plant trees, tend orchards, and cut hay. That's not an unfortunate phase, that's a proud tradition, and one of the ways it continues is in individual giving.

Two things are striking in the "Giving Stack" at left. One is how much the contributions of thousands of small donors add up to. The other is how much the contributions of a few dozen exceptionally successful and generous donors add up to. The 112 people in tiers one and three have among them contributed $50 million to Campaign UMass.

One more thing is striking, looking "through" the graph, thinking about the donors, large, medium, and small, I've interviewed for profiles on these pages. Even the wealthiest, virtually without exception, made their own money. There's nothing wrong with inherited wealth bring it on! But there's something especially admirable about the generosity of in the language of the land-grant the sons and daughters of farmers and mechanics.

Patricia Wright

Generous People: Janice Rittenburg Rossbach '49

Giving as good as you get - times two

IT WAS THE SWASTIKA in the campus parking garage that crystallized Janice Rossbach's thinking about philanthrophy. It certainly isn't what got her started giving; she'd been doing that for years. It was because she was already a donor to UMass (as well as to that other land-grant school, MIT, where she met her husband and fellow engineer, Leo Rossbach, in 1950) that the couple were on campus that afternoon in 1996. As members of the Chancellor's Council, they'd been invited to drive over from Weston to help celebrate the dedication of W.E.B. Du Bois Library.

Janice Rossbach is a good-natured woman, and measured in her response to anti-semitism and other forms of ignorance and hatred. For example, we were startled by the fact that when she applied for college in 1945 she was rejected by both MIT and Massachusetts State. This was despite being at the top of her class at Jeremiah Burke High School for Girls in Roxbury, and so smart that she'd graduate summa cum laude in math a month after she turned twenty. (At which point she'd enter MIT.)

The then-Miss Rittenburg was not surprised by the rejections, however. "I was Jewish, I needed financial aid, and I was from the city of Boston," she says with a shrug, as if these categories explained everything. And in fact, they apparently did at the time. It took the intercession of the Jeremiah Burke principal with state education authorities to get the rejection by the state school overturned. At the genuinely sweet and leafy little campus where Janice matriculated in the fall of 1946, there was a Jewish sorority and there were other sororities, and the membership did not overlap. (Same with fraternities.)

Did these exclusions anger her, we asked Rossbach this summer, and it was her turn to be surprised. "Well, you have to understand this was right after World War II," she said. "I think I was more upset about members of my grandmother's family being killed in Europe."

But if Rossbach is realistic about which things are worth getting worked up about, she's also clear that a swastika in the parking garage is one of them. Especially at UMass, which, she says with a laugh, "I kind of think of as Shangri-la!"

This urban Jewish kid loved going to school here. "I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!" she says. "I loved the barns, loved the animals; I remember when they were building Skinner Hall, seeing students walking toward it from all over campus, carrying trees!" One of her boyfriends was a poultry student, and during summer session they used to ride around on a tractor feeding the chickens. "We used to go square-dancing in South Hadley!" she says."I used to go roller-skating with the poultry club!" Rossbach's education in math, science, and life "I got a life at UMass" was the perfect basis for graduate work and her later career as a systems engineer. In 1995, the College of Engineering recognized its crossover alumna by naming her Distinguished Engineering Alumna.

Janice Rossbach always had the idea of giving back everything she'd been given and more. When she'd paid off her student loans she started "paying back" her scholarships. (At UMass she'd received the Lotta Crabtree Scholarship, established specifically because of the campus's agricultural base.) And when that was done she kept giving.

"I started thinking about giving everything back times two," says Rossbach. "That if everyone would repay all the help they've received times two, what great shape we'd be in." That her company, GTE, matched charitable gifts two-to-one was icing on the cake for Rossbach: "I love a bargain! If somebody wants to make a stereotype of that, so be it!" The matching program means that "if I give $7,500 my schools get $22,500," she says. "That's quite an incentive."

The swastika in the parking garage got her thinking that the same principle could be applied to outrage. UMass's response to the incident was "more complete than I could have expected," she says. Campus Center staff called the campus police, who in turn called the Rossbachs and were on the scene by the time they got back to their car.

But she was still upset by this sign "that somebody here was pushing things in the wrong direction." So she decided to do something as "anti-swastika" as possible. Her remedy was a gift targeted to the Science Enrichment Program, a summer program that brought talented high school students of color to campus.

"It made me feel better," says Rossbach. "It did. It takes away some of the hurt. And if every Ku Klux Klan member knew that everytime he marches, somebody else is going to give to the NAACP well, pretty soon he's not going to have much motivation." PW