The UR Office of Communications recently raised an epic publicity storm to unveil UR’s new logo. The logo was a great idea and the publicity warranted – this University needs a fresh and unique identity to be proud of. Still, our great institution is mired in relative obscurity compared to the names above and below it on the “New Ivies” list. The logo was a good start, but I think it’s time we sever our ties with the old University of Rochester and complete the school’s transformation into a leading institution by changing our name to Eastman University.
UR may be well respected in academic circles and among its devoted students, but in this image-obsessed age, it has fallen behind better-known Ivy League colleges and comparable schools that simply market better. The name does not help. It is bland and not at all unique. It is not even the only “Rochester” school; three times this past summer I told people that I go to UR, only to have to explain that it is not the same as the Rochester Institute of Technology. Even after this explanation, however, I received blank stares.
The 2006 Fiske Guide to Colleges sums up the problem in the very first sentence of its write-up on UR: “The name may conjure up a non-descript public University, but Rochester is a top-notch private University in the orbit of Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Johns Hopkins and Washington University (Mo.).” Every one of the schools mentioned above has a dynamic, memorable name that just so happens to be the name of a founder or major contributor.
George Eastman donated over $50 million to UR in the early 1900s – he endowed the entire Eastman School, which rightly honors his name. Eastman is just as important to this school as John Harvard is to his, and our name should reflect that. Actually, it is a little-known fact that Harvard was not the founder of the school but was himself a major donor.
George Eastman’s contributions to photography provided the economic impetus for the city of Rochester’s golden years. As the city rises back into a position of respectability, led in large part by the educational institutions that make up its primary workforce, Eastman should be given the recognition he deserves. While the city is a hidden gem, Rochester does not enjoy national name recognition like Miami or New York City. Eastman is an innovator, a nationally recognized name. Moreover, the university that prides itself on the scientific exploration that defined Eastman should confirm its historic ties to the man.
In a recent letter to readers of the New York Times Web site, Times Senior Vice President and Manager Vivian Schiller wrote that the Times’ “long, distinguished history is rooted in a commitment to innovation, experimentation and constant change.” Any long-standing institution, either corporate or academic, needs to initiate change in order to distinguish itself from the pack and constantly keep itself fresh. It is time for UR, with its long, distinguished history, to make that leap.
Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.