Trailblazing Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, whose funeral service was attended by nearly 2,000 people this Friday at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, contributed significantly to UR in her 31-year tenure as a representative. To honor her memory, we’d like to reflect on the ways her contributions to upstate New York enriched both our campus and the Rochester community at large.  

Slaughter pushed for education across the 25th Congressional District, which includes all of Monroe County and it surrounding areas. Within Rochester, she secured $6.9 million for the Head Start program that provides childcare and early education to our city’s youth. She also helped revolutionize the way local schools receive funding by sponsoring the “All Children Are Equal Act,” which accounts for the poverty rates within a given school district as opposed to just population. The Rochester City School system, for context, is one of the poorest districts in New York, with a graduation rate of only 51.9 percent, although the percentage has been steadily increasing in the past decade. This growth is, in part, thanks to the efforts of politicians like Slaughter.    

UR also benefited greatly from Slaughter’s dedication to improved education. In 2015, she helped prevent a $7.5 million funding cut from the budget for the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, which preserved the lab’s world-class status. In the three years previous to this, she secured $200 million for the lab for general operations, staffing, and research. Another Slaughter-backed project saw $330,000 given to UR Professor Chunlei Guo to research the military applications of lasers. Guo’s research centered around etching water-resistant patterns into military grade-metals using the lab’s lasers.

Slaughter was also vocal about more heated educational issues. In the past few years, she pushed for a Title IX bill called the “Patsy Mink Gender Equity in Education Act.” The purpose of this bill was to provide all schools with the proper resources for a fully operation Title IX office. In order to do this, Slaughter proposed an Office of Gender Equity be added to the U.S. Department of Education sub-agency collection.

Slaughter embraced the Rochester community with a warm openness. The more than 2,000 gathered at her funeral service shared their intimate memories of the congresswoman.

In her final days, she was characteristically fighting to reverse a proposed defunding of the laser lab. On March 2, just two weeks before her death, she wrote a letter to Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. In the letter, Slaughter described the benefits of the lab and invited Gordon-Hagerty to see these benefits herself. We owe it to her memory to recognize her unwavering support of progress, for upstate New York, for Rochester, and for UR, right up until her final days.

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