President's Message, January 2012

I am writing to wish you a warm welcome back to The Cooper Union as we begin our spring 2012 term. It has been my pleasure to meet with so many of you since my arrival last July as the 12th president of this vital institution. The 34 sessions I have had with approximately 300 students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents have been especially enlightening. Many of you shared your experience of The Cooper Union and your commitment to help us through challenging times. I invite those of you who have not previously signed up to join me for a session this spring. To sign up, please use these links:

Alumni & Parents

What follows is a preview of some events ahead, and the work that we will be doing together as we discuss the reinvention of The Cooper Union.

ANNOUNCING THE FIRST ‘TEDX’ FOR COOPER UNION: I am pleased to announce that alumna Nina Tandon is working with Professor Toby Cumberbatch to organize a TEDx Conference at Cooper Tuesday, April 24 from 5-9 p.m. in Rose Hall with the theme "Found in Translation.” This is about exploring the intersections between engineering, art, architecture and the humanities with the intention that lateral thinking and cross sector discussions initiate new connections and inspire new ideas. Applications for talks will open on February 1 at Tandon, a senior TED fellow, is a 2001 graduate of The Cooper Union and an adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering. She is an electrical and biomedical engineer at Columbia University's Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering. Cumberbatch is a professor of Electrical Engineering at The Cooper Union.

ABOUT THE REINVENTION PROCESS: As we headed into our winter break in December 2011, I spoke about the reinvention process we will undertake in 2012 to involve you in developing solutions. Our two task forces are composed of students, faculty, staff and alumni. They will be making recommendations on expense reduction and on new revenue-generating opportunities. I have asked the Revenue Task Force to help to identify new revenue streams totaling $20 million by 2018.

The task forces and members are:

Revenue Task Force

Phil Weisberg (EE’89), CEO, FXalliance, LLC

Vice Chairs:
Milton Glaser (A’51), Principal, Milton Glaser, Inc.
Eric Hirschhorn (ME’89), Managing Director, Bank of America

Thomas Micchelli (A’75), Chair, Faculty Student Senate

Senior Officer:
TC Westcott, Vice President for Finance and Administration

Dennis Adams, Professor, School of Art Kevin Burke (EE’72), President & CEO, Con Edison
Peter Cafiero (CE’83), President, Cooper Union Alumni Association
Sarah Crowe, Student, School of Art
George Delagrammatikas, Associate Professor, Albert Nerken School of Engineering
TJ Gottesdiener, (AR’79), Managing Partner, SOM
Anne Griffin, Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Steven Lam, Associate Dean, School of Art
Mitchell Lipton, Dean, Admissions & Records (ex-officio)
Edgar Mokuvos (EE’78), Chief Executive Officer, Kasaken Capital LLC
Elizabeth O’Donnell (AR’83), Associate Dean, School of Architecture
Sharang Phadke, Student, Albert Nerken School of Engineering
Malini Ramanarayanan (ChE ’00), Management Consultant
Ariana Revilla, Student, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture
David Turnbull, Professor, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture
Claire Wesselmann (A’59), Artist
Derek Wittner, Vice President, Alumni Affairs and Development (ex-officio)

Expense Reduction Task Force

TC Westcott, Vice President for Finance and Administration

Andrew Crudge, Student (ME’13), Albert Nerken School of Engineering
Cara Di Edwardo (A’85), Adjunct Professor and Printmaking Technician, School of Art
Frank Jania (EE’98, MEE’99), Software Engineer, Google
Christine Osinski, Professor, School of Art
Stephen Rustow, Professor, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture
George Sidebotham, Professor, Albert Nerken School of Engineering
Kristof Toth, Student (ChE’14), Albert Nerken School of Engineering
David Weir, Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences

As I announced at my Presidential Address in December, while the task forces undertake their work, we will be conducting parallel administrative and academic reviews. Cooper Union will work with advisors to assist with financial and operational restructuring and with enrollment management.

WE NEED YOUR IDEAS: A key focus over the next six months will be placing Cooper Union on a firm financial footing even as we move forward to continue to strengthen this extraordinary place. We are committed to providing an outstanding education for exceptional students, and to ensure access to education. We are also committed to engaging with our city, our nation and the world to address the challenges of our time.

Your participation is essential as we consider options to preserve and enhance The Cooper Union. Today we are launching a website called “Cooper Union Reinvention.” It will be the primary vehicle through which the task forces will be updating the community on their progress. Most importantly, it will be a place where you can share your ideas through an online moderated forum. Faculty, students, staff and alumni are encouraged to register and post suggestions. (Alumni may participate with an email address registered with or may contact to register.)

On the website, you also will find regular reports from our two task forces, which you can email directly with suggestions: the Revenue Task Force ( and the Expense Reduction Task Force (

DEMONSTRATION OF EXTRAORDINARY SUPPORT: Our community has rallied to support The Cooper Union. Through the first six months of our fiscal year, the number of donors to our annual fund is up 108 percent from 1,226 donors to 2,555 donors. Participation from alumni increased 25 percent from 1,267 to 1,585. Annual fund donations rose 52 percent from $929,976 to $1,411,501 through December 2011. This includes donations from alumni, who gave $892,407 of the total, representing an increase of 53 percent. We also saw increased giving from parents (up 102 percent) and faculty, staff, neighbors and other friends (up 147 percent).
Annual fund donations are unrestricted and are available for operating expenses including tuition-free scholarships for our students. An anonymous donor gave $1 million for scholarship support. We also received five gifts for restricted purposes of $100,000 each.

Every gift is important to us. We are as grateful to those who have donated for the first time as we are to those who continue to give, and to others who have increased their level of support. I also want to note the essential role played by everyone who asks for gifts for Cooper Union, including our alumni leaders, Board of Trustees, and Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development, Derek Wittner and his team. To maximize support for Cooper Union, we continue to invest in a professional Development team. These are critical investments that will pay off many times over in the long term, as we seek to take Development to the next level.

Cooper Union Alumni Association (CUAA) President Peter Cafiero and I are pleased to announce that as a result if the Joint CUAA/Cooper Union Task Force on Alumni Affairs, which convened last summer, the Alumni Council has a strengthened presence on the Board of Trustees, and the newly constituted Office of Alumni Affairs and Development, led by Derek Wittner, will have responsibility for these areas. The strengthened presence of the Alumni Council on the Board of Trustees includes voting status for the President of CUAA and non-voting representation by Council members on standing committees of the Board that are key to our collaboration. We will continue to work closely with CUAA and the Alumni Council to foster the sense of intergenerational responsibility for assuring access to Cooper Union as well as ensuring educational excellence. To that end, two new members have joined the Alumni Affairs and Development team: Director of Alumni Affairs, Caitlin (“Cat”) Tramel, and Director of the Annual Fund, Joseph McDonald. Cat Tramel comes to us after serving as Director of Alumni Relations for Fordham University and Assistant Director of Annual Giving for Harvard Medical School. Prior to joining us, Joseph McDonald had been Assistant Director for Annual Giving at The New School. Please join me in welcoming Cat and Joseph to The Cooper Union.

IN CONCLUSION: This is a crucial moment for our community. In spite of the challenges, The Cooper Union has a dazzling future ahead. Through this spring, the Board of Trustees will join me in assessing recommendations and in making critical decisions to carry us forward. We are resolute in our determination to achieve financial stability -and to strengthen the institution in the process. I am counting on you for your ideas and for your support.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.