FROM THE DESK OF GREGORY G. DELL'OMO, PH.D., PRESIDENT OF ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY
Last week was an exciting one on campus. We unveiled “Bronze Bob,” a life-sized statue of our namesake, the Founding Father from Pennsylvania, Robert Morris. The statue is seated on a bench so that students, professors, alumni, and visitors can have a seat and take their picture with the “Financier of the American Revolution.”
The statue is a symbol of student engagement and of giving back to the community. “Bronze Bob” is a gift to the university from the Class of 2013 and Sid, Ellen, and Geoff Zonn. Previous class gifts include the book fund, the memorial gardens, our campus signs, and our ceremonial cannon. The Class of 2014 will give medical supplies to the clinic in Nicaragua where our nursing students serve the poor. My hope is for “Bronze Bob” to become part of a new tradition. Tradition makes a university experience memorable, and creates an emotional connection between the students of today and those who came before and who will come after. RMU has changed substantially over the years, and I believe we should also take time to cultivate and nurture a sense of permanence and constancy. As I told the students at the statue’s unveiling, Robert Morris will always be here for you — and not just figuratively, but literally.
Our university is named after a man who risked everything he had for the sake of his country. He is not as famous as George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, but those men knew what a debt America owed to their colleague. Inside the Capitol dome in Washington, D.C., is an enormous fresco, “The Apotheosis of Washington.” It portrays the first president looking down from the heavens, and nearby is Robert Morris, one of a very few Founding Fathers also shown in the painting. Mercury, the God of Commerce, is handing Morris a bag of gold.
Of course, it wasn’t that simple for Morris. He worked hard for years amassing his fortune in Philadelphia. But instead of guarding his wealth, he made great sacrifices for his country and his fellow Americans. He offered his own ships to fight the British on the seas. When Congress fled for their lives as the Redcoats advanced to occupy Philadelphia, Morris stayed behind to keep the government functioning. He personally made sure the soldiers who crossed the Delaware with Washington had food, blankets, and money in their pockets. He changed countless lives by doing so. As you know, changing lives is something we believe in at RMU. We strive to enable our students to change the lives of others. When we were thinking about what kind of statue “Bronze Bob” should be, we decided he should be welcoming. He shouldn’t be some giant towering over the entrance to campus. There’s already a Robert Morris in the Capitol dome and another bigger-than-life statue of him in Philadelphia. We wanted our statue to be part of a new tradition here, something that invites everyone in the RMU family to be a part of it.
I hope that “Bronze Bob” will be a source of fond memories for students, visitors, and alumni. The statue sits right in the center of campus, in a place students pass every day. It’s an acknowledgement of someone who accomplished great things, just as we hope they will. But above all, a person, just like them; someone who had a family, and hopes and dreams and worries, and successes and failures, like all of us do. Someone you might sit down with on a park bench and just visit for a while. Sincerely,
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
INSIDER UNVEILING BRONZE BOB
"Bronze Bob" is a gift of the Class of 2013 and of the Zonn family. The statue is based on the statue of Robert Morris near Independence Hall in Philadelphia by the sculptor Paul Wayland Bartlett, who also created the "Apotheosis of Democracy" pediment for the Capitol, as well as bronzes of Columbus and Michelangelo at the Library of Congress and of Lafayette in Paris. Instead of a traditional standing statue, “Bronze Bob” is portrayed relaxing on a park bench. Visitors are invited to join him, take a picture, and tag it with #BronzeBob to share online. More pictures are available here.
INSIDER TRUE GRIT Our men’s hockey program celebrated a major milestone this spring. By winning their first Atlantic Hockey Association title in March, the Colonials for the first time were chosen as one of the 16 teams in the national NCAA Tournament. But what made the AHA title so much sweeter is the perseverance the team showed. You see, when January began, the Colonials had won exactly 2 of the 16 games they had played up to that point. But the team turned their fortunes around. They won an NCAA-leading 17 games in the season’s second half. Their dramatic comeback was a reminder that raw talent and ability are not always sufficient by themselves, without determination and the will to succeed.
Of course, this lesson extends beyond the world of athletics. A growing number of education experts and scholars are investigating how traits such as motivation and perseverance — or grit, as it’s sometimes called — are as important as intelligence in determining success.
“There are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments,” said Angela Lee Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor and leading researcher on grit and self-discipline, at a TED Talk last year. “In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.” In his book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough lays out new research showing that the way people cope with unfamiliar situations and adversity is a powerful predictor of their later success — sometimes a better predictor than standard intelligence measures such as SAT scores. Years ago, a university concentrated primarily — sometimes exclusively — on disseminating knowledge. This made sense ultimately because the job market decades ago was dominated by a corporate culture where employers expected to spend considerable time and money training their new employees, inculcating the habits and culture of the firm they had joined. Because they were
going to deal in the specifics, employers wanted colleges to prepare their students with a general background, whether in business, science, or liberal arts, so that they had a bright talent pool to draw from.
That’s no longer strictly the case. Of course, businesses still want smart, educated graduates, but there is something more they are looking for. As companies have cut back on the comprehensive training regimens they once offered, managers are looking for indications that job candidates can remian focused in unfamiliar circumstances and can be relied upon to stay with difficult tasks to completion. So personal qualities such as perseverance, creativity, leadership qualities, and readiness to adapt play an important role.
This is the philosophy behind our innovative Student Engagement Program, which encourages students to devote significant time developing their skills and abilities outside the classroom. It recognizes achievement in creativity, leadership, service, professional and global experiences, reserach, and special recognition, and records it in a separate and officially endorsed transcript from RMU. In that way, employers have a complete picture of our graduates and what they are capable of, both in and out of a structured setting like a classroom. At this year’s commencement, I will be particularly pleased to honor 26 graduating seniors with the Renaissance Award. The recognition is given to students who, in addition to their studies, have recorded achievements in all seven of the Student Engagement Program categories. As we at the university work on honing our new strategic plan, one of the areas we are concentrating on most intently is to how to adapt the learning environment in a way that makes a Robert Morris education even more relevant for students in their careers. Because in the final analysis, that is what employers should expect when they see RMU on a resume: not just smart students, but students with creativity, leadership potential… and grit.
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT 6001 UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD, MOON TOWNSHIP, PA 15108-1189 RMU.EDU/CHANGE A LIFE