University of Maryland Giving Newsletter: May 2017 | Boldness

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BUILDING A COMMITMENT TO LEARNING AND TEACHING St. John Center Opens With Grand Ambitions for How Classrooms Work 0 PG. 4

donor follows parents in supporting a new hillel / PG.3 scholarship to help stem students become teachers / PG.7

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CAMPUS HAS BEEN BUZZING IN RECENT DAYS WITH INVENTION, INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP. The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship within the Robert H. Smith School of Business recently awarded a $15,000 prize to a student startup called Curu, an app that assesses spending habits and offers ways to improve credit scores. The School of Public Policy’s annual Do Good Challenge recognized two shining examples of social entrepreneurship with cash awards. Vintage Voices, a student project that uses music to improve mental health for the elderly, and the James Hollister Wellness Foundation, a student venture that saves viable medications for developing nations, took top honors. And at Innovate Maryland, our celebration of faculty research and innovation, three teams of faculty members were recognized for developing a vaccine to protect children against disease, a method to assess the impact of cybersecurity threats, and a new way to deliver power wirelessly. At Maryland, we are committed to instilling a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in everything we do. We believe that these fearless ideas will lead to breakthroughs as we address the great issues of our time. In these pages, you can read more about how our university is helping to turn imagination into innovation. I would like to extend a big thank you to everyone for their support for our faculty, staff and students as they work toward making a positive impact on our world. Go Terps!

Peter Weiler Vice President University Relations


KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY Donor Follows in Parents’ Footsteps by Supporting New Hillel By Sala Levin ’10

FOR HOWARD ROSENBLOOM, supporting a new home for Maryland Hillel—the main organization for Jewish students on campus—was an easy decision. In 1998, his parents, Benjamin and Esther Rosenbloom, eager to support Jewish life at the University of Maryland, donated $1 million to refurbish Hillel’s current building, which was then named after the couple. But family tradition is only one reason Rosenbloom and his wife, Dr. Michelle Gelkin Rosenbloom ’71, want to be a part of Hillel’s future. “Hillel gives students a chance to enhance their Jewish identity,” he says. “It gives them the chance to see how sweet it is.” The younger Rosenblooms’ significant gift is an important step in the campaign to replace Hillel’s home. The new structure will be notably larger than the existing 17,000-square-foot one and will welcome the campus’s nearly 6,000 Jewish students. With more than 500 students attending services every Friday night, a staff of 19 and some 400 meals served daily, “business is great,” says Ari Israel, executive director of Maryland Hillel, but space is tight. “We outgrew our current space about 10 years ago.” Hillel’s building on Mowatt Lane, built in the late 1970s, is adjacent to Van Munching Hall but removed from much of the hustle and bustle of

campus life. The new Yale Avenue site, just off Baltimore Avenue near Fraternity Row, will be in “the heart of the social scene on campus, where students hang out after hours,” says Israel. In fact, the relocation to Yale Avenue represents a homecoming of sorts for Hillel—its first building was located on the same site until its relocation to Mowatt Lane. The new building—scheduled to open in 2019— will also offer students space to socialize and work. “We have 30 student groups who currently do not have adequate space in the building,” Israel says. “The new building will enable them to gather and plan” in expanded space. Social areas are also critical to the new facility. Rosenbloom appreciates the social opportunities that Hillel provides to students in addition to its religious value. “Whenever we go there the students are having fun,” he says. “They’re some of the reasons that we’re doing it.” Jonathan Galitzer ’18, a finance major on the Jewish Leadership Council, considers the relocation “a strategic initiative to move in the direction of the future of College Park as a whole.” “Positioning Hillel in the downtown center of College Park allows all students to access not only food, but people—to engage in community,” says Galitzer. Expanded space will also enable Hillel to better serve the religious, cultural and programmatic needs of UMD’s Jewish students. This, to Rosenbloom, is the most important of Hillel’s roles. “That’s the purpose of Hillel: to foster Jewish identity.”


BUILDING A COMMITMENT TO LEARNING AND TEACHING St. John Center Opens With Grand Ambitions for How Classrooms Work By Lauren Brown

when edward st. john enrolled at the University of Maryland 60 years ago this fall, he remembers classes following a formula: A professor lectured to a room of hundreds of students. Those students listened. The end. Faculty or students using the campus’s newest building will enjoy a much different experience. University officials say the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center, which officially opened May 11 and is named for the 1961 alumnus and real estate developer and philanthropist who gave a $10 million leadership gift for the project, will serve as a national model of collaborative learning. The 187,000-square-foot space features labs, informal study spaces, group study rooms, and tech-enhanced TERP Classrooms (short for Teach, Engage, Respond and Participate) with built-in flexibility such as tiered seating, mobile desks and swiveling chairs that encourage active and group learning. “It’s exciting that the vision for a space that will transform the classroom experience and shape the way faculty teach has come to fruition,” says St. John. “This center will create a new and innovative standard of teaching that accelerates interactive learning and will impact the education of more than 12,000 UMD students each day for years to come.” A Baltimore native, St. John came to Maryland initially as a path to become a test pilot for the Air Force. He showed up at the Armory to register for his fall classes

as a freshman, asked the Air Force ROTC representative the most popular major for cadets who became test pilots, and just like that, an electrical engineering student was born. With that same direct outlook, he learned that he needed a 2.0 GPA to graduate, and left four years later with a 2.01 and a diploma.

“Having a facility like this center with his name on it is a wonderful legacy.” —Sharon Akers ’78 St. John’s father, meanwhile, had owned three modest companies, in manufacturing and distribution of building materials, and he had built five small buildings in the Pimlico neighborhood. He died when St. John was only 16, and St. John was still a Maryland student when his mother took him aside: “She said, ‘If you don’t stop this flying foolishness, I’m going to sell the family businesses.’” He and two fraternity brothers from Delta Tau Delta took the natural next step: They went to the old dive bar at Town Hall on Baltimore Avenue, and over a six pack decided that flying airplanes was overrated and that he should take over his father’s businesses. First, though, he shed two of them: “I hated manufacturing and I despised distribution and I loved the real estate end.” Since then, he’s grown St. John Properties from 50,000 to more than 18 million square feet of office, flex/ research and development, retail and warehouse space in Maryland and seven other states.


In 1998, he also started the charitable Edward St. John Foundation, which focuses on educational funding primarily related to schools. More than $60 million has been contributed and pledged through donations by the foundation, St. John and his company to more than 850 educational and other nonprofit organizations. While he was building up his real estate firm, St. John sent two of his three children (Kellay ’88 and Edward “Trey” ’89) to Maryland, but he hadn’t maintained much of a connection to the campus until he met newly hired university President Wallace Loh in 2010. Loh, he remembers, spoke of his interest in a constructing a forward-looking new classroom building that would be part of his efforts to elevate the entire institution. St. John openly says he was captivated by the new leader’s vision. “He had a dream of the new University of Maryland and I wanted to be part of that dream,” St. John says. The ceremonial groundbreaking was held less than a year later. The first building to rise on McKeldin Mall in 50 years, it incorporates Holzapfel Hall and houses the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center (TLTC), the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Division of Information Technology’s Academic Technology and Innovation team. While St. John was firm that the exterior architecture should match the traditional style and red brick of other structures on the Mall, the inside is modern, light and airy, and the TERP Classrooms throughout the center are outfitted with state-of-the-art learning technology and highly configurable furniture. “It’s going to enable the transformation of student learning in a fundamental way,” says Ben Bederson, associate provost of learning initiatives and the TLTC’s executive director. Sharon Akers ’78, vice president of corporate relations for St. John Properties, executive director of the Edward St. John Foundation and a trustee on the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, says she’s inspired to see the innovations in teaching and learning since the time she and her brother went to school here. “With our foundation and with Ed’s emphasis on supporting education and the feeling that education builds strong lives and strong communities,” she says, “having a facility like this center with his name on it is a wonderful legacy.”

BY THE NUMBERS 187,000 gross square feet 12 classrooms and 9 teaching labs with a total of 1,500 seats

7 huddle rooms (formal meeting spaces for students)

12,000 students served per day 2 second-floor roof gardens, including 1 for use in courses on plant sciences 1 academy loft (below) to support innovation and entrepreneurship



BIG DATA, BIG FUTURE Capital One Endows Machine Learning Chair in Computer Science By Chris Carroll

A TOP U.S. BANK long recognized for its

pioneering approach to data analytics is teaming up with the University of Maryland to advance the fields of machine learning and cybersecurity, while bolstering UMD’s status as a leading institution for computing research. Capital One’s $3 million gift will endow a chair in machine learning in the Department of Computer Science, as well as support other research and educational initiatives for graduate and undergraduate students. Machine learning is the science of giving computers the ability to analyze and use data to create predictive models without direct human programming. It’s not just about saving labor, but transforming many aspects of life with computer-driven analysis of increasingly voluminous, complex information.

For Capital One, the aim will be to harness machine learning and predictive analytics to deliver breakthrough experiences for millions of its customers. “We expect that future advancements in machine learning and predictive analytics will unlock opportunities to help our customers with their financial lives in ways that we can’t even imagine today," says Murray Abrams ‘83, executive vice president of corporate development for the McLean, Va.-based bank, and a member of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation’s Board of Trustees.



The endowed chair will allow UMD’s highly ranked computer science department to recruit a world-class star in the burgeoning field of machine learning, raising the department’s profile and expanding what it can offer students, says Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin.

“This gift provides a really nice link to the real world for our students.” —Jayanth Banavar, Professor and Dean, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences


“A leadership chair in such a critical area will make a huge difference in our ability to recruit other faculty members and graduate students, and to attract grant funding and partnership opportunities,” Rankin says. “It will also be of seminal importance to new academic initiatives in data analytics and computational statistics.” More than just upper-level computer science students will benefit, says Jayanth Banavar, professor and dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. Among other initiatives, the gift will fund freshmen delving into machine learning and big data through the First-Year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE). Students will further benefit through the growing relationship with a major local employer, he says. “This gift provides a really nice link to the real world for our students,” Banavar said. Capital One, which employs thousands of in-house engineers, will benefit from helping the University of Maryland become a top destination for world-class machine learning talent, Abrams says. “We see this as not only an investment in the university’s future but also an investment in the local tech and innovation ecosystem and talent pipeline,” he says.

illustration by jared o. snavely

A HAND UP FOR TEACHERS Scholarship to Help STEM Students Educate the Next Generation By Liam Farrell

william j. balser ’61 describes his late wife, Rona Kushner Balser ’61, as a “teacher’s teacher.” A bright and curious student who brought flashcards to Terp football games, Rona taught biology at Patterson High School in Baltimore before raising a family. She stayed active in education afterward, teaching art classes at home and volunteering to teach science to her grandsons’ classes, for which she earned the nickname “Science Grandma.” “She loved teaching. She loved biology. She loved her students,” says Balser, who met Rona when they were UMD students and was married to her for 54 years. “We need teachers like Rona.” A new $100,000 gift from Balser to UMD in memory of his wife will help make that possible. The Rona Kushner Balser Memorial Terrapin Teachers Endowed Scholarship will provide funds for students who are actively participating in the Terrapin Teachers program in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. The goal is to support students who are apprentice-teaching and majoring in and intending to teach biology. The Terrapin Teachers program is meant to produce a new pipeline of highly qualified teachers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. Students receive a bachelor’s degree in math or science along with a teacher certification and opportunities to teach in elementary and middle schools. Many of the students in the program also work to pay for their education, says Anisha Campbell, associate director of Terrapin Teachers, and this gift will provide critical financial support when they are interning in classrooms. Balser, who was on scholarship at UMD along with his wife, says this is a way to “reach a hand back and help someone up.” “I can’t think of anything better,” he says.

University Relations Office of Marketing and Communications 2101 Turner Hall, 7736 Baltimore Ave. College Park, MD 20742



I worked internationally and helped me earn recognition in that environment.

Because I can! No, it is not a flip answer. It is a true statement. I can give back to the university because I received a good education that served as the foundation for my financial success later in life. I did not come from a family of college graduates, or from a family with more than modest means. As far as I know, I was the first to complete a bachelor’s degree and later a master’s. My mother was a strong force in stressing education as the way to a good job and, she hoped, financial stability. My father was willing to pay what was then a pretty substantial sum for tuition, room and board. In addition to my education, I also had a strong personal drive to succeed at whatever life had to offer. I strongly believe that starting as a math major, then switching to English were important factors in my success. It meant that I could understand the financial side of business, and I could write in clear English, something that many programmers and technicians were not able to achieve. My study of French also was a major help when

Running two companies was enough to keep me up nights worrying about finances, contractors and clientele, but it was also very rewarding to know that I was bringing good books to the attention of librarians and teachers and eventually providing them with a rich and comprehensive database about children’s literature. Fortunately, both of my businesses were profitable, and the money I earned has been carefully invested. Thus, the university will benefit from our estate, through our bequest to provide need-based scholarships for students living in the Language House or the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House. It should support the dreams and aspirations of the next generation of students who are also interested in the reading, writing and language skills that I believe will bring great success to their futures.

Marilyn Courtot is a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Senate and owner and president of Children’s Literature and the CLCD Company. Currently, she and her husband Charles Wyman spend most of their time traveling around the world.

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