$1.75 Million Grant Helps Fund New Research Building at NTID

An artist's rendering of Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall expected to be completed at NTID in 2013.

Rochester, N.Y. - A grant of $1.75 million is being given to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of Rochester Institute of Technology, to help construct a new building devoted to innovation and research.

The grant — which includes a $250,000 matching challenge — is from the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund, based in Chicago. It will help construct Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall, an $8 million, two-story, 23,000 sq. ft. building expected to be completed in 2013.

Lenore Rosica was the sister of William McGowan, CEO of MCI Communications Corp., who died in 1992. She served as chairperson of the McGowan Charitable Fund for many years, and passed away in 2009. Sebastian, who passed away in 2006, served as a trustee of the foundation.

The Rosicas lived in Buffalo, where Sebastian worked as an audiologist for 40 years at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. Lenore worked as a speech pathologist. Known affectionately as “Red” and “Lee,” they inspired others with their passion about new technology, education and deafness, and made connections with deaf and hard-of-hearing people of all ages in all walks of life, their family says.

The McGowan Charitable Fund, a family philanthropy, distributes approximately $7 million annually among seven communities, including the Rochester area.

“The board was looking for a way to commemorate my parents’ philanthropic spirit and honor their legacy,” says Mark Rosica, chairperson of Counseling & Academic Advising Services at NTID and one of the Rosicas’ six children. “Providing education and opportunities to foster innovation is one of the things that help people unlock great potential and talent. Education has always been paramount in the foundation’s grant making initiatives and was extremely important to my parents. That’s why this building is a perfect tribute. It’s being created to help students and faculty members discover new ways of thinking, problem-solving and educating.”

NTID President Gerry Buckley says the building’s primary mission — to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing students and faculty with opportunities for research and experiential learning in innovation and entrepreneurship — fits perfectly with the trailblazing accomplishments of William McGowan.

“In our 40-year history, NTID has provided students and graduates with the skills to excel in a variety of career fields,” Buckley says. “Success in today’s fast-paced, global economy is largely dependent upon an individual’s ability to pursue and champion new ideas and innovative products and services. With the addition of Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall, deaf and hard-of-hearing students at all degree levels will participate as full project partners in teams pursuing original research, developing new products and services and launching their own entrepreneurial ventures.”

The remaining money needed to construct the building will be raised with other donations from individuals and businesses. The $250,000 matching challenge will serve as a catalyst in motivating alumni, parents, faculty and staff to invest in Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall, Buckley says.

Construction of the building, previously referred to as Imagination Hall, is scheduled to begin in 2012. It will connect the southwest corner of the Hettie L. Shumway Dining Commons to the NTID Residence Hall near Margaret’s Place.

The building will include a large “Innovation & Entrepreneur’s Lab” where students and faculty will come together to brainstorm new product and business ideas and to do initial project development work. Next to the lab will be a series of research spaces  and research centers designed to house projects and programs of research relating to disciplines taught at NTID: Teaching and Learning; Communication; Access and Support Technologies; Language and Literacy; and Employment and Adaptability to Social Change and the Workplace.

Professor James DeCaro, dean emeritus of NTID, helped initiate the gift when he served as NTID interim president last year. He says the donation “supports efforts at NTID which are in the tradition of William McGowan: innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and imagination.

“This gift recognizes the outstanding philanthropic contributions of Sebastian and Lenore Rosica, both of whom spent their careers working with people who are deaf or hard of hearing to improve their life circumstances,” adds DeCaro. “Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall will be a place where students and faculty work together to execute research and develop innovations that will benefit people who are deaf or hard or hearing today, and for generations to come.”

Over the past decade, NTID has received more than $54 million in sponsored research funding. Additional research funding is anticipated with the opening of Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall.

For more information or to make a contribution to Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall, visit the building's website.

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