A Celebration of Two Strong Traditions, Merging

It isn’t every day that elected officials, university presidents, community leaders, students, scientists, and dignitaries from both sides of the East River gather in one room to celebrate. But then again, it isn’t every day that two acclaimed schools officially merge, as Polytechnic Institute and New York University did to form the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. Not only does this union represent one of the more significant milestones in NYU history, harkening back to 1898, when the School of Medicine consolidated with Bellevue Hospital Medical College, or 1925, when the New York College of Dentistry merged with the university to become NYU College of Dentistry; it brings the vital field of engineering back to NYU for the first time in four decades.

While the official merger took place on January 1, 2014, on January 30, a diverse and energized group gathered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to be greeted by NYU Dean of Engineering Katepalli R. Sreenivasan, who announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the merger is done." He thanked everyone who had played a part, “It took a lot of work from a lot of people,” he acknowledged—and he heartily encouraged the audience to keep in mind that their attention must now turn to “the real tasks ahead,” including making sure that the engineering school proves to be of service not only to the city, but the world.

Former trustee John Kirksey and his wife, Helen, were among those expressing excitement over the merger and eagerness to help with those tasks. “This means that Poly will have a much larger stage to play on,” Kirksey said. “And, of course, it fulfills NYU’s needs for an engineering school. It’s a great situation for faculty and students at both institutions, and it’s going to be beneficial to the city as a whole.”

Those sentiments were echoed throughout the festive event, which featured a backdrop emblazoned with the simple, yet very true, statement, “Two Strong Traditions. One Even Stronger Future.” Charlie Hinkaty, a board member of Poly and NYU, praised the “tremendous opportunities the merger is presenting for all.” Standing by a banner bearing an evocative logo—the NYU torch surrounded by swirling electrons—he asserted, “It’s not just a great engineering school that NYU is getting; we’ll be bringing the whole Poly perspective to the university—that unique way that engineers look at the world and tackle its problems.”

Gerald Dawes, President of the Polytechnic Institute Alumni Association, added, “Our engineers will undoubtedly reap the benefits of being affiliated with a world-class research institution like NYU, and the world will benefit from our innovation and invention.” The city and state officials who took the stage wholeheartedly concurred that the merger would mean exciting things—at the university and far beyond. Senator Martin Golden, Assembly Member Joan Millman, Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, and Council Member Stephen Levin all extolled the benefits of welcoming NYU to the borough. “Biomed, biotech, gaming...that is the future of our economy," Golden said. Millman, asserted, “Now everyone in New York City and beyond will hear about this merger and shake a little bit because they will know what the potential is."  

Speaking on behalf of Borough President Eric Adams, Reyna marveled at the opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education that NYU Engineering would present for Brooklyn’s young people, particularly in underrepresented groups such as minorities and girls. “NYU has been given a passport to the borough, so please use it,” she said. Levin praised NYU President John Sexton and Former NYU-Poly President Jerry Hultin for having the foresight to invest in the future of Brooklyn back when they first envisioned the merger. “Thanks to them, we are exactly where we need to be, and we’re doing just what we need to be doing,” he said. “And great things are going to be happening right here.”

Several others also praised Sexton and Hultin, with Dean Sreenivasan calling the former the “engine” and the latter the “fuel.” It was an occasion that called for evocative metaphors. In a video prepared for the event, Sreenivasan, a renowned physicist, lit a small flame in a lab, comparing it to Poly. When he placed a tubular chimney—representing NYU—over the flame, the result was an impressively tall, burning vortex.

The video also included interviews with several students, professors, and staff members, who eagerly described the opportunities for cross-intuitional study and collaboration that the official merger is bringing—not to mention agreement that Brooklyn was in fact the most innovative borough in NYC. Their infectious enthusiasm—and Sreenivasan’s demonstration—elicited laughs and cheers, but the crowd grew even more raucous when a student-developed robot was shown cutting a ribbon, symbolizing the official launch of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Amidst all the excitement, there was a palpable sense of purpose to the gathering; attendees had come from all corners of the university not only to cheer the completion of the merger but also to affirm their part in moving the institution forward. Carlo Ciotoli, the Associate Vice President of NYU Student Health and Executive Director of the university’s Student Health Center, exemplified the attitude of many when he said, “We are proud to be serving the students of NYU, and we’re excited to now officially count the students of Poly among them.”

NYU Provost David McLaughlin has no doubt that in years to come, the entire university community will have even more reason to gather and celebrate. “With this union between our two great institutions,” he predicted, “we are melding two strong traditions to forge an even stronger future.”