April 14 marked the beginning of a two-day celebration and academic symposia in honor of Drexel President John A. Fry’s inauguration. Fry has served as University president since August 2010; the inauguration April 15 serves as a ceremonial checkpoint now that he has had time to settle into the role.
Two academic symposia held in the morning of April 14 addressed a few major 21st century research areas. The first, titled “Autism: The Public Health Response,” focused on autism research through the lens of public health and how autism is detected and addressed in society.
The discussion featured panelists from the Drexel community, like Igor Burstyn, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, and Felicia Hurewitz, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. Brian K. Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Michael Yudell, an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health and Prevention, also contributed.
Additionally, Andy Shih, the vice president of scientific affairs for Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to promoting autism research and awareness, spoke out on autism as well.
According to the inauguration website, topics covered at the event were about diagnosing, treating and researching autism.
The second symposium was more broad, discussing “Urban Challenges and Urban Solutions” via a number of Drexel community outreach programs. Mariana Chilton, an associate professor of public health at the Drexel University School of Public Health, spoke about the high levels of child poverty in Philadelphia; the City’s first congressional district has the second highest rate of hunger in the nation.
“This is not just a moral issue, it’s a major public health crisis,” Chilton said.
She is involved in a number of local organizations, one being the Philadelphia GROW organization and Witnesses to Hunger, dedicated to aiding those in need.
Patricia Gerrity of Drexel’s 11th Street Health Services Clinic spoke about the importance of a community health center and the general services it is able to provide to patients. She also discussed the clinic’s urban farm that supplies the culinary classes with organically grown food.
One of the two students on the panel, Cody Ray, a student of electrical engineering and the president of the Drexel Smart House, discussed urban farming as well.
“It’s not a new idea. But what we’re trying to do is take it into your kitchen,” Ray said.
Other Drexel Smart House research he spoke about other included lightweight green roofing and natural light simulation. He emphasized the importance of not just developing solutions, but proving their effectiveness and bringing them to market.
According to the inauguration website, Drexel Smart House will receive funds raised in conjunction with the inauguration.
Clinton Burkhart, a biological sciences major who is active in the Lindy Scholars Program, discussed the quality of education available to Philadelphia children. He described the tutoring and mentoring efforts of the program, which include twice weekly tutoring sessions at local schools, summer programs and workshops to encourage parents to become more engaged in their children’s education. He said many of the students have a stereotype of college as being for “rich smart people,” but the program helps them “see that college isn’t beyond their grasp.”
Jeffery Jacobson, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Human Immunodeficiency Virus Medicine in the College of Medicine, spoke about the local HIV epidemic, which is most prevalent in West and North Philadelphia.
John Rich, chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy in the School of Public Health, discussed the importance of treating violence and trauma within the community even though crime rates in the city decreased in 2010.
A “Spotlight on Drexel” event was held in the Daskalakis Athletic Center from noon to 2 p.m. to showcase the plethora of other research areas and community programs at Drexel. The gym was transformed by Ada M. Tremonte, associate director of the undergraduate interior design program, with wayfinding and graphic design by Amy Rees, adjunct faculty in graphic design. Exhibits ranged from a 65-million-year-old crocodile skeleton to live music performances and clinical simulation dummies to dancing robots.
The keynote speaker at the 2:30 p.m. address was Judith Rodin, who was president of the University of Pennsylvania during Fry’s time there as the executive vice president.
Fry thanked Rodin for giving him his “big professional break” and mentoring him through his career in higher education administration.
In turn, Rodin praised Fry’s “mastery of the art of the deal” as well as “his biding commitment to partnership as a critical part of leadership.”
As president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which works with cities and academia to improve the quality of its environment in the 21st century, Rodin spoke on the ability of urban universities like Drexel to play a major role in society as urban living becomes increasingly popular.
During the keynote session, which included a question-and-answer dialogue between Rodin, Fry and attendees, Fry admitted to being continually impressed by Drexel’s ability to respond to social needs and the diversity of activity within the Drexel community. He looked to the richness of research presented during the inaugural events available as an example.
Students who had classes and couldn’t attend any of the daytime events Thursday started their evening with the “FRYday” student festival that occurred from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on the 3300 block of Race Street.
Multiple tents scattered within the residential quad featured sandwiches, desserts and drinks provided by Chestnut Street Caterers. The event overlapped a concert and cocktail reception held in the Main Building.
The official inauguration ceremony for Fry is Friday, April 15 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Drexel Recreation Center. The honored speaker of the event is Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, the president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
A closing reception for the inauguration will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Drexel Recreation Center.
Alissa Falcone contributed reporting.