President Shirley Ann Jackson, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to speak at Rensselaer, a sister institution of Syracuse University in proximity and in history, sharing many alumni and pursuing similar educational philosophies. Steven van Rensselaer, who founded RPI, was a driving force behind the Erie Canal and, therefore, deeply connected to the city of Syracuse, which until the construction of the Canal was only a trading post for the local salt mines. In 1820, a visitor described our area as "so desolate it would make an owl weep to fly over it."Once Syracuse could export its salt in bulk through the Canal, it grew in just 30 years from 250 people to 22,000. The salt industry gave rise to a chemical industry and later to a broadly based manufacturing sector, so that 70 years later, Syracuse produced everything from clocks and china to soda ash and steam engines. The story was repeated in city after city.
Cantor, Nancy, "Universities and Their Connected Communites: Creating Capital for the Future" (2006). Office of the Chancellor. Paper 36.
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