The Institute as it is known today came to be as a result of a 1891 merger between the Rochester Athenaeum, a literary society founded in 1829 by Colonel Nathaniel Rochester and associates, and the Mechanics Institute, a Rochester institute of practical technical training for local residents founded in 1885 by a consortium of local businessmen including Captain Henry Lomb.
The Institute originally resided within the city of Rochester, New York proper, in an urban campus in the city's central business district just west of the Genesee River. However, by the middle of the twentieth century, RIT began to outgrow its facilities, and surrounding land was extremely scarce and expensive; additionally, in 1959, the New York Department of Public Works announced a new freeway, the Inner Loop, was to be built through the city along a path that bisected the Institute's campus and required demolition of key Institute buildings. In 1961, an unanticipated donation of $3.27 million from local Grace Watson, for whom RIT's dining hall was later named in her honor, allowed the Institute to purchase land for a new 1,300 acre campus several miles south along the east bank of the Genesee in suburban Henrietta. Upon completion of the new campus in 1968, the Institute moved to the new suburban campus, where it resides today.
Today RIT enrolls over 15,500 full-time, part-time, and distance-learning students. Associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees are awarded. The institute includes a federally funded National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID). The current president is William W. Destler, formerly a senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Maryland, College Park. Destler, the Institute's ninth president, took office on July 1, 2007, replacing Albert J. Simone, who retired after 15 years at RIT.
The university's annual budget for 2007-2008 is $450 million , up from $430 million in the previous year. RIT's endowment fund is worth 661 million dollars .
The university is well-known for its information technology, imaging, business, engineering, art, and photography programs. It also has one of the oldest cooperative education programs in the United States in which students hold a full-time job for a period (while not taking classes) as part of their graduation requirements. The school year is divided according to the quarter system.
In addition to these colleges, RIT operates three schools in Europe:
The information technology program was the first nationally recognized IT degree, created in 1993.
In 1996, Rochester Institute of Technology established the first software engineering Bachelor's degree program in the United States but did not obtain ABET until 2003, the same time as Clarkson University, Milwaukee School of Engineering and Mississippi State University.
RIT is among the top colleges and universities in the nation for programs in the fine arts, placing in the top 10 for many of the college's programs, including Photography (3rd), Glass art (2nd), Industrial design (8th) and others.
The current campus is housed on a 1,300 acre (5 km²) property. This property is largely covered with woodland and fresh-water swamp making it a very diverse wetland which is home to a number of somewhat rare plant species. The campus comprises 237 buildings and 5.1 million square feet (474,000 m²) of building space. The nearly universal use of bricks in the campus's construction — estimated at 14,673,565 bricks in late 2006 — prompted students to give it the pseudo-affectionate nickname "Brick City," reflected in the name of events such as the annual "Brick City Homecoming."
The residence halls and the academic side of campus are connected with a walkway called the "Quarter Mile." Along the Quarter Mile, between the academic and residence hall side are various administration and support buildings. The Quarter Mile is actually 1/3rd of a mile when measured out. Many myths try to explain the misnomer. On the academic side of the walkway is a courtyard, known as the Infinity Quad due to a sculpture of a Möbius strip (commonly referred to as the infinity loop because if the sun hits the strip at a certain angle it will cast a shadow in the shape of an infinity symbol on the ground) in the middle of it; on the residence hall side is a sundial and a clock. These symbols represent time to infinity. Standing near the Administration Building and the Student Alumni Union is The Sentinel, a steel structure created by the acclaimed metal sculptor, Albert Paley. Reaching 70 feet (21 m) high and weighing 110 tons, the sculpture is the largest on any American university campus. There are five RIT-owned apartment complexes; Colony Manor, Perkins Green, Racquet Club, Riverknoll and University Commons.
Along the Quarter Mile is the Gordon Field House, a , two-story athletic center. Opened in 2004 and named in honor of Lucius "Bob" Gordon and his wife Marie, the Field House hosts numerous campus and community activities, including concerts, career fairs, athletic competitions, graduations, and other functions. Other facilities between the residence halls and academic buildings include the Hale-Andrews Student Life Center, Student Alumni Union, Ingle Auditorium, Clark Gymnasium, Frank Ritter Memorial Ice Arena, and the Schmitt Interfaith Center.
The centerpiece of Park Point is Simone Square, named in honor of eighth President of RIT Dr. Albert Simone, an enthusiastic backer of the project during his time in office. Said Simone at the groundbreaking ceremonies, "We're doing this to increase a sense of community on RIT's campus. That way, students can have a place to release their energies after a hard day on campus and still be together with their classmates and see faculty and staff in a social setting.
In 1986, RIT founded the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, and started its first doctoral program in Imaging Science in 1989. The Imaging Science department also offers the only Bachelors (BS) and Masters (MS) degree programs in imaging science in the country. The Carlson Center features a diverse research portfolio; its major research areas include Digital Image Restoration, Remote Sensing, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Printing Systems Research, Color Science, Nanoimaging, Imaging Detectors, Astronomical Imaging, Visual Perception, and Ultrasonic Imaging.
The Center for Microelectronic and Computer Engineering was founded by RIT in 1986. The institute was the first university to offer a Bachelor's degree in Microelectronic Engineering. The Center's facilities include 50,000 square feet (4,600 m²) of building space with 10,000 square feet (930 m²) of clean room space; the building will undergo an expansion later this year. Its research programs include nano-imaging, nano-lithography, nano-power, micro-optical devices, photonics subsystems integration, high-fidelity modeling and heterogeneous simulation, microelectronic manufacturing, microsystems integration, and micro-optical networks for computational applications.
The Center for Advancing the Study of CyberInfrastructure (CASCI) is a multidisciplinary center housed in the College of Computing and Information Sciences. The Departments of Computer Science, Software Engineering, Information Technology, Computer Engineering, Imaging Science, and Bioinformatics collaborate in a variety of research programs at this center. RIT was the first university to launch a Bachelor's program in Information Technology in 1991, the first university to launch a Bachelor's program in Software Engineering in 1996, and was also among the first universities to launch a Computer Science Bachelor's program in 1972. Rochester's faculty helped standardize the Forth programming language and developed the CLAWS software package.
The Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation (CCRG) was founded in 2007. The CCRG comprises several faculty and postdoctoral research associates working in the areas of general relativity, gravitational waves, and galactic dynamics. Computing facilities in the CCRG include gravitySimulator, a novel 32-node computer that uses special-purpose hardware to achieve speeds of 4TFlops in gravitational N-body calculations, and newHorizons, a state-of-the art 85-node Linux cluster for numerical relativity simulations.
Recently, the Center for Biotechnology Education and Training (CBET) has been established. The facility was created to train future employees in the field of biotechnology as well as to promote research in the vast field of biosciences, including bioinformatics, molecular biology, genetics, immunology, and biochemistry.
RIT has 24 men's and women's varsity teams. All of RIT's teams are in the NCAA's Division III, with the exception of the men's hockey program, which joined the Division I Atlantic Hockey Association in 2006. Additionally, RIT has a wide variety of club, intramural, and pick-up sports and teams to provide a less-competitive recreational option to students. The Rochester Institute of Technology Department of Athletics currently sponsors Men's Intercollegiate Baseball, Basketball, Crew, Cross Country, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Track & Field and Wrestling along with Women's Intercollegiate Basketball, Softball, Cheerleading, Tennis, Swimming, Track & Field, Ice Hockey, Volleyball, Soccer, Cross Country, and Crew.
RIT's team mascot is a version of this Bengal Tiger named RITchie. After it was announced that the RIT Men's Hockey Team was moving from Division III to Division I in 2005, RITchie was redesigned and made his debut in the fall of 2006.
Because many majors require at least a year of co-op experience, the majority of undergraduate degree programs at RIT require five years to complete.
In addition to its academic and athletic endeavors, RIT has over 150 student clubs, 10 major student organizations, a diverse Interfaith center and 29 different Greek organizations.
RIT has its own ambulance corps, student-run magazine, ESPN2 TV show, Radio Station (WITR FM 89.7), production company, activities committee, Amateur Radio Club, K2GXT, model railroad club, sailing club, anime club, Formula SAE Racing Team, and SAE AeroDesign team, just to name a few organizations. RIT also has its own student-run theatre company, the RIT Players that does two shows a year as well as numerous student-run productions throughout the year. During the winter hockey season, many RIT students, staff, and alumni unite to follow the RIT Tigers as a tenacious and eccentric fan base known as the RIT Corner Crew RIT's Gordon Field House is not only home to competitive and recreational athletics and aquatics, but also houses a fitness center and hosts frequent concerts and other entertainment. The Field House, also known as Building 24, kicked off its inaugural year of performances with concerts by artists including Kanye West and Bob Dylan in Fall of 2004. It is the 2nd largest venue in Rochester, next to Blue Cross Arena.