Chancellor's Friday Letters

Academies and Guggenheims

Academies and Guggenheims

April 30, 2010

Dear Friends,

This week I want to brag a bit about UCR. Actually, I do this all the time, but this week it’s quite overt.

The threads that tie together the five vignettes that follow are the relentless pursuit of excellence, the giving back to society in service beyond self, and the sacrifices and support of others that enable such levels of achievement to occur.

Enjoy the swagger.

Professor of Plant and Cell Biology Jian-Kang Zhu was named to the National Academy of Science – one of the highest distinctions possible – for his work in the molecular genetic mechanisms of plants. He studies their ability to survive and adapt to harsh environments such as drought, soil salinity, and low temperature. Jian-Kang’s efforts are directly relevant to famine, world population dynamics, food supply, and understanding and managing the very real impacts of climatic change. (http://newsroom.ucr.edu/news_item.html?action=page&id=2320 )

Two UCR professors – Norm Ellstrand and Juan Felipe Herrera – received 2010 Guggenheim Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation on the basis of achievement and exceptional promise. (http://newsroom.ucr.edu/news_item.html?action=page&id=2317 )

Professor Norm Ellstrand is one of those rare and valued individuals who can translate his groundbreaking and extremely sophisticated work for the public-at-large. He studies the migration of plant genes, especially in agricultural crops. He is well-known for showing how species that threaten to overrun crops can evolve from relatively innocuous weed-like relatives.

Professor of Creative Writing Juan Felipe Herrera is a wonderful example of living the promise. This poet, author, and children’s writer holds the Tom├ís Rivera Endowed Chair, named after our late chancellor. Like Chancellor Rivera, Juan Felipe was the first in his family to attend college. Now many of his 24 published books and numerous other writings have garnered international recognition.

Listen to Juan Felipe’s powerful words: “The Guggenheim Fellowship is a supreme honor for me. Most of all, it is for my wife, Margarita Robles, my familia, my students, my department, UCR, our Inlandia communities, our schools, teachers, librarians and libraries, my mentors. … It is for all those whose voice has been cut short and those whose voice is beginning to blossom. I am here to tell you that you have a beautiful voice. Live the promise that you are, cross the borders of silence into your hard-earned freedom. I also dedicate this award to my father, Felipe, who arrived in Colorado in the late 1800s in search of new horizons, and my mother, Lucha, a natural poet, who migrated to El Norte during the Mexican Revolution.”

The final two vignettes emerged Wednesday evening when students and the benefactors who have provided financial support to these students gathered for a reception in the Highlander Union Building. This reception was a rare delight – a full house of 450 people with enormous pride, appreciation, joy and tears occurring in hundreds of pair-wise conversations.

Students got to know the donors better and hear their inspiring life stories, and donors had a chance to visit with “their” prodigy, and learn of their academic progress and personal aspirations.

We heard from Pat Zaharopoulos, a 1966 UCR graduate of political science, who is an immigrant from Greece and first in her family to attend college…indeed her parents valued education highly but only completed grade school. She is living her promise in America, in part through the sacrifices her parents made to emigrate and then to scrape out a living so Pat could have a chance at the transformative power of an education…and go on to a stunningly successful and high-profile career as deputy attorney general for California, arguing many cases in front of our state Supreme Court.

She honored her parents, whose enormous sacrifices allowed her to blossom, by establishing the Nick and Christina Zaharopoulos Scholarship.

We were also moved by our student, Ryan Pedigo, who earned his chemistry baccalaureate here in 2008 and this spring completes his second year of medical education at our UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences. He has been supported by the Ernst A. Noltmann scholarship and the Rosemary Schraer Award.

In addition to his impressive academic achievements, the work Ryan has accomplished as president of the Student Run Health Clinic is exemplary. The Clinic, established in 2004, treats underserved individuals in downtown Riverside who are in dire need of compassionate care, prescription medications, and lab work.

Last year, they saw fewer than 300 patients. This year, the patient-load exploded to more than 1,000.

Ryan and his student peers have worked the trap-lines to get members from the regional medical and allied health community to volunteer their efforts, to give money, and to discount prescriptions to cost. Good for them. Good for those in desperate need.



Tim White, Chancellor

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Artists Who are Smaller Than Usual
Two hundred elementary school children from Moreno Valley and Jurupa will be on campus today to dance, play theater games and see what it would be like to be an artist at the annual spring Gluck Day of the Arts.

Young, Enthusiastic and Community-Minded
Our students are in the community building houses, working with students, painting over graffiti and generally making themselves useful.

Sunday in the Gardens
The campus Botanic Gardens will be in full bloom Sunday, May 16 for Primavera in the Gardens, including food, wine, flowers and good company.

Find out what else is going on at UC Riverside: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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