Trustee Interview: Adrian Jovanovic (BSE ’89)

by Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19)

Photo provided by CUAA.
Photo provided by CUAA.

Where you are from and how did you hear of Cooper?

I’m from way upper Manhattan (now called “Hudson Heights”) and discovered Cooper Union in my junior year of high school, when researching potential colleges. I was looking for a top school where I could pursue my interest in computers, and free
tuition certainly made Cooper stand out!

I moved to Seattle in 1990 to work for Microsoft and later, in 1994, founded eMedia Music, an educational software company. Over the years we’ve expanded into instrument and software bundles and distribution of other music related products. I’m running the business there, managing software development, and overseeing our sales/marketing and operational efforts. I’m based in Seattle but do get to New York regularly to support our operations and contribute to the effort to restore Cooper Union’s free education mission.

You were elected to the Board of Trustees in 2015; how would you describe your involvement on the Board? 

Like all Cooper trustees, I share responsibility for the strategic development and oversight of the school. But it’s no secret that alumni elected me, and I joined the Board, in order to help achieve an expeditious return to a stable, tuition-free, and thriving Cooper Union. To achieve those goals, the Board has to build trust and support through transparency, fiscal responsibility, and unity of purpose. I’m pushing hard and trying to spur discussion and
action on all three fronts!

“The Board will not authorize cuts that
compromise the education or safety of our students.”

How would you describe your involvement with the Free Education Committee (FEC) so far?

The Free Education Committee was one of the new board structures dictated by the Consent Decree. Its role is to develop a comprehensive and viable plan to return to full-tuition scholarships for all Cooper undergraduates. I believe that the FEC is critical to the ultimate success of our efforts to restore Cooper’s mission. That’s why I pushed for its inclusion in the Consent Decree and sit on the Committee.

The FEC has to consider complex fiscal, legal, educational, and operational issues as it develops its recommendations. It’s a massive undertaking. To date, we’ve been gathering information and studying past efforts. But I’d like to see us make more progress, faster, in developing a thoughtful framework for the plan to return to “free” as well as establishing extended working teams to pursue specific plan elements. I’ve asked the Board to consider adding more trustees to the Committee to help expedite that work.

As President of the Committee to Save Cooper Union (CSCU), you were one of the main petitioners in the lawsuit against the Board of Trustees. Some of the respondents of the lawsuit—such as current Chairman of the Board, Richard Lincer—are still trustees now. How would you describe the dynamic of your relationship with them now that you serve with them as a trustee?

Chair Lincer and the trustees have made a genuine effort to cordially welcome me to the Board. I truly appreciate that effort. For my part, I’m determined to work constructively with the Board and do my part in helping it be as effective as possible. Acting together as a unified and mutually supportive group is the best way to succeed.

Richard Lincer’s term ends this December, what action will the Board take thereafter? What would you say is the main focus of the Board of Trustees looking forward?

After Richard Lincer’s term ends, the Board will appoint another Chair. The Chair has a considerable amount of influence on the board­—for example, the Chair appoints all Committee Chairs and sets agendas for board meetings. It’s premature to speculate on the focus on the board until the new Chair is in place.

How would you describe Cooper’s current financial outlook especially considering our higher-than-normal proportion of non-instructional staff relative to students? What steps has the Board recommended to create a balanced budget?

At the June 2016 Board meeting the Board instructed Bill Mea to model and evaluate scenarios for additional expense cuts
between $5 million and $7 million. However, while it is critical that Cooper live within its means, the Board will not authorize cuts that compromise the education or safety of our students.

Scott Lerman (Art ‘81) joined the Board recently. Wasn’t he involved with the Committee to Save Cooper Union? Could you describe his what he does with CSCU and the Board?

Yes, Scott is one of the important new voices on the board—as a former President and CEO of two leading global brand consultancies, and current CEO of Lucid Brands he brings valuable organizational and branding expertise to the board.

Scott was officially a strategic consultant to CSCU (pro-bono—we couldn’t afford him otherwise!) and was directly involved in the Attorney General brokered settlement negotiations that resulted in the Consent Decree. He currently serves on the Communications and Development committees of the Cooper Board.

What do you think about electing Laura Sparks as President? What skills do you think she brings to Cooper?

The Board sought a 13th President capable of partnering with the Board to stabilize Cooper’s finances, restore full-tuition scholarships for all, and advance the quality of the schools. Laura Sparks brings highly valuable experience and skills to Cooper Union. She has led a leading not-for-profit foundation, is knowledgeable about fund- and grant-raising, and has relevant financial expertise. Her proven abilities in uniting and inspiring diverse communities and raising institutional prominence coupled with her respect for Cooper Union’s historic mission bodes well for our future. I have high hopes! ◊

Meet Grace Kendall. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE ‘19).

Faces of Cooper: Grace Kendall

by Mary Dwyer (ME ’19)

Meet Grace Kendall. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE ‘19).
Meet Grace Kendall. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE ‘19).

Tell us about your background and how it impacted your career path:

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia with two siblings who studied engineering. I attended Smith College where I majored in English and Psychology. Originally, I intended to be a high school English teacher but then I joined Smith’s Residence Life, and my plans reconfigured. I was a Resident Director for a couple of years, and when I was in grad school at the University of Maryland College Park, I had a Grad Assistantship at UMD Baltimore County. I started working at Pratt’s Residence Life in 2006. I was in charge of the first-year students, and then transitioned to the Director of Special Projects. In the spring of 2015, I was appointed the interim Title IX coordinator. I remained the Director of Special Projects, and then I became the non-interim Title IX coordinator. In both roles I became a coordinator for student diversity initiatives.

What experiences at Pratt strengthened your passion for what you do?

When I was at Pratt, I became involved in a lot of different groups dealing with policy and the revision of our approach to policy. I think it is important to recognize that everything is not going to work the same in different environments. The government issues a lot of guidance and legal policy regarding Title IX and diversity, but how we interact with the students to ensure the policies are in place varies from school to school. At Cooper, a school that is so small where everybody knows everyone, our policy coordination will be different from a place like NYU where they have entire offices dedicated to one goal. In the development of policies process in Pratt, we went through a lot of iterations to ensure that our process aligned with the students. The process should meet the needs of the people involved with it, not just what the policy dictates.

“I really think it is important,
particularly in a college environment,
that all students feel welcome,
are included, and have their rights upheld.”

What brought you to Cooper Union?

I really like the idea of being able to dedicate full-time efforts to Title IX, diversity, and inclusion. My responsibilities revolve around creating a safe and healthy environment for all students and that is the entire reason I became involved in student affairs.

What are your goals at Cooper?

Right now my goals are really just to meet as many people as I can, so that I can understand what students need and want, and then develop processes to meet those needs. I have been approaching various student clubs and groups so I can meet everyone and introduce the concept of Title IX, student rights, and raise awareness about who the student body can go to if they encounter an issue. The next steps are developing more programmatic things and resources, figuring out the needs beyond Title IX because needs for Title IX are much more clear based on school policy than they are for other aspects of identity.

Tell us what you want a Cooper Student to Know About You:

I really think it is important, particularly in a college environment, that all students feel welcome, are included, and have their rights upheld. Everyone should know that they are entitled to that by being students here, and that there are a lot of people willing to help them if they are in a situation where people are not giving them all of their rights, including them, or making them feel welcome.

Any advice you would give to a Cooper Student?

There are a lot of people here who can help you and that want to help you. If you are in a situation where something does not feel right, then ask for help.

What is your favorite thing to do?

To bake. It is very relaxing, because it is very precise and methodical.

What did you do this summer?

I worked! Well, I also went to the beach with my family, on the Southern Coast of North Carolina near Wilmington. My family has been going there since I was a little kid. ◊

Photo by Simon Shao (ME ‘19).

Faces of Cooper: Yash Risbud (EE ’92, MEE ’94)

by Anushree Sreedhar (ChE ’18)

Tell us about your education and how you ended up at Cooper.

I went to a regional parochial high school in Bergen County, New Jersey. After that, I went to Cooper, where I graduated as an electrical engineer. I found out about Cooper because my father got his masters from Cooper in the 70s. I had a choice between Columbia and Cooper, but I wanted to be at a smaller school and go to the same place my father went to. Now here we are several years later, and I’m thankful for that decision.

How did you initially join the faculty at Cooper?

I joined the EE department as an adjunct in 1997. When I was a graduate student, I started teaching in the Retraining Program for Immigrant Engineers. It was started and funded by many philanthropic organizations to help Russian Jews who had to emigrate after the Soviet Union broke up. They were brilliant people and some had multiple PhDs, but their educational background didn’t translate to the workforce in the US. So this program retrained these people to have multiple skills so they can get work here; work that wasn’t well below their academic credentials. A number of us who taught in this program ended up as adjuncts through a process of choice and need by the institution.

What is your current role at Cooper?

My official title is Managing Director of the CV Starr Research Foundation. Cornelius Van Der Starr was the predecessor of AIG fortune tree. He retired at that company, which eventually became AIG, and they started a philanthropic foundation involved in a number of different sectors including higher academia.

In 2006, Cooper received $10 million to fund any labs, classrooms and facilities in this building; it was a capital campaign going on at the time. I was involved on the alumni side before I started here full time. When I started, one of my first tasks was to convert any of the research efforts that were going on into one unified effort under the CV Starr name it currently has.

Photo by Simon Shao (ME ‘19).
Photo by Simon Shao (ME ‘19).

What is your favorite part about being involved in your former college?

The last couple years have been eye opening and difficult. But even with everything going on, there’s something about being around young people that is exhilarating and irritating all at the same time. I’m also one of those that never really left Cooper; I was teaching and before I was a full time professor, I was on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.

I never had the down time to figure out whether it was good for me or not, but I do know that there is something about the opportunity to help students figure out what their next best step is. You can’t really beat that as a job. For me, it’s one of the best parts of the institution. It’s really one of the reasons that we have what we have, because each year we have an amazing set of undergraduate students that we put through the ringer day in and day out.

As a student, you were on the staff of The Pioneer, too! What was your experience at the time?

I was the business manager for two years, so when I was there we bought the first computer, (a desktop Mac) for The Pioneer. That was a big transition because we used to send everything out to be typed set, laid out, and produced. It was the late 80s and early 90s and we were spending a tremendous amount of money doing it. With the advent of desktop publishing tools, they made certain advances in the publishing arena back then. That was a fun job.

You mentioned earlier that you worked in the private sector. What was your experience like?

I finished both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cooper and then worked in the financial services space. I worked the IT side of the space for about three years for a software company, one that provided software data and feeds to the entire financial sector. My first set of jobs ranged from running around from trading floor to trading floor to doing the little things like installing software. I then went to work for a consulting firm just as the client-server market went to the delivery of what is now the internet. We did very well and I had some stock in that company. That was my first flavor of having options.

After I got married, I went to work with two other Cooper alumni on a private venture where we all had ownership stock in the company. I wish everyone can have that experience of going to go work for themselves and pay for themselves. It is tough to be an entrepreneur, but a great path to try. That is why I invest time here in working on things like that. After that was over, I did some consulting work and I helped the college with the search that was going on for my current role.

Any closing comments?

Cooper is more expensive now than it was for people from my day, and that’s painful to see. I think there is always a challenge to find a better path to make education affordable for anyone, especially for students that are bright enough and talented enough to be in a place like this. I think there are ways for us to make it better and bring that impact.

The only thing I would say is that everybody should participate in the community both during their time here and after they leave. You can’t claim to be part of the community if you aren’t constantly supporting it.

Time, effort, support, all those things are essential. Once we cut through all the noise of the debates, it comes down to how well we want to support our alma mater. I think it’s a cop out to want a clean slate after all we went through. Then, I’m disappointed that this is the virtue of the Cooper community. If you truly felt that way, then why not do something positive to change it. ◊

Museum Review: The Cooper Hewitt

by Gabriela Godlewski (CE ’19)

Photo by Gabriela Godlewski (CE ‘19).
Photo by Gabriela Godlewski (CE ‘19).

Peter Cooper was known as a philanthropist for his dedication to the advancement of science and art in our society, a goal immortalized in our institution. What few people know is that his goal remains alive outside of our school in a beautiful museum tucked away in the Upper East Side: the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. The Cooper-Hewitt is a unique museum dedicated entirely to design and its implementations in both modern and historic contexts.

The Cooper-Hewitt Museum was founded in 1897 by Peter Cooper’s three granddaughters, Amy, Eleanor, and Sarah Cooper-Hewitt. It was originally an extension of the Cooper Union located in the fourth floor of the Foundation Building. In 1967, the Smithsonian Institution absorbed it as the design branch in their extensive museum network. Shortly after in 1970, the museum and its exhibitions were moved into the Andrew Carnegie mansion on 91st and 5th overlooking Central Park where it remains open to the public to this day.

The museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Since it was once a part of the Cooper Union, the Cooper-Hewitt offered free admission to students. However, when the Cooper Union began charging half-tuition, the Cooper-Hewitt also began charging for student admission. Don’t let that deter you from visiting, though. Just flash your Cooper ID at the ticket booth and you get access to all the incredible exhibits for $9.

Traveling from our natural habitats in the casual East Village to the more upscale Upper East Side compliments a museum outing perfectly. Breathing in the fresh air from Central Park, I arrived at the Cooper-Hewitt and bought my ticket. With my ticket, they gave me a large stylus: one end worked as a pen for drawing on tablets spread throughout the museum and the other end saved favorite exhibits to a personal library accessible online. This stylus and library were integrated in the museum experience to make the exhibits more interactive, further distinguishing the Cooper-Hewitt from other museums.

The Cooper-Hewitt houses many interesting exhibitions but a few were particularly notable. The first exhibit I saw, entitled “Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse,” showed the work of three designers who were inspired by sustainability to use discarded PVC and fabric scraps to make clothing and accessories. Other exhibitions include treasures from the Hewitt sisters’ personal collections, a room full of mirrors and shoes painted silver, notable examples of interior design pieces throughout the 20th century, and a collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany glassware. There is also the famous Immersion Room, which has become very popular on social media. The room features two interactive walls that visitors can design by drawing on the tablet in the middle of the room. The result is the drawing projected onto the walls, making for a great design lesson and photo op.

Notably, the third floor is entirely dedicated to exhibiting the design process as it integrates in our daily life. The exhibit, “By the People: Designing a Better America,” presents ingenious inventions made by average people and architecture plans for sustainable homes. It not only highlights the social and economic inequality that exists in our society, but also demonstrates how thinkers, when presented with a problem, can design a solution through architecture and engineering.

A personal favorite was the Process Lab, a room that guided the viewer step-by-step through the design process. First we were asked to choose a sticker stating a theme we were interested in, such as family, technology, or resilience. Then we were asked to find a problem relating to our central theme. After sifting through inspiration cards we were asked to design a possible solution to our problem that would address the theme and then submit the final design to be a part of the exhibit. People of all ages were discovering the same type of design process that everyone attending the Cooper Union learns and implements in their projects.

I strongly recommend taking at least a few hours off from studies or projects to go to see what the Cooper-Hewitt has to offer. What I love most about this museum—especially in the eyes of a Cooper student—is that there are exhibitions that anyone in our school can enjoy. The inventions featured on the third floor are perfect for an engineer and budding entrepreneur. Architects can enjoy and draw inspiration from the various plans and models on display. Everything featured in the museum is a work of art that artists and everyone else can enjoy. The Cooper Hewitt is a testament to Peter Cooper’s legacy that can and should be appreciated. ◊

The Doors of Cooper

by Jeremiah Prat (EE ’19) 

Photo by Winter Leng (ChE ‘18).
Photo by Winter Leng (ChE ‘18).

When one door closes, the saying goes,
another one opens (hopefully more easily than doors into ROSE).

But what if that door goes around and around,
no beginning, no end, and no transfer of sound

‘twixt compartments of travel, so all conversation pauses
because no sound can travel from the mouths above our jawses

to the ear of our friend stuck 90 degrees to our right,
‘til we both cross the membrane from our school into daylight.

With no start and no stop this door’s stuck in a loop,
neither open nor shut, only swift passing through,
and halfway gets you nowhere but trapped in a box,
and too much brings you back where you already was!

Though your tireless revolving might just power the lobby,
your pushing and shoving’s a poor excuse for a hobby

(goes to show non-Cooper architects should just be renamed sub-parchitects).

Or what if door closes, but leaves quite the gap
(I’m referring to the stalls in the loo in the NAB)?

While it’s technically shut, its whole point is kaputt,
and your business is put on display way, way more than it should, so the door’s really no good!

Others still just stay locked, defended by a red-lit box,
and some are hardly doors at all, like a certain RA’s in the residence hall.

When it comes to doors we’ve got plenty,
and this great school opens so many,
though squeaky or rusty or inane they may be,
and for the time being they be far from free,
the journey’s important to you and to me,
and no number of doors, be it one, two, or three,
can keep us from being the best we can be!

Hold them open for your pal, let none stand in your way,
and be moving always forward, while those doors are here to stay.

From the Archives: CU Inaugurates New President

Faculty members protesting in front of the Foundation Building, while President Lacy’s inauguration continues in The Great Hall.
Faculty members protesting in front of the Foundation Building, while President Lacy’s inauguration continues in The Great Hall.

by John Mirabello

Editor’s Note: This article was originally featured in Volume 60 Issue 3 printed on October 28, 1980. It references a dispute between the faculty union (CUFCT) and Cooper Union’s administration. The core of the dispute was over the Yeshiva decision: The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that the faculty members at Yeshiva University are “managerial employees” and are excluded from protection under the National Labor Relations Act. Under President Lacy, the administration attempted to invoke the Yeshiva decision to remove protections and benefits for faculty.

A gala day of ceremony and celebration marked the official inauguration of Bill N. Lacy as the ninth President of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Lacy assumed the position last semester, succeeding the retired John White.

A special convocation ceremony, whose theme was “The Advancement of Science and Art,” began 10 a.m. in The Great Hall. Classes were cancelled to afford students the opportunity to hear H. Guyford Stevers, director of TRW, Inc. and former Director of the National Science Foundation, discuss the state of the art in the field of engineering. Two additional speakers, Robert Motherwell and Philip Johnson, withdrew as a result of the dispute between the Cooper Union Federation of College Teachers (CUFCT) and The Cooper Union. Instead, the audience was treated to a showing of films of Charles Eames.

In his introduction, President Lacy commented, “I can think of no other person in the twentieth century who so ideally embodies the essence of Cooper Union’s three schools.” Eames, a close friend of Lacy, was also an inventor, architect, engineer, artist, and master of communication.

The installation ceremony took place at 3 p.m. in The Great Hall. Delegates from colleges, universities, learned societies, and museums joined the students, faculty, and alumni representatives in the academic procession, led by mace bearer Richard S. Bowman, Chairman of the Department of Humanities and a professor of The Cooper Union for 41 years. The ceremony was slightly marred by the absence of featured speaker Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was persuaded to cancel his scheduled appearance due to the Union’s dispute. The Cooper Union mace, symbol of power and authority, was transferred to President Lacy by Clarence F. Michalis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, who included in his remarks the following: “I believe that Bill Lacy’s presidency is going to make a lasting impression upon the future of Cooper Union.”

In his acceptance speech, President Lacy cited the inseparably unique qualities of the institution and its founder, Peter Cooper: no other private institution exists where the founder’s life and values represent such a current aspirational model for students, faculty, and administration. Lacy commented on the CUFCT’s balloon-decked demonstration, citing their well-made placards as further examples of Cooper Union’s commitment to excellence. Lacy announced his intentions to establish The Cooper Union as a viable, useful member of the local neighborhood, in addition to expanding its educational facilities. He cited a number of possible goals to be achieved through the joint effort of the Cooper community during his administration:

  • maintaining a tuition-free education for all full-time students, as well as a financially sound Cooper Union,
  • insuring the strength of the three schools’ curriculum and faculty,
  • developing the humanities to insure excellence in order to complete the education of the professional,
  • seeking ways to make current and to better use Cooper Union’s unique facilities, including The Great Hall, Houghton Gallery, the Center for Design and Typography, and the Engineering Research Labs,
  • construction of an outdoor exhibit center on the present parking lot site west from the Foundation Building,
  • building a two-storey glass-enclosed student union atop the Hewitt Building.

The day’s celebration culminated with a special edition of the Cooper Union Forum series—featuring Lukas Foss and members of the Brooklyn Chorale and the Brooklyn Philharmonia. ◊


By Anthony Passalacqua (CE’18)

To begin, the fact of the matter is that free trade is better from a global perspective than isolationism. By increasing market size and consumer base, it becomes easier and easier for companies to grow, as they have access to global resources and the best of the best in whatever they need to prosper. This, in the end, is good for your everyday man. Unfortunately, we do not live in the ideal world in which this would be the case. So today, I argue for isolationism, and, in general, nationalistic policies. I will use the two terms more or less interchangeably.

The isolationist policy with regard to trade is one based on the tariff, the—dare I say, time honored—practice of heavily taxing imports. In the modern era, tariffs have fallen to the wayside in the United States, as trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) guarantee there will be no tariffs between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. A similar deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), is currently on the table, and whether it is passed or vetoed depends on the results of the current presidential elections. Both candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, currently claim that they would not sign off on TPP, though Clinton has a history of supporting it.

This means that the US market is, to some
extent, subject to the will of foreign nations.

On the surface, free trade deals seem like a total good. The idea is that by opening up cheaper markets, prices will go down, and everyone will be able to use their comparative advantage more effectively. However, there is a more sinister underbelly to free trade deals. We put aside how large bodies like the World Trade Organization can cap tariffs, and the ramifications that such caps have on national sovereignty. Instead, we will focus on the fact that free trade is inherently unfair if not all parties in the deal are playing by the same rules. And in deals between the United States and most developing countries, the other guy is certainly not playing by the rules.

What does it mean to say that? The United States, in comparison to the countries like Mexico, China, and Pakistan, has extremely strict workers’ rights laws, on top of stronger environmental regulation, and a higher corporate tax rate. That makes it extremely appetizing for countries to move abroad when free trade deals are signed—as we saw when NAFTA was passed, and as we continue to see with Ford moving its small car division to Mexico.

Under a free trade deal, moving to another country only adds shipping onto the cost of a product, while greatly reducing manufacturing costs, almost always in notably immoral ways. Companies which move abroad can take advantage of the people of the country to which they move, in the same way large companies took advantage of Americans before labor rights laws were passed. These companies can also dodge the stricter environmental and health regulations of the United States, meaning that when they move abroad they can cut corners, at the cost only of their neighbors and the Earth.

In addition, free trade deals, in their own manner, reduce the independence of the United States’ market. Our manufacturing base is smaller, relatively, than it once was, and that means we rely more on imports to get access to the goods that the people want. This gives other nations a form of leverage over the United States, as they can always raise the taxes on their exports and drive up prices in the United States, without getting to the point that it is better for companies to outright return to the United States. This means that the US market is, to some extent, subject to the will of foreign nations.

Besides that, companies moving abroad strictly lowers the tax base of the United States, as the import tax (at its highest, 16%) is a good deal lower than the corporate tax rate of the United States (currently sitting at 35%). Isolationist thought suggests that these two rates should be reversed. Any imported goods, then, must be high enough quality for the people of the US to want to purchase them regardless of their increased price, while every day goods can come from the United States for a similar— or cheaper— price than they do now, owing to the greatly reduced corporate tax rate.

Imagine a scenario in which prices of goods do go up significantly. In that case, it’s all now within the family, so to speak. American workers have more access to jobs which had been gone for the past twenty years since the signing of NAFTA, the corporations are contributing more to the tax base directly, as they cannot as easily pass the price on to the consumer as they can when faced with a tariff, and additional revenue flows to the state in the form of a sales tax for products that are being sold at a higher price than they once were. All this money flowing around the economy contributes to the rate of GDP growth, which has recently been sorely lacking (hovering at around 1% for the last year, and not exceeding 5% in the last 5 years).

So to summarize, what does the nationalistic policy on trade bring us? It brings us prices which are not significantly higher than currently; it adds to the tax base of the United States; it returns jobs to the United States which had left; it subjects companies to stricter environmental, labor, and health regulations; and, importantly, it allows the United States to be more independent from foreign actors than we are currently, by making us less dependent on imports. ◊