To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date: October 3, 2019
Re: 2019-20 Academic Year Welcome
“…I have ventured on a dangerous journey, and I already behold the foothills of new lands. Those who have the courage to continue the search will set foot on them.”
—Immanuel Kant, Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1755)
The start of a new academic year is one of my favorite times, full of potential and renewal. There are old friends to greet and new students and colleagues to welcome. The easy mingling of undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff emphasizes the advantages of Caltech’s small size and the intimate nature of our campus.
We are animated most by the connections established through shared journeys. We savor the intellectual danger of walking where no one else has walked before, creating our own paths and searching for hidden insights. It takes courage to persevere, but we are in good company and guided by the footsteps of Techers over the generations.
This year brings special opportunities. We are launching major new efforts in translational research and in energy, water, and sustainability. Trustees Richard Merkin and Stewart Resnick have challenged us to build upon Caltech’s defining strength in fundamental discovery to transform people’s lives for the better. Technologies for human health, inventions to filter water, to catalyze energy-efficient fertilizers, to engineer microbes that sustain plants through drought, to model climate change more accurately and completely, to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, all lie on the horizon.
The ultimate beauty of these efforts, and the extraordinarily generous philanthropy that jump starts them, are the connections wrought from generation to generation. Our journeys are made possible and so too, through endowment, will be the explorations of Caltech researchers far into the future. It is part of the fabric that holds the Institute together, amplifying the impact of a culture fiercely devoted to excellence and prizing travelers who are unafraid to cross conventional boundaries.
“One river gives its journey to the next,” writes the poet Alberto Ríos in “When Giving is All We Have.” With courage and company, we are positioned to meet the challenges of our times.