Making A Difference

Supporting a Safe Campus: Rensselaer Giving Day

Making a Difference
Students line up for their twice-weekly COVID-19 tests in the Armory.

The strength of our community to keep “Rensselaer Strong” during one of the most challenging times in Institute history has truly been demonstrated in the outpouring of support received since the pandemic began. “We would like to extend our gratitude to our generous and dedicated donors as we continue to navigate COVID-19 and minimize its impact on our campus,” says Graig Eastin, vice president for Institute Advancement.

In order to ensure a safe and healthy campus for students, faculty, and staff, Rensselaer committed to testing members of the campus community broadly and frequently throughout the fall semester through the development of the COVID-19 Testing Initiative. This initiative successfully resulted in a very low rate of positive cases during that time.

Significant ongoing resources are required for this initiative, including testing, sampling, equipment, staffing, and supplies and reagents. As a result, a fund was established in support of these efforts, and a new online Giving Day was implemented to raise the critical funds last September. Over the course of 24 hours, more than 500 alumni, alumnae, parents, and community members came together virtually to support funds related to managing the impact of COVID-19 on campus, including the newly established Testing Initiative, Student Relief, Research, and Annual Funds.

Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP) and the Capek Family Foundation were two transformative supporters of the newly established fund and the inaugural event.


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Dr. John D. Bennett ’74, president and chief executive officer of CDPHP, is a valued member of the Rensselaer community, as a longtime loyal donor and as a member of the Board of Trustees. CDPHP’s transformative gift commitment to the COVID-19 Testing Initiative is just another example of the health care organization’s generosity and partnership with Rensselaer. 

Longtime strong supporters of the Institute and brothers Thomas Capek ’86, P’20, senior vice president and chief engineer at Corning Incorporated, and John M.Capek ’83, M.E. ’84, M.E. ’85, MBA ’87, Ph.D. ’88, executive vice president of ventures at Abbott, made a transformative gift to the fund and provided the signature Capek Family Foundation Challenge. The challenge helped Rensselaer surpass the overall goal of 500 donations from members of the Rensselaer network across the globe within 24 hours — an unprecedented success during unprecedented times.

These stories only touch the surface in how the Rensselaer community has consistently stepped up for the Institute during the pandemic. Our students, faculty, and staff are thankful for the help we receive from our alumni, alumnae, and parents to keep the campus safe.

For more information on supporting the Testing Initiative or other Annual Giving funds, visit


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Transformative Donor Highlight: Robert Carmello ’59

Last year, our capital campaign, Transformative: Campaign for Global Change, surpassed the halfway mark of the $1 billion goal. Robert Carmello ’59, a longtime supporter, played a role in supporting the movement past this significant milestone through his recent planned gift. 

Carmello was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, in what he describes as a middle-class family, with parents who worked most of their lives to provide him with a first-class education. Carmello began pursuing his love of chemistry while attending Brooklyn Technical High School, and worked in a plastics research laboratory before earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rensselaer in 1959. 

He later joined the Army, and following his service, Carmello began a long-term career in research and development. Holding several positions at different companies, he focused on various household and industrial cleaning products, which took him overseas for weeks at a time. Fueling his passion for chemistry and honoring the dedication of his hard-working parents, he recently established the Philomena, Carmine, and Robert Carmello ’59 Scholarship through a bequest, which will support undergraduate students studying chemistry. 

For updates and more stories of generosity, visit


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The Roberts family

Celebrating Parent Advocates

No one is more invested in the success of current students than their families, and Rensselaer is fortunate to have a strong group of family volunteers to provide invaluable support in many ways. Adrienne Roberts P’21, whose son, Russell, is a senior studying aeronautical engineering, is a shining example of how parents of current students are making a difference.

Roberts is a member of the Silicon Valley Executive Council, serving as a Rensselaer ambassador on the West Coast. The council offers opportunities for engagement for alumni, alumnae, and parents in the Silicon Valley region around business development, career advancement, graduate recruitment, and student placement.

Roberts is also a strong advocate for the Society of Families — a network of engaged families who want to stay connected through philanthropy and volunteerism. “As a parent, I truly understand the emotions that arise from having your student away from home — no matter where home may be — particularly during these unprecedented times,” says Roberts. “I believe that Rensselaer is a true community, and I encourage you to get more involved during your son or daughter’s time at Rensselaer through the Society of Families.”

It is the generosity of families like the Roberts that enables current students to continue the Rensselaer tradition of innovation and perseverance. This is exemplified by their son’s work as president of the RPI Forge, a student club and makerspace where masks for first responders are being built using a network of 3D printers.  

If you’d like to learn more about how families can support the entire Rensselaer community, visit

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