October 6, 1998
Volume 45
Number 6

The Campus, the Community and the Sundance Kid

President Rodin and Robert Redford announced plans for the one of the actor/director's first Sundance Cinema centers, to be built on the southwest corner of 40th and Walnut.The state-of-the-art, multi-screen movie theatre is set to open in the Year 2000 for the exhibition of independent and other specialty films, with space for regional independent filmmakers; a film library; a screening room for community use; child care for parents attending movies, open space for people to gather and eat, and other amenities including discounts for students and senior citizens.

"The mission of the University dovetails beautifully with Sundance," said Mr. Redford, adding that he wants films to provide a cultural experience as it had done for him when he was growing up in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles. Sundance Cinemas will bring the spirit of the Sundance Film Festival to Philadelphia and other cities, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Portland. It will showcase a full range of independent films, not just those of the Festival, with leading American independent films, international films, documentaries and other cutting-edge work.

Mr. Redford is not only a hero in film, "but by giving America and the world a chance to view themselves, [he] serves as a beacon to those who strive," said President Rodin as she introduced the founder of the Film Festival and Institute that bears the name of the memorable character Mr. Redford played in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Sundance Cinema is a joint venture between Mr. Redford and GC Companies, Inc., the parent company of General Cinema Theatres, Inc., whose CEO Bill Doeren joined Mayor Edward Rendell and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell in the press conference Friday.

The 40,000 square-foot, two-story complex will be located "where the campus meets the community," with public parking across Walnut Street on a block that will also be developed to incude a Drexeline food market, said Executive Vice President John Fry.

To NSF/CISE Directorate: Dr. Bajcsy

Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy, the SEAS professor who founded the General Robotics and Active Sensory Perception (GRASP) Laboratory at Penn, has been named by the National Science Foundation as Assistant Director for its Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. In December she will start her two year-term as chief officer of the unit that awards some $300 million a year to researchers across the country.

Cited in the NSF announcment for her own seminal research and her leadership in the creation of a world-class robotics lab, Dr. Bajcsy is "especially well known for her wide-ranging, broad outlook on the field and cross-disciplinary talent and leadership, successfully bridging such diverse areas as robotics and artificial intelligence, engineering and cognitive science," the NSF announcment went on.

Dr. Bajcsy, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, holds Ph.Ds. in electrical engineering from Slovak Technical University and in computer science from Stanford. She came to Penn as an assistant professor in 1972, moving 13 years later to department chair. Now a full professor of CIS and of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics in SEAS, she is also a member of the Neuroscience Institute at PennMed. On leave from her professorial positions during the two-year NSF appointment, she will continue to work closely with GRASP, where the Associate Director, Dr. V.J. Kumar, will effectively be in charge of the lab, she said.

$10 Million SAS Fund

From the estate of alumnus John Merriam, a fund of $10 million has been created for the School of Arts and Sciences, to be used for "strategic programs, appointments, fellowships and other purposes that will most clearly advance excellence in SAS," the President and Interim Provost told the SAS faculty last week.

"This is a wonderful development for the School of Arts and Sciences," said Dean Samuel Preston. "We will be able to create programs and move in directions that would simply have been unthinkable without these resources. I am extremely grateful for the confidence that President Rodin and Interim Provost Wachter have shown in the School." The letter in which they broke the news was circulated Friday to SAS faculty. It reads:

Dear Colleagues:

We are very pleased to inform you, as faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences, that we are creating a special new fund for the Dean to use for strategic programs, appointments, fellowships and other purposes that will most clearly advance excellence in SAS.

Thanks to the generosity of the late Philadelphia philanthropist John W. Merriam, we are able to allocate $10 million to this fund, and we are eager to see it put to great use. The fund will be incremental: it will supplement, not replace, existing SAS resources. The fund also will be unrestricted: Dean Preston will decide how the money will be best spent. Our single criterion is that expenditures from the fund be directed, in Sam's best judgment, to the School's highest and most strategic purposes.

The School of Arts and Sciences is truly at Penn's heart, and the excellence of SAS is vital to the excellence of the University as a whole. At the doorstep of the 21st Century, we are tremendously excited by the School's future prospects, and we are deeply pleased to be able to provide this help.

--Judith Rodin, President

--Michael Wachter, Interim Provost

Cognitive Neuroscience

A faculty planning committee has been formed to address the development of cognitive neuroscience as the first effort in the Life Science, Technology, and Policy initiative of Penn's Agenda for Excellence; (click here for details).

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 6, October 6, 1998