February 16, 2023
Science, engineering, and research writer Bob Marcotte to retire at the end of February
The University of Rochester has shared stories of the engineering research, education, and innovation that are addressing longstanding societal problems while highlighting the next generation of scientists and researchers. Since 2012, many of these stories have been told by Bob Marcotte.
Marcotte is the senior communications officer for science, engineering, and research for University Communications at Rochester. His work has regularly appeared in the University’s News Center and in regular publications from the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences. He is the writer and editor of Hajim Highlights, a weekly e-newsletter, and produces the annual digital Rochester Engineering magazine, formerly the Full Spectrum magazine. He is also the editor of Research Connections, a weekly, e-newsletter highlighting faculty, scientists, postdocs, and graduate students who are engaged in research at Rochester.
In February, Marcotte will close the book on a 10-and-a-half-year career at the University.
“I tried not to cry,” says Wendi Heinzelman, dean of the Hajim School, on learning of Marcotte’s retirement plans. “But I’m really happy for him. I cannot sing his praises highly enough. He is an amazing communicator, an outstanding colleague, and a fantastic partner. Coming into this job, there were a few key people who really smoothed the way for me, and he is absolutely one of them.”
From newspapers to academia
This is Marcotte’s second attempt at taking a permanent vacation. Before coming to the University he spent 36 years as a reporter, editorial writer, layout editor, columnist and blogger for the Rochester Times-Union and Democrat and Chronicle. In 2012, he took early retirement.
“I was 60 years old, and I had no idea what to do with myself,” says Marcotte.
Always a writer, Marcotte reached out to University Communications’ Scott Hauser, associate vice president for content, about freelancing. That inquiry turned into a temporary job which became a full-time position supporting then dean of the Hajim School Rob Clark. This role evolved into the more fully integrated University Communications position he holds today.
Over the last decade, Marcotte has brought some of the Hajim School’s most talented students, brilliant scholars, and compelling research to the forefront. Through a variety of profiles, features, and special projects, including the “Summer of Research” and the “Hajim Celebration of Women,” part of the University’s “Celebration 2020,” he has made the world of engineering and applied sciences accessible to everyone—no matter how complicated the subject matter. He received the Hajim School's Outstanding Staff Award in 2016.
“I loved the challenge of listening to a researcher describe a highly technical paper, and then trying to write the story so any layperson would understand,” Marcotte says. “And occasionally, I would succeed.”
It was more than occasional, and in Heinzelman’s view, the value went far beyond simple comprehension. “It's not just about describing what the technology is or what the ideas are,” she says. “What he's really, really good at is making you understand why—why should we care about this? Why is this important? Why is this going to change the world?”
Thanks for the memories
Talking to and writing about students is firmly at the top of the list of what Marcotte has enjoyed most during his time with Rochester. However, there are several moments he’ll always remember—such as marveling at Dean Heinzelman getting on her hands and knees in order to look at the underside of the UR Baja SAE team’s vehicle. “Clearly, this is a dean who cares about the students,” Marcotte recalls thinking.
Then there was the time he sat in on a “spellbinding” class with Stephen Roessner, a senior lecturer and instructor of audio and music engineering, in which Roessner explained why producing a record is as much art as science.
Or when he stood wide-eyed, as a pumpkin—shot from a cannon—traveled so far he almost lost sight of it, only to see it explode on a sidewalk, startling a passerby in front of LeChase Hall.
Or any of the times he lost his way in the maze of hallways at the Medical Center, knowing he’d eventually be guided to his destination by a kind staff member.
And of course, there was the time when he had the privilege to interview Ivan Suminski ʼ18, ʼ18E and hear him play Bach on his violin in the middle of a research lab. “Only at the University of Rochester,” Marcotte marvels.
Awaiting Marcotte in retirement are his wife, Cathy, a six-and-a-half pound shorkie named Lulu, and no shortage of hobbies, which include tending to an impressive garden and photographing the wildlife that visits. “I anticipate having plenty to keep me busy,” he says, “and I couldn’t ask for two better companions.”