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Can't Put A Price on Education

June 2003

The morning's print symposium was headlined by Bruce James, who took the helm as U.S. Public Printer earlier this year. James also chairs the school's board of trustees. "I'm impressed that any series of speeches would get you out of bed before noon," James addressed the students.

James told the story of a typical flight he'd taken and the usual small talk that occurs between strangers. When asked what he does for a living, James gives the simple answer, "I'm a printer. And then eyes go directly to my fingernails to verify the statement."

Reminiscing on his printer roots, James fondly recalled acquiring his first printing press at the age of 11, a 5x8˝ Kelsey hand press. Fast forward to the previous evening, where James was enjoying dinner in the company of students. One student told him that he was hooked "when he got his first computer at the age of 11 and learned how to use Pagemaker," James related.

"We've come full circle."

Gift of Knowledge

While the ways and means of producing printed product may have, and continue to change drastically, one aspect of the day's events remained timeless and unchanged. Throughout the agenda—the print symposium, a celebratory luncheon, the dedication ceremony and a tour of the Web Lab and the beautiful, if monstrous, Sunday 2000 gapless press—one recurring theme was the value of partnership in education.

Heidelberg bestowed a press worth in the neighborhood of $7 million to $10 million, with several millions more in accessories from other vendors. But as Heidelberg Chairman Bernhard Schreier observed, sometimes the greatest ROI "transcends spreadsheets and bottom lines."

Neither knows what the future holds for printing, but both the vendor and educational institution appreciate the value in having the most advanced technology as a resource for the ensuing waves of students at RIT. In helping to cultivate future crops of printers, Heidelberg is aiding the industry's future, as well as its own.

With the economy still whacking the industry relentlessly and CFOs monitoring bottom lines like a hawk, it's comforting to know that manufacturers have more than ROI and CYA on their minds. This is, after all, their industry too and it behooves them to care for its future.

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