Union in the News for June 12, 2006
Union grads urged to 'carry humanity' forth
By Rich Azzopardi - The Daily Gazette
Trust your instincts and always remember to "carry with you your humanity" were the parting lessons Union College's interim president offered the Class of 2006.
Under dismal gray skies and in a cool wind that made June feel like October, James E. Underwood cautioned the robed and shivering grads at Sunday's commencement that following his advice will not always be easy.
"Listen to your own inner voice. I can tell you from personal experience, whenever I have failed to listen to my own inner voice I have come to regret it," Underwood said in his keynote address, which he briefly paused to pick up the mortarboard that was blown off his head.
"We must cultivate the habit because that inner voice, always there, does not necessarily shout - sometimes it barely whispers," he added.
The college, which counts prolific scientists and engineers, award-winning writers and 21 st U.S. president Chester A. Arthur among its alumni, graduated 500 this year. Fifteen of them were Schenectady residents, 11 more from elsewhere in Schenectady County and 50 hail from the greater Capital Region.
After tassels were turned and caps tossed in the air, the sea of black robes dispersed. Many will end up in different parts of the country, though for 21-year-old Brian Selchick, Washington, D.C., will be a stop on the way back to the area.
After his internship with a capital investment banking firm, he will return to Union to pursue his graduate degree - and to run his company.
While recovering from an illness his freshman year, the Menands native got the idea to use the online auction site eBay to raise money for charities. His company, eWired Auctions LLC, branched out and runs live auctions with wireless Internet-enabled handheld computers.
In between rugby practice, fraternity parties and concerts with the Union all-male a cappella group the Dutch Pipers, Selchick has planned for his future in what he sees as an increasingly tech-savvy area.
"My plan is definitely to stay local," he said. "Why leave? Union students have the Capital Region at their fingertips."
For co-salutatorian Fatima Mahmood, her bachelor of science degree is a tradition of sorts in her Clifton Park family.
Her mother, Durray Mahmood, received her teaching certificate from Union in 2001. Her brother, Bilal, is currently a sophomore at the school.
Mahmood, 21, who graduated with a double major in math and physics, said the opportunity to do physics research and her art classes were among college highlights. And, when the dining hall food got to be a bit much, her family was 20 minutes away.
"It was nice. I was able to go home Sundays to eat lunch," she said.
In the fall, Mahmood will transfer to Cornell to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics.
Underwood's address came as his tenure at the helm of the private college is about to come to an end.
Stephen C. Ainlay, the vice president of academic affairs at the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Mass., will begin his tenure as president on Thursday.
Underwood, who has been a faculty member for more than four decades, was named interim president when Roger Hull stepped down last June.
"It was typical of you last year to eagerly answer the call, my call, to lead this college during an important transition," Union Board of Trustees President Stephen J. Ciesinski said, before presenting Underwood with an honorary doctorate degree. "You have left Union a much stronger place."
Underwood will remain involved with the school as a professor emeritus, Union spokesman Philip J. Wajda said.
Underwood quoted an 1805 commencement speech from then-college President Eliphalet Nott, who urged his graduates to "carry with you your humanity" to improve the world.
"We who are privileged to be here owe an obligation to ourselves to make the good community that is ours into a truly superior community," Underwood said. " . . . Unless that is the case, we will always run the risk of failing to assist each other and of isolating community members because they do not share the characteristics of the great majority within the community."