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UCALL's silver anniversary a shining milestone


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The current course titles beckon: “Africa South of the Sahara.” “Engineering Feats and Failures.” “Landscapes in Mind and Text.”

Over the years, there have been others just as enticing, covering subjects as far-ranging as astrobiology and symbolic landscapes, Charles Darwin and FDR, the Silk Road and the Roaring Twenties.

Welcome to UCALL – the Union College Academy of Lifelong Learning – an institution promoting curiosity, culture and community.

For more than quarter century, UCALL has given retirees and other community members a way to expand their intellectual horizons, pursue new and existing passions, and take part in excursions to such cultural and historical venues as the Metropolitan Opera, Ellis Island and West Point.

With the cost of a year-long membership, UCALL courses are nominally priced. Held primarily in Reamer Campus Center, they are taught on a volunteer basis by leaders in the academic, business, civic and arts worlds, including many retired and current Union professors.

This year’s lecture series kicked off last week, but classes are still open. (Students can attend lectures free of charge.)

The series will culminate with a 25th anniversary dinner at the Glen Sanders Mansion on Nov. 7, 5-9 p.m., featuring a musical review of UCALL’s history written and performed by members, with Music Professor Tim Olsen on keyboards. Classics Professor Hans-Friedrich Mueller will serve as master of ceremonies.

“UCALL is another example of Union College’s excellence in academics and cutting-edge programs for ongoing education for all alums, friends of Union, community,” said Niskayuna urologist Dr. Don Bentrovato ’69.

“The wealth of talent and knowledge in the community has been a revelation,” said Frank Feiner, a retired Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory physicist.

Citing the distinguished roster of teachers, UCALL Director Valerie D’Amario said the fact they volunteer their time “is a testimony to how well they view our programs and how appreciative our audiences are.”

UCALL was created in 1988 by Arnold Gussin, dean of Graduate and Continuing Studies, at the suggestion of Charles Van Wormer ’36. The initial membership of 15 has since grown to more than 500.

Some current and retired Union faculty members who give generously of their time and talent in support of the program include Clifford Brown, Brad Lewis, Louisa Matthew, Stephen Berk, Carl George, Twitty Styles, Peter Tobiessen and James Underwood.

Josef Schmee, the Kenneth B. Sharpe Professor of Management Emeritus, teaches a popular opera course, and Frank Taormina ’50, a retired school administrator and charter UCALL member, has taught a number of history courses and continues to attend classes today.

Staff members who have lent their expertise include Archivist Ellen Fladger, Chief Diversity Officer Gretchel Hathaway, College Librarian Frances Maloy, Athletics Director Jim McLaughlin ’93, and Horticulturalist and Landscape Specialist Constance Schmitz.

UCALL attracts other notable experts from throughout the Capital Region.

Niskayuna resident and retired GE scientist Ivar Giaever, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, will speak Oct. 16 as part of a program on climate change. Upcoming speakers also include University at Albany Distinguished Service Professor of Geography and Planning John Pipkin (Oct. 16 and 23), and science historian Sherrie Lyons (Oct. 30). Earlier this month, UAlbany professor John Delano, a geochemist, gave a presentation on NASA rover Curiosity’s latest observations on Mars.

UCALL is “a true community asset,” said Andy Foster, a retired Ellis Hospital PR professional. His wife, Jean, who taught music at Fordham University and also worked in Union Alumni Affairs, said, “The high quality of the programs and presenters brings us back every year. The informal discussions with other students add a wonderful social interaction.”

For more information about UCALL, including the anniversary dinner, call 388-6072 or click here