Founders Day 2013

Founders Day greeting by President Stephen C. Ainlay

February 21, 2013

Good afternoon.  I want to welcome you all to this celebration of Founders Day.  218 years ago, in February of 1795, The New York Board of Regents granted a charter to Union College – the first charter bestowed by the Regents on any college or university in the state.

This past fall, I was invited to the First Reformed Church, the so-called “old Dutch Church,” which is located on lower Union Street in Schenectady’s Stockade District.  I was asked to talk about the role that this church played in the founding of Union College.  As many of you may know, that congregation – partnering with the Presbyterian and Episcopalian congregations also located in the Stockade – played a guiding role in the founding of the College.  The more reading I did about Schenectady, higher education, and the politics of the late 18th century, the more I came to appreciate how remarkable it was that Union and Schenectady were singled out to receive the first charter.  I also gained a greater appreciation of the remarkable efforts of those who believed in the importance of this institution, to the city, to the state, and to the country.  And, the more I learned, the more grateful I became.  Yes, we have much to celebrate at Founders Day.

This Founders Day, we also celebrate other accomplishments.  We celebrate the completion of the You Are Union Campaign. This campaign – which ended in December and was the largest campaign in the history of the College – has made an enormous difference for Union.  When I met with the Board of Trustees last weekend, I asked them to imagine Union without the Minervas, without Taylor Music Center, without the Viniar Center or without Messa Rink, without the newly renovated Lippman Hall and Butterfield Hall, without the Wold Center, without the impending Wellness Center or renovation of the Humanities building, without the many scholarships that provide students access to this remarkable education, and without many curricular and programmatic changes made possible by the generosity of donors who supported this campaign.  You guessed it; it’s hard to imagine Union without these things.  Yes, we have much to celebrate this Founders Day.

And, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Ramée Plan.  Let us remind ourselves that our’s is the first campus in the United States to be designed with a comprehensive master plan.  That may not sound impressive at first but remember that this campus was designed years before Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia.  Remember that this campus, carried as a model of the ideal campus, inspired Union alumni who founded places like the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, the University of Delaware, Smith College, Hope College, Knox College among others.  Remember that this place provided an architectural environment – thanks to the genius of Ramee and Nott – in which remarkable people have been formed for 218 years.

We will be reminded of that today.  Today, we are honored to have Walter Stahr with us who will remind us of one of those remarkable graduates of Union, formed in this place, who made a mark on the world, who made a difference.  Yes, we have much to celebrate this Founders Day.

Again, I welcome you.