Dear friend of Union College,
The Board of Trustees met on a beautiful Homecoming and Family Weekend that featured fall weather (with just a bit of rain), athletic contests, pumpkin carving and several wonderful building openings.
This was also the Board’s first meeting since the inauguration of David R. Harris, the 19th president of Union, who already has shown tremendous energy in leading this great college. Inauguration weekend on Sept. 8 and 9 was a special occasion. You can see the highlights here.
It was also the first meeting of our newest members of the Board. We welcomed Thomas Caulfield, CEO of GlobalFoundries and father of Matthew ’19; Robert Moser ’99, Founder and CEO of Prime Group Holdings; Kate Stefanik Barry ’01, president of the Alumni Council and partner in Isaacson-Miller, an executive search firm; Rebecca Cortez, faculty trustee, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Ruchi Raval ’20, student trustee; and John K. Johnson ’85, alumni trustee.
We were pleased to welcome back Mark Walsh ’76, managing director of Ruxton Ventures LLC, who served on the board from 2000 to 2016 and was chair from 2011 to 2015. He is the father of Melissa ’11.
Homecoming Weekend included the dedication of three important projects.
Stephen Charles Ainlay and Judith Gardner Ainlay Hall in the Integrated Science and Engineering Complex represents the culmination of more than a decade of planning. Just as President Ainlay envisioned, the building is a testament to the uniquely collaborative and interdisciplinary learning and research that happens at Union. What is especially notable is that the open central atrium of Ainlay Hall is designed to encourage students and faculty to share work across disciplines.
The seating complex at Frank Bailey Field was named for trustee Robert Bertagna ’85 in recognition of his generosity. This was a fitting tribute to Bob, who played football during some of the team’s most successful seasons, and a testament to his generosity. For more on the Bertagna-Class of 1985 Stadium, click here.
Finally, the dedication of the Stanley O’Brien ’74 Center for Collaboration and Engagement celebrated the kind of lifelong friendships that happen at Union College. David Mixer ’74, a former trustee, made the gift in honor of his friend, Stan, a trustee for the past 11 years. This is the first building at Union to be named for an African-American. The plaque in the building’s entry reads: “Throughout his life, Stanley has bridged differences by focusing on acceptance and inclusion. This space pays tribute to Stanley’s humanity and leadership in empowering individuals and building communities.” The fall meeting of the Board of Trustees was the first event held in the 9,000-sqaure-foot building at the east side of Grant Hall, home of Admissions. Notably, it will be the entry point for thousands of prospective students and families. For more on the Stanley O’Brien ’74 Center for Collaboration and Engagement, click here.
Students, faculty and staff have embraced the Union College Challenge, launched by President Harris during the inauguration as a way of encouraging growth as individuals and as a community. He asked each of us to do at least one new thing that takes us out of our comfort zone and to share our challenge – and our progress – with the Union community through social media. For more on the Union College Challenge, click here.
Faculty continue to garner awards, grants and accolades for their teaching and research. We just received our second major research instrumentation award from the National Science Foundation, improving on our already impressive record in securing exceptional instrumentation, much of which will be housed in the Integrated Science and Engineering Complex.
We have enhanced student support by implementing our new class deans system of advising, adding three new class deans to our existing dean of first-year students.
Nine students participated in our San Francisco internship program on Innovation and Creativity, which ran as a full-term program last spring. Key to this program has been the participation of successful alumni in the Bay Area.
Students continue their impressive record of national fellowships, highlighted this year by our second-ever Truman Scholarship, which went to Emmanuela Oppong ’19. Ella, as she is known on campus, plans to use her award to pursue a career in international medicine.
Administration and Finance, Investment
The financial health of Union continues to be strong and well cared for. We had a positive variance in the overall budget. Following Board-approved practice, 40 percent was transferred to endowment to reduce endowment spending, and 60 percent was transferred to a reserve account for use to be determined by the president.
The College continues to attract the nation’s top students from a range of backgrounds. Union’s opening fall enrollment of 2,178 matches projections from the last two years and is 15 more students than last fall and 45 more than the fall of 2016. Sixty-one percent of our first-years were in the top 10 percent of their high school class. SAT scores averaged 1,350. Twenty percent of the class identified as students of color, 10 percent were international and 20 percent were from outside the Northeast or mid-Atlantic region.
As always, we are indebted to the many alumni and friends of Union who support our distinctive mission. The Annual Fund closed the fiscal year at $7.7 million, which included a record $4.6 million in unrestricted support. More than 1,300 donors increased their giving, generating an additional $745,000 in gifts. We are fortunate to have Mark Webster ’88 and Brian Colontropo ’02 as national co-chairs of the Annual Fund. They have been active with College staff in evaluating year-end results, developing strategies for the current year and growing the ranks of leadership giving.
Diversity and Inclusion
A new program, Our Brother’s Keeper, teams our male students of color with young men in Schenectady to help them learn social, academic and leadership skills on campus. The program, coordinated through Kenney Community Center, is also aimed at increasing retention of Union students by providing opportunities to serve as role models for the youngsters. The start of the academic year included the Student Leadership in Diversity Retreat and our Connect Across Boundaries (CAB) initiative. The retreat is designed to encourage collaboration among leaders of diverse student clubs. CAB, a fun way to build community, encouraged passengers to take a golf cart (designed to look like a cab) to a campus destination with someone they have not met. Targeted mainly at first-year students, drivers included President Harris and other campus administrators. Finally, staff from the Diversity and Inclusion program were active in planning events for the inauguration of President Harris and are supporting the Union College Challenge.
Besides the major recent projects including the dedication of Ainlay Hall and the Stanley O’Brien ’74 Center, we are about to embark on the renovation of 631 Nott Street, a former bank, to become the Williams Center for Campus Community Safety. Made possible by the generosity of Trustee Kelly Williams ’86, this new building and program will not only enhance our connection with the local community, but host special programs and events aimed at educating campus and the broader community on critical issues. Thanks to a generous gift from the Foley family, we have created an Arts Courtyard at the intersection of the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts, Taylor Music Center and Henle Dance Pavilion. A centerpiece of the space is a striking metal sculpture of a dancer designed, created and donated by Jack Howard-Potter ’97. Other projects include an updated study for the renovation and expansion of Achilles Center, and a study to create a central heating plant for dorms west of Terrace Wall.
The Board and the College are committed to ensuring the best possible performance on our investments. Our performance for the year ending June 30 was 11.9 percent, landing us within the 2 percentile as reported by Investor Force. The performance will also improve our five-year endowment spending budget model. At the end of FY 2018, our endowment was at an all-time high of $457 million.
Word spread quickly on move-in day that our new president was helping students move refrigerators into their dorms. After that, pre-orientation went well, culminating with an enhanced and festive Club Expo that was part of the inauguration weekend celebration. Besides our new class deans program, we are supporting students by adding a new software package that improves the way faculty can notify staff about students who may be struggling academically. Consistent with President Harris’ encouragement of constructive engagement outside the classroom, we invited Susan Murphy, a retired vice president at Cornell, to help explore ideas for improving the education of the whole student both in and out of the classroom. Several of our distinctive programs – the Minervas, Kenney Center and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life – will be key to this initiative.
On behalf of the Board and the College, I thank you again for your loyalty and support of Union. I look forward to seeing you on campus or at off-campus events.
John E. Kelly III ’76