Board Chair's Report -- Spring 2023

The College’s Board of Trustees met the week of May 8, which culminated with the 33rd annual Steinmetz Symposium and Prize Day.

The trustees were pleased to attend a number of sessions in the Steinmetz Symposium, a showcase of student scholarly, research and creative achievement which had more than 400 participants.

This meeting was bittersweet for me. It was my last as board chair, and this is my last report.

The Board unanimously elected Julie Greifer Swidler ’79 as the next chair of the Board. Julie, the executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel for Sony Music Entertainment, is the first woman to serve as Board chair.

I will remain on the Board, and I look forward to working with Julie. Besides being dedicated to Union, she has built a highly successful career in a dynamic industry through deep principles, strong intellect and an ability to create consensus. You can learn more about Julie Swidler and the new trustees in the College’s recent announcement.

I am pleased to also share that Guy Logan ’90, Managing Director, Head of National Infrastructure, Raymond James & Associates, Inc. was appointed as vice chair. The board welcomed two new term trustees: Jason Kellman ’99, a managing partner and chief investment officer at Pinnacle Asset Management; and Dr. Shari Midoneck-Pochapin ’85, internal medicine physician at MD² Park Avenue. Jay Freeland ’91, retired president, CEO and board director of FARO Technologies, was appointed the new chair of the President’s Council. Peter Raymond, ’80, a retired partner with PwC, was elected as the alumni trustee. Eastwood Yeboah ’25, who is majoring in psychology and Africana Studies, was elected student trustee. Krisanna Scheiter, associate professor of philosophy and department chair, was elected faculty trustee.

Among other agenda items was the bittersweet action of thanking trustees who are changing status or stepping down.

Frank Messa ’73, a longtime member of the board, moved to trustee emeritus status, but not before he received the Founders Medal in recognition of his distinguished service to the College. Over three decades, Frank has represented the Board in a variety of leadership positions and at countless celebrations. He and his family are the generous benefactors of the Minerva House and hockey rink that bear the Messa name. Among his many roles, he has served as board chair, parent and even interim vice president. It has been a privilege to work with Frank, and I look forward to his continued involvement with the College as trustee emeritus.

Betsy Brand ’82, founder and principal of Brandmark Studios, a full-service boutique marketing agency, stepped down at the end of her term as alumni trustee.

David Henle ’75, an investment professional whose career has included leadership at Goldman Sachs, moves from life trustee to trustee emeritus. David and his wife, Joan, have been generous benefactors to the College, supporting the Henle Dance Pavilion, Henle Scholarships and the Union Fund to name a few.

Three term trustees have become trustees emeriti: Roy Jackson ’82, a prominent executive in the foodservice and hospitality industry; Stanley O’Brien ’74, a financial services executive for whom the Stanley O’Brien ’74 Center for Collaboration and Engagement is named; and William Wicker ’71, an executive in the investment banking and energy industries who with his wife, Pamela, supported the Wicker Wellness Center.

Finishing their terms as student and faculty trustee, respectively, are Alexis Henrikson ’23, an anthropology major who is a crew athlete and member of Phi Beta Kappa; and Andrew Morris, a popular associate professor of history who specializes in contemporary political and environmental history.

Stanley Andrisse, a researcher, professor and author whose life experience has made him an advocate for the successful re-entry of formerly incarcerated people, was our featured speaker who received an honorary doctor of science at Commencement on June 11. Arnold Weinstein, the Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University, received an honorary doctor of letters.

Academic Affairs

Two faculty members – one from humanities, one from engineering – have been named to co-lead the Templeton Institute, a strategic initiative to further Union’s signature integration of engineering and computer science with other disciplines, and to support the recruitment of women to those fields.

Andrew Burkett, associate professor of English, and Ashok Ramasubramanian, professor of mechanical engineering, are the new co-directors of the Templeton Institute of Engineering and Computer Science. Burkett will continue in his role as director of the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Program. Ramasubramanian will also serve as the College’s Dean of Engineering.

The Templeton Institute is made possible by a gift of $51 million from 1980 graduates Mary and Rich Templeton. The gift supports the integration of engineering and computer science with the liberal arts, the recruitment and retention of women pursuing a degree in engineering or computer science, enhancements to the curriculum, faculty development and facilities. Rich Templeton is chairman of the board of Texas Instruments. He became chairman in April 2008 and was president and chief executive officer from May 2004 through March 2023. He has served on the company's board of directors since July 2003.

The full announcement about the Templeton Institute leadership is online.

Angela Commito, senior lecturer of classics; and Stacie Raucci, Frank Bailey Professor of Classics, have been awarded the seventh Byron A. Nichols Fellowship for a three-year period beginning in September. Through their course project, “Ancient Roman Gardening: Cultivating Interdisciplinarity, Community and Well-Being,” students will explore the development of gardens and cultivate pop-up gardens on campus.

This year, Union received 12 new external grant and fellowship awards totaling more than $1.3 million. This year, the portfolio includes 45 active awards totaling $10 million from government, private, and corporate funders.

Some highlights:

  • Marianna Bergamaschi Ganapini, assistant professor of philosophy, has received a Visiting Fellowship award from the Notre Dame-IBM Technology Ethics Lab, whose mission is to promote human values in technology through applied projects that address core ethical challenges of the digital age. The fellowship will support a full year sabbatical during academic year 2023-24 to enable Dr. Bergamaschi Ganapini dedicated focus on her research project, New Tools for Ethical Risk Analysis and Risk Mitigation in the Use of AI.


We are pleased to see another year of strong demand, aided by an ambitious marketing campaign, for enrollment in the Class of 2027. At the board meeting, we were on budget at 570 deposits. This is the third year that we have to distance ourselves from the small class (rising seniors) recruited during the pandemic year of 2020.

Notably, this year’s class is of high academic quality, diverse and gender balanced.

The coordination between the Admissions and Communications & Marketing teams has been a major factor in Union’s success this year. A reorganization has aligned the chief marketing officer and enrollment marketing specialist to work closely with admissions staff.

Administration and Finance

Finance has been active in developing a culture of budget responsibility and improved forecasting methodologies.

As our interim quarterly budget forecasting process improves, we remain on guard against unexpected variances in enrollment, unavoidable expense increases due to inflation, lack of budget oversight discipline at the departmental level, and year end close adjustments.

College Relations

Thanks to the generosity of our many alumni and friends, we will officially close the Powering Union campaign on June 30, but currently stand over $312 million. We have much to celebrate. Thank you.

The success of this campaign is a testament to the passion so many feel for the mission of our College.

It also ensures that generations of Union students will have access to the finest education that blends liberal arts and STEM.

We had a highly successful #ADay4U in April with more than 2,700 donors contributing more than $850,000. We want to express gratitude to the many trustees who put forward challenges for the 1,795 Challenge, the Women of the BOT Challenge to support Teaching & Learning and Student Wellness.

A week after the board met, many of us were back on campus for a highly successful ReUnion.

The weekend featured events with two prominent alumni. Ilene Landress ’83, a two-time Emmy award winner and executive producer at HBO, spoke about her career. Her credits include Succession, Girls and The Sopranos. Doyin Richards ’98, a best-selling author and anti-racism facilitator, was a popular draw with talks and workshops on racism and mental health.

Alumni Gold Medals were presented to Thomas Ackerman ’63, Patrick DiCerbo ’88 and LeAta Jackson ’88.

Communications and Marketing

The Office of Communications and Marketing is moving forward on its two largest and most immediate priorities – the branding update and the development of a new nickname and mascot for the College. The branding project is on schedule to roll out with the start of the new academic year.

The nickname and mascot project, perhaps not surprisingly, has generated significant interest, particularly among alumni. Four finalists – Garnet Chargers, Garnet Griffins, Garnet Hawks, Garnet Storm – have been shared with members of the greater Union community for feedback before a rollout at the start of the next academic year.

We have decided not to move the Dutchmen/Dutchwomen names forward, which we understand will disappoint some, particularly alumni. But we feel a new nickname/mascot will assist in our efforts to attract future students and build college pride.

The results have been extremely positive. We have seen large increases in the rate of follower growth, impressions (a measure of reach) and engagements (likes, comments, shares) compared to the same period last year. Additionally, our level of engagement is outpacing that of a group of closely followed peers.

Beyond the increased engagement in the short term, the trial is providing us with valuable data for the type of content that resonates with prospective students. For example, we are seeing content that shows our faculty interacting with students in interesting ways - as well as those that showcase the beauty of campus and moments of joy – are performing very well. Some examples:

Facilities and Environment

We have begun an ambitious upgrade of the second-floor of Reamer Campus Center that will transform the dining experience for all members of the Union community.

The new Reamer facility will open this fall with eight distinctive and diverse serving stations, expanded seating and more open space. This will reduce wait times, move away from buffet line serving and provide more seating options.

Notably, the new expanded facility will allow all students to eat anywhere on campus.

The facility has been off-line since last winter when a ruptured sprinkler line flooded the building, and our Dining team has shown tremendous resilience and creativity in serving our students, faculty and staff. With much of Dining’s operations transferred to College Park Hall, the team also offered extended hours for the Rathskeller and fun pop-up events throughout the rest of the year. We are grateful to all members of the Union community – particularly our students – who have shown great patience during this inconvenience.

Renovation of the first-floor Reamer Auditorium is expected in early 2024.

Several other major projects are on budget and on schedule. These include window projects in academic buildings, Schaffer Library carpeting replacement, Nott-Seward parking lot replacement and residential upgrades.

The College is still negotiating with a developer about the possible construction of a hockey rink in Mohawk Harbor.

Student Affairs

The Kenney Center for Community Engagement and Outreach has been restructured with Kevin Trigonis promoted to director in addition to overseeing the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP). This new role will continue to develop effective relationships with external stakeholders and the campus community to enhance both programs. Kevin will collaborate with College departments, student clubs, organizations, and groups to develop student growth and community impact.

The state Education Department has awarded an increase in grant funding and roster opportunities to Union STEP that will increase enrollment from 77 to 90 students.

SparkLab, our entrepreneurship program, saw a 33 percent increase in student participation.

Becker Career Center hosted recent employer information sessions with Centrotherm, AlphaSights, Overland, Far Hills Country Day School, Consigli Construction, Regeneron, JW Danforth and National Grid. Becker also held a graduate school program with Northeastern University for alumni.

In Athletics, women’s ice hockey had the best season in Division I history, earning 11 victories and winning its first game against a nationally-ranked opponent, a 4-1 victory over Princeton in December.

For only the second time in program history, both the men’s and women’s tennis teams qualified for the Liberty League Tournament in the same season. The women’s team matched the program single-season record for wins in a season, and both teams set new program standards for conference wins. Aren Cummings ’26 of men’s basketball team was recognized as the Liberty League Rookie of the Year, the first Union men’s player to earn the honor in two decades.

It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve as board chair for the past four years. Together, we have advanced the College in a number of ways. I look forward to continuing as a trustee and to work with the entire community to move Union College to the next level.

Robert Bertagna ’85
Chair, Board of Trustees