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Latest Board Report

Latest Board Report

Dear Friend of Union College –

The College’s Board of Trustees met Oct. 21 through 23 during a Homecoming weekend that was highlighted by the dedication of the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts, a spectacular new crossroads for students of all disciplines that is the home of art history, studio arts and digital arts.

As I said at the dedication, this is a building that represents everything that makes Union special – innovation, creativity and a deep understanding of the world that surrounds us.

The project was supported in part by an $11 million gift from the Feigenbaum Foundation, created by the late brothers Armand V. Feigenbaum ’42 and Donald S. Feigenbaum ’46.

The brothers, founders of General Systems Co., a world leading systems engineering firm, were longtime benefactors to Union who were extremely generous with their resources and their expertise. They would undoubtedly be pleased to see the legacy they have created.

I hope you have a chance to visit this remarkable building soon.

Despite a cold rain on Saturday, we were treated to the traditional highlights of Homecoming: a 31-15 football win over the University of Rochester, men’s hockey wins over RIT and Niagara University, and a pair of victories by women’s volleyball over Clarkson and Bard that clinched their No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.

Academic Affairs

The trustees were pleased to meet Strom Thacker, who recently joined the College as vice president for academic affairs. Strom shares our sense of common purpose in moving Union forward.

Two exciting projects took place over the summer. Prof. George Gmelch of Anthropology led a pilot program with student-interns at entrepreneurial startups in the San Francisco area. Prior to departure, Prof. Hal Fried of Economics and Jim Cirincione ’90, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, conducted an orientation on West Coast management style. This program was strongly supported by other successful West Coast alumni including Steve Ciesinski ’70, Andy Miller ’90 and Ron Pitluk ’91. Steve Eskenazi ’83 suggested the idea to Pres. Ainlay.

The first Mellon Presidential Project for Global Learning faculty study tour returned from China in July. For 10 days, 14 faculty from across campus studied sustainability and social justice with site visits and workshops that explored the fusion of tradition and modernity around turbo-capitalism, migrant workers, coal mining, organic farming and environmental activism. In a post-trip retreat, the faculty developed more than a dozen proposals for Common Curriculum courses or modules focused on sustainability and social justice.

This fall, we welcomed five new tenure-track faculty and three postdoctoral teaching fellows.

Administration and Finance

The College is in a sound position financially, with the Planning Priorities Committee developing a balanced budget for the 2017-18 year as well as a five-year budget model that addresses expected future pressures.

Food, important on any campus, was the focus of a committee of students, faculty and staff who selected a new dining vendor, American Dining Creations. Led by Matt Milless, the student affairs liaison to dining, the committee and ADC staff have made a smooth and successful transition to rave reviews.


Recruitment of the Class of 2020 came with success and challenge. This is the most diverse class in history, with 22 percent coming from non-white U.S. backgrounds. Also, 9 percent of the class comes from 23 countries. Academic quality is at or near record highs. However, with a 2 percent dip in our yield, the class came in five students shy of our target of 565. This will be addressed as we consider our response to national enrollment trends and the financial aid landscape. So far this year, over 3,700 prospective members of the Class of 2021 have visited Union, half of whom experienced our popular new tour and information session.

College Relations

I am pleased to report the College has reached $70 million in gifts and pledges toward a possible campaign. This includes $5 million from the estate of John Wold ’38 in support of a proposed new Science and Engineering Center. The 104th Annual Fund ended strong with a nearly $4.6 million raised in unrestricted support from 8,272 donors. Total Annual Fund dollars were nearly $7 million from 10,374 donors.

As always, we appreciate the many friends who support this great institution. Thank you.

We welcomed three new major gifts officers – Brian DeMichele ’03, Noelle Beach Marchaj ’05 and Bethany Gregg – who will be critical to the success of our future endeavors. We also welcome Tom Torello, the new chief communications officer, who has hit the ground running with a new communications plan aimed at improving the College’s rankings.

Thanks to Trustee Jim Loree ’80, CEO of Stanley Black & Decker, the College will apply for a grant from SBD to support undergraduate research and position students for internships, leadership programs and employment at SBD.

Alumni and parent engagement has enlisted Profs. Cliff Brown and Zoe Oxley, who teach a popular class on presidential elections, to speak on the current election at alumni events around the country. Set for this year are three “Chet Chats,” lunchtime webinars hosted by Prof. Byron Nichols. Guest speakers, one each term, are Stephen Schmidt of Economics, Ashraf Ghaly of Engineering, and Carol Weise of Health Professions.


At opening convocation, President Ainlay urged the campus community to explore different viewpoints, even when it makes us uncomfortable, but always in ways that honor and preserve principals of mutual respect. Toward that end, plans are to continue the diversity and inclusion programming that last year focused on opportunities for students to explore difficult topics in safe spaces.

The popular Diversity and Inclusion Certification Course that last year was completed by 23 administrators is being offered again this year.  The program has been instrumental, particularly in deepening cultural competencies, strengthening our practice of inclusion and understanding the intersection of global and national events with the campus.

This fall, the Presidential Forum on Diversity welcomed Diane Patrick, an attorney and advocate for education, healthcare and domestic violence prevention. The former First Lady of Massachusetts gave a moving talk on her personal challenges with discrimination and domestic violence.

Union was honored by two awards recognizing our diversity and inclusion initiatives. For the fourth consecutive year, the College received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from Insight Into Diversity magazine. We also received the Minority Access National Role Models Award from the National Role Models Conference, honoring Union as “an exemplary [institution] committed to diversity.”

Facilities and Environment

A busy summer brought the completion of the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts, a fully operational cogeneration plant and a $3 million annual facilities renewal. Planning continues for two major projects: Science and Engineering and a renovation to the College’s dining facilities.

The architecture firm of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott has completed the design phase of a new Science and Engineering facility, and the construction management firm of Turner Construction has been working on preconstruction services, utilities relocation and cost estimation.

The cogeneration plant is fully operational, creating power, heat and cooling for the campus. The plant, which reduces Union’s carbon footprint by about 40 percent, provides clean power to campus, saves energy equal to the project debt service and uses waste heat for heating and cooling.

Other capital projects included the renewal of Payne Gate, new lighting and dehumidification of the Alumni Gymnasium pool, replacement of synthetic turf at both College Park and Frank Bailey Field, resurfacing the track at Bailey Field and installing a permanent outfield fence, foul poles and warning track at the softball field.

Student Affairs

Orientation 2016 included three pre-arrival programs. Besides the traditional outdoor and community service programs, we added a leadership program that introduced first-year students to leadership skills and campus opportunities to use them. We are pleased that more than 200 members of the new class arrived three days early to take part in these programs. Orientation this year also brought several new workshops to introduce parents to Student Affairs offices, Becker Career Center and the Wicker Wellness Center.

As part of our ongoing effort to promote a welcoming and safe campus, Melissa Kelley, the Title IX coordinator, arranged a series of programs to introduce first-year students to issues including sexual assault, alcohol abuse, dangerous behavior and bystander intervention.

Finally, on behalf of my fellow trustees, I want to thank all the many friends of Union for their support. Membership in the Union community is an honor to me, and I am so pleased to be joined by so many who share the passion for what makes Union special.


John E. Kelly III ’76
Chairman, Board of Trustees