Latest Board Report
Dear Friend of Union College –
The College’s Board of Trustees held their spring meeting during ReUnion 2016 on May 20 and 21. More than 2,000 alumni and guests celebrated during a weekend that included the traditional Alumni Parade and convocation, picnic and fireworks.
The weekend also featured three generations of Wall Street Journal reporters. Barry Newman ’67, Matthew Futterman ’91 and Joanna Stern ’06 have more than a half-century of experience reporting for the Journal. They shared their experiences at the nation’s largest newspaper and discussed the rapidly changing landscape of journalism.
At the Alumni Convocation, President Stephen C. Ainlay remarked that the sense of community at Union, as evidenced by overflow crowds at events both on- and off-campus, has never been stronger.
For more about ReUnion 2016, including a photo gallery, visit here.
The board thanked Therese McCarty for 11 years of outstanding service as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. It has been my pleasure to work with Therese in a number of endeavors, especially as a partner in the development of Union’s Strategic Plan, a document that has charted the course of the College. Therese has been largely responsible for Union’s standing as a premiere institution that integrates the liberal arts and engineering. If there is a consolation in Therese’s departure as dean it is that she will return to the classroom in economics and will be able to take advantage of the many opportunities for faculty development that she helped create. On behalf of the board, I thank Therese for her tireless work, and I wish her every success as she returns to teaching.
Administration and Finance
Administration and Finance has been focused on Foundation Three of the Strategic Plan: Sustainable Stewardship of Resources. The center continues to identify and pursue opportunities for cost savings and efficiencies ranging from renegotiating insurance premiums to bidding out the dining service operation to reviewing retiree medical insurance coverage. With the rising cost of higher education, we are dedicated to reducing cost wherever possible.
The Board approved the 2016-17 operating budget and associated five-year budget model. Senior staff and the board continue to refine the five-year projections, mindful of the impact of financial market performance on endowment revenue and anticipated costs for the planned renovation of the Science and Engineering complex.
Deposits from students enrolling in the Class of 2020 are on pace to reach our budgeted class of 575 students. This follows a record number of applications. When the new class is enrolled, we expect a record low admit rate of 37 percent, on par with 2013.
Early measures of quality and diversity of first-year students is on par with recent years. So far, the enrolled group is at or near Union-best levels in terms of academic rating, testing, underrepresented students and students from outside the Northeast. The financial aid budget is on target, and total enrollment is expected to be the fifth or sixth largest in Union’s history.
Thanks to the generosity of many friends of the College, about $31 million has been raised toward the renovation of the Science and Engineering complex. Our goal is to reach the halfway mark of the $100 million project this fall. This project will truly make Union one of the world’s leading liberal arts colleges with engineering.
The College is completing fundraising for the Feigenbaum Center for the Arts, which will transform the visual arts program when it opens this fall.
In April, the Office of Annual Giving led our third annual #ADAY4U. We exceeded our goal of securing gifts from 1,795 donors in 24 hours and broke previous records by raising $1.09 million from 2,218 donors. This represented a 35 percent increase over last year’s 1,600 donors. Thank you.
We are excited about a growing partnership with GlobalFoundries, in Saratoga County, considered the most advanced chip fab plant in the world. Students, faculty and staff have attended a number of events at the plant, and Thomas Caulfield, vice president and general manager, was the keynote speaker for the Steinmetz Symposium corporate breakfast in May.
Campus Diversity, Affirmative Action and Multicultural Affairs have had a busy spring term hosting a number of programs aimed at strengthening Union’s sense of community. To build on the progress Union has made in this important area, President announced that Gretchel Hathaway’s responsibilities have been expanded. As Chief Diversity Officer and Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, Gretchel is playing a key role as a member of senior staff and an advisor to the board.
Recent events have included celebrations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month, a social justice retreat with more than 60 students, Islamic Awareness Week, and a meet- and-greet with Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Hillel hosted its third annual Avi Schafaer Shabbat inviting the Muslim Student Association to join them in preparing the meal and enjoying food over conversation.
In April, the Presidential Forum on Diversity hosted Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School and a noted author on race relations.
Spring term programs include the fifth annual PRIDE Walk, Poverty Simulation, Multicultural/LGBTQ+ ReUnion Reception and Lavender Graduation.
Facilities and Environment
We are nearing completion of two exciting projects, the renovation and addition of the former Visual Arts Building to become the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts, and a new cogeneration plant that will greatly advance us toward our sustainability goals. Two other major projects are in the planning stages. The renovation of the Science and Engineering complex will be a major project that will transform the College. The renovation and addition of dining facilities at Reamer Campus Center will have important impacts on the College’s sense of community.
The first quarter of 2016 was a difficult time for the endowment, with the total dropping at one point to $395 million. However, markets have since rebounded and we look forward to better returns ahead. The Board’s Investment Committee and the College’s senior staff are using carefully planned five-year budget models to smooth the effects of fluctuations in the market, and we continue to plan from a position of strength.
Student Forum has launched two important sustainability programs. Zipcar has enjoyed wide use by students, who are excited to have a convenient, affordable and environmentally friendly transportation option. Forum also is negotiating with the Capital District Transportation Authority to arrange for discounted bus travel for students. Becker Career Center hosted a record-breaking career fair with more than 90 companies and organizations represented. Kenney Community Center was recently honored as Community Partner of the Year by the City Mission of Schenectady, an organization that provides basic resources to people in poverty in the Schenectady area. Central to their activities was students’ participation in the Empty Bowls Project fundraising event at the General Electric Theater at Proctors.
The College we love has never been stronger. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who support Union in so many ways. On behalf of the Board, I thank you for sharing the passion that makes Union so special. I look forward to seeing you on campus or at an event.
John E. Kelly III ’76
Chairman, Union College Board of Trustees