You Are Union Campaign

Union College Concludes Historic Campaign

In its largest and most comprehensive fundraising campaign to date, Union surpassed its goal of $250 million, bringing the total to over $258 million and securing the College’s status as one of the strongest philanthropic institutions among elite liberal arts colleges.

Video: "You Are Union: Advancing the Vision"

The You are Union campaign [Click Here], publicly launched in 2004 and expanded by $50 million in 2008, has been transformative for the College, bolstering student scholarships and financial aid, faculty support, research programs, campus facilities and other priority needs outlined in the school’s strategic plan.

“The You Are Union Campaign has been transformative for Union College,” said President Stephen C. Ainlay.  “Many of the state-of-the-art facilities we now enjoy, programs that attract and excite students, and scholarships that keep Union accessible owe to the success of the Campaign.  We are very grateful to all those alumni and friends who supported us at this critical time in the College’s history.”

Ainlay spearheaded the campaign after taking the helm at Union in 2006.  Along with the Board of Trustees, he supported the expansion of the campaign goal to $250 million by 2012 and has been personally involved in securing many of the major gifts. Those involved with the campaign emphasize that Ainlay’s leadership and commitment to reaching the goal, despite unforeseen challenges like the economic recession, were critical to Union’s ultimate success.

“Thanks to the leadership of President Ainlay and the outpouring of support from our volunteers and donors, Union College has triumphed over these past four difficult years to complete this effort with momentum going forward,” said Stephen Dare, the school’s vice president for College Relations.


The enthusiastic support for the campaign from more than 34,000 donors, including 60 percent of all alumni, has helped enhance the College’s reputation as one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions.

Lippman Hall
Lippman Hall

Close to 750 donors committed at least $25,000 each, while 88 donors committed at least $1 million individually or as a family. In recognition of this level of support, the College established the Arch to honor alumni, friends, and family members who have cumulatively contributed or pledged one million dollars or more to the College. Contributions also took the form of trusts and realized bequests ($51 million).

The campaign has also stimulated Union’s culture of engagement, inspiring ever-greater numbers of alumni to not only become active donors but to connect with the College more frequently and consistently. For example, Union’s annual Homecoming and Family Weekend saw record-setting numbers, exceeding 2,000 attendees. Beyond the campus, President Ainlay oversaw the rejuvenation of the College’s regional alumni club program, which grew from a handful to over 25 clubs, with events held across the country and in Paris and London.

The College launched the President’s Council in 2009 and today it boasts a membership that includes both alumni and parents from across the country who provide President Ainlay and his leadership team with expertise and feedback on important issues facing the College.  Nearly half of them actively participate in working groups in close collaboration with members of President Ainlay’s senior staff, addressing topics such as alternative revenue sources, virtual education, development efforts and innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity at Union.


Campaign gifts totaling more than $41 million were directed toward financial aid, enabling the College to continue to attract outstanding students from around the country and the world. This included the creation of 100 new scholarships to help make Union more affordable and accessible.

“Union has a long-standing tradition of meeting the full demonstrated need of all admitted students,” said Matthew Malatesta ’91, vice president for admissions, financial aid and enrollment. “This financial aid policy has enabled us to attract and enroll the best and brightest students who bring ethnic, cultural, geographic and intellectual diversity to our campus. Through such programs as the Posse Foundation, we have reached out to populations that have been historically underrepresented at Union, which has made for a better educational experience for all students.”


Ceremony on Campus

Another $40 million was designated for faculty support, allowing the College to attract and retain first-rate professors and scholars. A portion of this support will go toward funding new professorships, including those in areas consistent with the growth of Union’s interdisciplinary programs and its mission of educating innovative, ethical contributors to a diverse and global society. Religious studies, statistics, environmental engineering and environmental policy will benefit from new professorships, while several existing faculty positions have been awarded named professorships, including in philosophy, biology, classics and mathematics.  Funds supporting undergraduate research, laboratory equipment, academic support services, faculty development, lecture series, and terms abroad will provide critical support for the work of the faculty.

“The Union College faculty is at the core of our academic excellence,” said Therese McCarty, vice president for academic affairs. “Resources provided through the campaign will allow the faculty to continue the work that creates transformative experiences for students. The success of this segment of the campaign owes significantly to the desire of alumni and friends of the College to honor and recognize faculty members, departments, and academic programs with their gifts, as well as to the ability of our faculty to compete successfully for external grant funding.”


The campaign also supported a number of major capital projects that transformed Union’s historic campus and reinforced its commitment to interdisciplinary study in a welcoming, diverse environment. The College’s Peter Irving Wold Center, funded in part by a lead gift from campaign co-chair and trustee emeritus John Wold ’38 and his wife, Jane, serves as a hub for multidisciplinary study on campus, fulfilling its role as a catalyst for Union’s ongoing integration of the traditional liberal arts with the sciences, engineering and technology.

Over $41 million was raised to support a range of facilities projects, including:

  • The Breazzano Fitness Center
  • The Henle Dance Pavilion
  • Humanities Building
  • Lippman Hall
  • Messa Rink
  • The seven Minerva Houses
  • The Taylor Music Center
  • The Viniar Athletic Center
  • The Wicker Wellness Center
  • The Peter Irving Wold Center


Over $23 million was earmarked for enhancements to student life, athletics and diversity and community related activities. Another $17 million will support curriculum and programs, undergraduate research and library initiatives. Contributions to the general endowment exceeded $23 million.


A critical component of the campaign was significant growth in the Annual Fund, which totaled over $73 million. Over the course of the campaign, unrestricted funds grew from about $2.5 million to over $4 million annually. When coupled with annual restricted and scholarship support, the Annual Fund now tops $6 million per year.


Wold Campus Center
Wold Campus Center

In addition to support from the Union community, partner organizations including foundations, corporations and government agencies provided over $49 million in support for academic and curricular activities. These monies enabled the College to add cutting-edge instrumentation to its labs, fund faculty and undergraduate research, provide summer internship opportunities for students, and expand its offerings and facilities in growing areas such as bioengineering and neuroscience. These grants allowed Union to:

  • Develop innovative programs and curricula. For instance, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Arthur Vining Davis Foundations supported bioengineering, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supported the integration of the Environmental Science, Policy and Engineering (ESPE) program.
  • Support faculty and student research, thanks to the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundations.
  • Add new facilities, such as the George I. Alden Trust and the Wright Family Foundation which supported the Wold Center. 
Enhance equipment including an intelligent cluster computer from IBM, providing the College with the greatest computing capability of any liberal arts college in the nation at the time of the donation. 


The strong leadership of the College’s Board of Trustees is being cited as a major contributing factor to the comprehensive campaign’s success. More than a quarter of the gifts collected came from trustees.

“The end of a journey like this is always filled with relief, satisfaction and a little bit of sadness," said Mark Walsh '76, chairman of the Board of Trustees. "We are all excited and happy to reach a successful conclusion, but there is a part of all of us that will miss the urgency and commitment that a campaign causes a community to focus on.  Perhaps more important, I got a chance to meet so many people that love Union College. I will miss those visits and those moments. That said…Hurray for the Finish Line!”

Another major factor in the campaign’s success was the role that President Ainlay and his wife, Judith Gardner Ainlay, played, said Frank Messa ’73, campaign co-chair and College Trustee. At an alumni event in Boston to celebrate the College reaching its goal, Messa recognized the Ainlays’ untiring efforts.

It is clear to anyone involved with the campaign that the most critical factor has been the efforts of Stephen and Judith,” said Messa. “Not only have they been directly responsible for raising the most funds but more importantly, they have elevated every aspect of the Union College experience, thereby providing the inspiration and momentum for the successful completion of this historic campaign. We simply could not have done it without them.”

Campus Plan
Ramée's plan for the Union College grounds, 1813


As Union moves into 2013, the College will complete a review of its strategic plan, confirming current intentions while staking out key priorities for the future. Drawing upon the campaign’s success and momentum, Union’s Board of Trustees and senior administration will direct activity toward ongoing needs, endowment growth and capital projects.

“We will move into ‘project-based’ fundraising for the near term,” said Stephen Dare, vice president for College Relations. “This will allow us to increase and focus our philanthropic velocity on key priorities, including increasing access to a Union education, restoring our historic campus, supporting our faculty and enhancing student life and learning. All are very important to our reputation in our peer group.”