Andrew RaymondCourtesy of the Union College Permanent Collection.
Andrew Van Vranken Raymond (1854 - 1918)
Class of 1875

Many argue that Andrew Van Vranken Raymond saved Union College from extinction. One of the College's most important and effective leaders, Raymond (1854-1918), Class of 1875, was the last Union alumnus to become President of the College, serving from 1894 until 1907. Inheriting an institution whose alumni were torn apart by a thirty-year-long factional war, whose student body was shrinking, whose annual deficits were life-threatening, and whose faculty were demoralized both by low compensation and by attempts to close the campus and move its remains to Albany, President Raymond proceeded with energy and diplomacy to engage these problems, and he passed on to his successor an institution with sound finances, a revivified faculty, a vastly improved physical plant, and solid prospects for a brighter future. Moreover, despite the critical situation of the College when he took office, Raymond had to overcome a great deal of debilitating opposition from the Board of Trustees to accomplish his needed objectives.

Raymond has been described as a hearty and good-natured man with a "magnetic" personality and a statesmanlike temperament. He was an inspiring speaker. At Union, he had been an excellent athlete who had hit a record-setting grand slam home run from a home plate near North College that bounced off the South Colonnade over 500 feet away. He also held for a while an Adirondack League Club fly-fishing record.

Most importantly for Union, Raymond had a strong sense of priorities and the patience and persuasive power to convince others to support those priorities. Upon arrival, he hired a new administrative team, rationalized cash flows, and recruited impressive new faculty. After much argument, he convinced the Trustees to sell College property on Long Island and east and west of the Schenectady campus to raise the funds needed to retire debt, establish an endowment, and stabilize finances. He persuaded the legendary Frank Bailey (Class of 1885) to become Treasurer in 1901, a major development in Union's financial history. Fighting on behalf of faculty compensation, Raymond nevertheless presided over austerity conditions for most of his term in office (taking cuts in his own salary), but he was still able to institute a policy of sabbatical leaves for faculty.

Arguing that "the appeal of progress is always stronger than the appeal of dire need" when it came to raising money, he promoted a vision of enhanced instructional and physical resources for the College. One of his greatest accomplishments was to build a major Electrical Engineering Department, convincing Charles Steinmetz to lead it and General Electric to build a home for it. He convinced Andrew Carnegie to donate $100,000 for a General Engineering Building (currently the south half of Reamer Hall), and agreed to raise an equal amount, largely from the alumni, to add to the endowment. Carnegie also gave Raymond enough money to convert the Nott Memorial into a significant library space. Silliman Hall was built during his administration to house student organizations, and there was extensive dormitory renovation. In addition, three attractive fraternity houses were built (Alpha Delta Phi, Kappa Alpha and Sigma Phi). With these developments, the student body began to grow, reversing a quarter-century of decline, and the first significant admission of Jewish students to Union College began during Raymond's administration.

Raymond had a strong commitment to memorializing the College's history, presiding over its centennial celebration, initiating Charter Day (now Founders' Day), and writing/editing a somewhat fulsome three-volume history-with-biography of the College and its significant role-players. He resigned from the presidency in 1907 to accept a pastorate in Buffalo at twice his Union College salary. He remained active in higher education after his retirement from Union, and a Chair in Classics at the University of Buffalo is named for him.


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