A Magazine for Alumni and Friends

SpringNott Memorial 2013

Need for speed

Think fast.

A Ferrari

e’d long had a suspicion that a number of readers of this magazine are fascinated with things that go fast; classnotes entries were full of high-octane cars, airplanes and the like.

But nothing could have prepared us for the response we received to the story call in the winter issue. Dozens were eager to tell of their avocations—and vocations—that fulfill their need for speed.

Predictably, perhaps, many of the responses came from car enthusiasts. (Interestingly, we discovered an active community of alumni who are connected through cars and racing.) Others told of their airborne hobbies. Some described cameras. On campus, students and faculty described scientific instruments, improved processes and computers.

Here we offer a selection of Union people who love things that go fast.

Taking Flight: Union’s SAE Aero Team

While most students were enjoying spring break, the five members of Union’s SAE Aero Team were cramming to get their plane ready for a mid-April competition. The plane is remote-controlled and must lift and carry a payload over a prescribed course. Of the 40 teams in their category, Union placed eighth, fourth among U.S. teams. Each member of the team had a specific task—engine, structure, landing gear, controls and others. A team leader integrates all the parts, and together they troubleshoot what comes along. What makes the experience most valuable, according to their advisor, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Brad Bruno, is the opportunity to work with a realworld engineering team. “It’s a great experience for the students, and great exposure for our program and the College.”

The mythical Ferrari: Howard Blank ’70

Race cars. Airplanes. Space craft. Howard Blank seems to have the speed thing pretty well covered. But of all the things that go fast, the semi-retired commodities trader has a special place in his heart for the mythical Ferrari. He races regularly at events including the Ferrari Challenge Europe, with one race at the famed LeMans track, the Morocco Classic Rally and the 24 Hours of Spa. Last summer, he hosted President Stephen C. Ainlay at an event he drove at Nürburgring, the legendary track regarded as one of the most challenging circuits in the world. Blank, a pilot, also has his sights on outer space. He has reserved a spot on Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic suborbital space program.

Experiments with fast particles: UCIBAL

At the Union College Ion-Beam Analysis Laboratory (UCIBAL), students and faculty do experiments with sub-atomic particles traveling at speeds up to 20 million meters per second (45 million miles per hour). The particles attain these speeds by being accelerated with a 1.1-million-volt electrostatic accelerator, which is the primary instrument in UCIBAL. Scott LaBrake, senior lecturer and accelerator manager, and Michael Vineyard, the Frank and Marie Louise Bailey Professor of Physics, use the accelerator for experiments in several courses and for student-faculty research projects. Most of the research is on the elemental analysis of environmental materials, such as atmospheric aerosol, water, and soil samples to study pollution. The accelerator is also used in an annual outreach program for local high school students and teachers. In the last 10 years, 230 Union students, 84 high schoolers, and 29 high school physics teachers have performed experiments in UCIBAL.

What is a femtosecond?

Union’s IBM intelligent cluster, a gift from the company in 2011, is advancing research on campus in notable ways. The first paper published using the machine, by Janet Anderson in the journal Biophysical Chemistry, analyzed the way protein G rotates in aqueous solution, by predicting properties measured in nuclear magnetic resonance experiments from molecular dynamics simulations. Each of five simulations consisted of 20,000,000 iterations, each representing a femtosecond (there are a quadrillion femtoseconds in one second). “Computer simulations are helpful in understanding molecular behavior that is invisible to the eye, and to interpret the results of experiments,” Anderson said. “These 20,000,000 steps of protein motion, equivalent to 200 nanoseconds of molecule time, would normally have taken months on a desktop computer. They took only 13 days on the cluster.

Shakespeare, and step on it

Each July, the Saratoga Shakespeare Company, with Prof. Bill Finlay as artistic director, mounts a full, professional production of a Shakespeare play in 10 days of rehearsal and “build” time for sets and costumes. Finlay, the chair of Theater and Dance at Union, has directed more than 12 productions for the company. “It is an intense, no-holds-barred, VERY speedy activity, a learning experience and professional artistic event that serves a very large Capital District audience,” said Patricia Culbert, senior artist-in-residence at Union and director of interns for SSC. Union interns get valuable real-world theater production experience and the benefit of professional artist workshops, and many have earned their Equity cards through SSC. They also get an appreciation for putting on a play in record time.

The SAE Aero Team, from left, Bessena Cabe ’13, Charles Bouchard ’13, Jeff Ehrlich ’13, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Brad Bruno, Jason Hargreaves ’13 and Joshua Rathgeb ’13.

Salina Ali ’15 and Prof. Michael Vineyard at the Union accelerator.

Aerogels, better and faster

Aerogels are unique nanoporous materials that have applications ranging from insulating materials to windows to sensors to catalytic converters. But with aerogels, it’s all about time. They are not widely available due to the complex, time-consuming and expensive methods used to produce them. The College’s Aerogel Team, led by Profs. Ann Anderson of Mechanical Engineering and Mary Carroll of Chemistry, has developed and patented “rapid supercritical extraction” (RSCE) techniques using a confined mold in an automated hydraulic hot press. The process is fast (and potentially less expensive compared to current techniques), and more environmentally friendly due to minimized use of solvents. The work has been supported by six National Science Foundation grants. Now, the team is pursuing support that could lead to the commercialization of the process.

Russell Gee ’68

Russell Gee came by racing honestly, having grown up near the famous Watkins Glen track in western New York. But it wasn’t until he retired at 59, in 2006, that he indulged his need for racing fender-to-fender. Today, he has a few podium finishes in the competitive Miata series in the SCCA, but “those young guys …” He also races vintage cars like a 1969 BMW 2002 and a 1969 Porsche 911. He has twice run the La Carrera Pan-America Race, a seven-day event from southern Mexico to Texas. In 2009, in the Porsche, “we were happy to have finished the event alive.” In 2011, in a 1959 Jaguar XK150S, he won first in class. A resident of Cambridge, Mass., he is a regular racer at tracks including Daytona, Lime Rock, Watkins Glen and Sebring.

Tony Romanazzi ’77

Tony Romanazzi, a dentist based in Glens Falls at the southern end of the Adirondacks, has the perfect way to get around the lake-filled region: an amphibious airplane that is aircraft, boat and land vehicle all in one. He built the experimental seaplane (Buccaneer Super X Cross Country B1B 503 RG) from a kit in 1990 and has been prowling the skies of Lake George and the Champlain Valley ever since. “To swoop down from the sky, land on water, drop the landing gear and taxi up a boat ramp at a marina … is nothing short of incredible,” he said. Among his favorite memories, he recalls meeting his Union mentor, the late Will Roth, professor of biology, at a small airport near Roth’s camp. As Romanazzi approached and saw Roth standing at the airfield, he thought, “Oh, what my pre-med buddies at Union would give for an opportunity like this.” Like the scene in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest in which a bi-plane crop duster chases Cary Grant, Romanazzi made a low pass that sent Roth diving behind his car. When he emerged, he asked the smiling Roth, “Were you expecting Charles Lindbergh?”

Onstage summer 2012 in Twelfth Night (left to right), Union College intern & theater major Robyn Belt ’14, cast member Sarita Luz Cordoba, Union College intern & theater major Carla Duval ’14, Senior Artist-in-Residence Patricia Culbert (partially hidden) & Union College intern Ryan Semerad.

Russell Gee ’68 (right)

Ian Prout ’94

Ian Prout has made a career out of teaching people to drive fast. He is founder, owner and president of Sports Car Driving Association, a Deep River, Conn.-based entity that sponsors about two-dozen high-performance driving events at the Northeast’s premiere tracks. So it figures that last year Ian would set two lap records at Watkins Glen and take five wins in as many starts in his ITR BMW 325i. Prout’s “dream weekend” came after 20 years of racing that included five race wins and a road racing championship. “I have had a good amount of success in it and won in a variety of cars over the years,” he said, “but the lap records are what mean the most.” Prout, who attributes his passion for motorsports to his father, Bill, did his senior thesis at Union on the political, social and economic implications of the development of the automotive industry. “Racing is a sport that requires preparation, discipline, planning, and strategy,” attributes he says are essential to running his business. “If you put in the work and planning, then the results are incredibly rewarding.”

Ted Goneos ’94

As a student, Ted Goneos drove laps around campus in a big 1985 Chevy Blazer, a great car in the snow. Now, he does laps around the country, among other performance driving events. A friend of Ian Prout ’94 (see below), he has taken street and race cars to Ian’s driving events for a decade. He is also a graduate of the Skip Barber Racing School and other performance programs. In 2004, he began competing in the One Lap of America (, first in a 1978 Pontiac TransAm, later in Porsches. His brother, Petros ’90, was co-driver in 2005 and 2006 for the one-week, 4,000-mile event. Goneos, with a Resumé of more than 40 race tracks, ice racing and endurance races, was planning for the 2013 One Lap this spring. For more on his automotive endeavors, visit Team Theogon at

Lorraine Thomas ’87

Birds, like athletes, can be very fast. Just ask Lorraine Thomas, whose hobby involves capturing through photography the athletic prowess of avian creatures and other wildlife. So it’s critical that she has a fast camera that can shoot eight frames per second to stop the fast motion. Equally important, she needs a high burst rate (consecutive shots before the camera slows or stops). “Just like in sports photography, I don’t want to miss the best action,” says the Florida-based mechanical engineer. “Sometimes you just have to take several photos of the bird in action, so that you can select the best one.” (photo by Lorraine Thomas)

Jim Taylor ’66

Jim Taylor splits his time between working as CEO of Taylor Made Group, tending an eclectic collection of automobiles and driving those cars in exotic places. From his first car, a 1959 MG coupe he bought in his senior year at Union, his collection now numbers about 70 cars, most of which he drives as much as possible. His road rallies have taken him across China, Africa, Central America, Europe and throughout the U.S. Taylor, a trustee of the College, played a key role in the founding of the Saratoga Automobile Museum, where a number of his cars are on display. Taylor Made, based in Gloversville, N.Y., is a diversified supplier to the recreational marine industry and other markets.

(photo by Lorraine Thomas)

Jim Taylor ’66, left, and President Stephen C. Ainlay in a pair of Taylor’s rare sports cars near Great Sacandaga Lake.

 Spring  2013 table of contents