Dear Union College Community Member:
As we prepare to celebrate our newest graduating class on Sunday, I find myself reflecting even more than usual upon the journey we have traveled together and the road that lies ahead.
My arrival as president at Union came just two months before the Class of 2022 arrived on campus for the first time, and all of us have been through a lot together the past four years. As “first years” we brought with us high hopes for what our Union experience would be like and a desire to leave our collective and individual marks.
I challenged them, the entire community, and myself, to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Little did any of us know how uncomfortable life would soon become.
Our “sophomore” year was interrupted by the unsettling and frightening start of the COVID-19 pandemic. What followed was a very different college experience than any of us could have imagined. We can all be proud of the resiliency we displayed in the return to in-person classes last year. I continue to be in awe of what everyone has done to keep one another safe, advance our core mission, and return to a more typical Union experience this year.
The experience of COVID-19 will always be with us. My hope and expectation is that what we have all experienced together - our unwelcome Union College Challenge - has taught us we are capable of more than we thought possible, especially when we support and are supported by our Union brothers and sisters. This lesson will serve us all well in the years ahead.
A year of accomplishments
There have been many challenges this year, and there is much more we need to do to achieve our goals, but as the academic year draws to a close, I’d like to highlight some of our many accomplishments:
- We secured $42 million in commitments for the Schuler Access Initiative, which will allow Union to significantly increase the number of talented Pell-eligible students we can bring to campus in perpetuity. Schuler gifts helped make this the second best fundraising year in Union’s history, surpassed only by the campaign launch in 2020-21.
- Our ambitious engineering and computer science initiative, which received a transformational $51 million gift from Mary and Rich Templeton (both ‘80) in 2020, took another important step forward this spring with the faculty vote to add civil and environmental engineering majors.
- Our first in-person Steinmetz Symposium in three years was a celebration of our core mission. More than 400 students showcased their research and creative talents. It was inspiring to see both the high level of work and the outpouring of support for our students throughout the day.
- Our students performed at the highest levels and on the biggest stages. Last November brought the news that Ty Gamble-Eddington had been named Union’s first Rhodes Scholar since the mid-1980s. The Union College Choir made history of its own in March, becoming the first Union musical group to perform at storied Carnegie Hall in New York City.
- Fall and winter sports returned after missing a year due to COVID-19. We continued to elevate Union’s athletics profile with a successful campaign to allow us to offer scholarships for our Division I men and women hockey players. Men’s lacrosse was cheered by hundreds of Union students, parents, alumni, and friends as they made a historic appearance in the national championship game.
- Nearly 200 staff, students and faculty volunteered at our COVID-19 testing center during the course of the year, including a handful who were there virtually every week. My deepest appreciation to all those who gave up time from their day jobs to make testing a reality, especially our “super volunteers.”
- ReUnion returned to campus after being virtual for two years. As part of a very special weekend, we welcomed our first women graduates into the Garnet Guard, marking 50 years since their graduation. A member of this path-breaking group, Kate White, will be our Commencement speaker this weekend.
Rest and recharge
Such is the rhythm of higher education that even as we celebrate the end of one cohort’s four years, our thoughts are never far from the start of a new academic year. September will be here all too soon, but I do have one request for all our staff and faculty for the summer: Please take some time to recharge your batteries.
Ours is demanding work, and it’s been made even more challenging by the pandemic. Achieving some semblance of work-life balance has never been more important, and the summer presents the best opportunity for each of us to slow down, pursue what brings us joy and spend more time with family and friends.
I will be taking my own advice over the coming months. That will mean time on my bike training for a century ride, going to the beach with the family and reading Kate White’s newest book. I’ll also be taking two weeks off and ignoring my Union email. So, if you email me directly during the weeks of June 27 or August 1, expect to receive an out-of-office message. As always, immediate concerns can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope colleagues will also receive out-of-office responses from you this summer.
Finally, I want to thank every faculty member, staff person and student for making this year a clear success, and congratulations to the Class of ’22!
Best wishes for a restful and enjoyable summer,