Board of Trustees reward Ainlay with five-year contract extension

Publication Date

The Board of Trustees of Union College has extended by five years the contract with President Stephen C. Ainlay.


The decision to renew Ainlay’s contract through June 30, 2016, was announced at the Board’s first meeting of the new academic year on Oct. 28.

Ainlay became the 18th President of Union on July 1, 2006. He has played a key role in developing and implementing the College’s strategic plan, which was adopted by the Trustees in February 2007. The plan outlines the College’s vision for strengthening its academic programs, affirming its commitment to diversity and sustainability, and focusing on Union’s fiscal resources.

Since becoming president, Ainlay has helped bolster the College’s reputation as one of the top liberal arts schools in the country. During Ainlay’s tenure, the College has boosted its enrollment numbers and attracted a stronger applicant pool. The Class of 2015 was selected from among 5,151 applicants, the second largest behind the 5,271 for the Class of 2012. This year’s class also boasts the highest average SAT and ACT scores for any incoming class in Union’s history.

Under Ainlay’s leadership, the College has created an Office of Campus Diversity and an Office of Multicultural Affairs and instituted Presidential Green Grants aimed at supporting environmentally sustainable projects at Union. Union was among the first to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), pledging to formally work on reducing, and eventually eliminating, campus global warming emissions.

Ainlay also has overseen the construction of the Peter Irving Wold Center and the recently completed renovations to Lippman Hall (the former Social Sciences building). Ainlay has also been instrumental in the College’s $250 million You are Union campaign, which has raised more than $225 million to date and will be completed in 2012.

In announcing the contract extension, Mark Walsh ’76, chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “Our full Board, in no uncertain terms, told me to get this contract finalized. It was an easy process, since both sides saw how fruitful the relationship is. Stephen and Judith have brought a new level of energy, focus and momentum to this College that is undeniable. We look forward to many more years of leadership and growth."

Ainlay said he was humbled and honored by the Board’s support and confidence in his leadership.

“I am extraordinarily grateful to the Board for its vote of confidence,” he said. “I am also grateful to the entire Union community for the support I've received over the past five years. Union is one of the finest institutions of higher education in the U.S. and I am deeply honored to serve as its President.”

In addition to his role as president, Ainlay serves as a professor of sociology at the College and chancellor of Union University, a united entity composed of Union College, Union Graduate College, Albany Medical College, Albany Law School, Albany College of Pharmacy and the Dudley Observatory.

A native of Goshen, Ind., Ainlay earned his master’s and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Before joining Union, Ainlay spent 23 years at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where he served as vice president for Academic Affairs, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and dean of the College.

His research projects have focused on investigations of blindness, aging, spirituality and various aspects of Mennonite life, all aimed at better understanding the ways in which people find meaning in their lives.

His books include “Day Brought Back My Night: Aging and Vision Loss”; “Mennonite Entrepreneurs” (co-authored with Calvin Redekop and Robert Siemans); “The Dilemma of Difference: A Multidisciplinary View of Stigma” (co-edited with Gaylene Becker and Lerita Coleman); and “Making Sense of Modern Times: Peter L. Berger and the Vision of Interpretive Sociology” (co-edited with James Davison Hunter). He has also published a number of articles and book reviews related to his research areas in such journals as the Journal of Social Issues, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Journal of Gerontology.

Among his fellowships, Ainlay was a visiting scholar at St. Edmund’s College in Cambridge University and summer fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto, Calif. He held a post-doctoral fellowship at Princeton University’s Mental Health Training Program.

Ainlay has been active in New York higher education, serving on the Boards of the member institutions of Union University as well as the Board of the Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU). In 2007, he was appointed to the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education for New York. He currently serves on the Mighty Waters Task Force, which was formed by U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko, Representative of New York’s 21st District, to determine ways of better using the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers and Erie Canal. Ainlay serves on the Task Force’s Executive Committee and chairs the Research and Education Committee.

Ainlay is married to Judith Gardner Ainlay, director of Special Institutional Relations at Union. They have two sons: Jesse, an attorney in Boston, and Jonathan, who works for a minor league baseball team in Virginia.