President Ainlay, Mr. Stahr, Faculty, staff, students, guests, and to all members of the Union Community, on behalf of the board of trustees, I welcome you all to this very special Founder’s Day celebration.
I came here this morning from Washington D.C., or as our recently departed Secretary of State calls it, “the Reality and evidence Free Zone of our nation’s Capital”. Mr. Stahr, the pragmatism and productivity you chronicle shown by our proud son of Union, William Seward, is in short supply down there. Perhaps some of it will be infused in me by your comments and I can take it back there this evening.
But I and my fellow trustees are here today to represent on this special commemoration of the founding of this great place, Union College. I am often struck by President Ainlay’s comments when he talks about our sense of place… here in this lovely part of upper state New York. A sense of place, where Union was founded… but its founding is about far more than place, it is about finding your place. Since its inception, Union has graduated men and women who are seekers, looking to find, to discover, to change, to enhance, improve, initiate, expand… to make a difference.
We celebrate the founding of that idea as much as a place. And now, to the students, let me issue this challenge:
Union was founded by YOU. Before you arrived here in the September of your first year, it did not exist. You came, and you became this place. Sure, since 1795, wide eyed first-year students have been carving their arc across the campus, but YOU are the arc that matters because you are here now. Each year, Union is RE FOUNDED by the people that matter most… the learners who come here to expand, to change, to find and be found.
But, once you have “founded” this college, you must continue to find things out about it. You must be curious during your time here, and you must be supportive after you leave here… because what you FIND here will stay with you forever.
Take me as an example. My freshman year, I met Judy Dein when we were both impressionable first years in September of 1973. I also met two very worldly and impressive seniors, named Frank Messa and Stan O’Brien. Frank and his suitemates lived in Davidson North where my first-year suite was, and Stan I met at fall varsity lacrosse practice. They all sit up here with me today, 40 years later, and all four of us serve the college as trustees. Were we all best friends these last forty years? No… but we all shared a common thread… we found ourselves, each other, and many other parts of our personalities, careers and aspirations on THIS campus, in OUR time here.
Frank, Stan, Judy and I are founders of Union College. Our Union College.
Now, you are founders of YOUR Union College. And I hope that somewhere in this room right now is a future trustee who will be making similar comments to the class of 2053. 2053 …. Mind boggling, no?
Founder’s day at Union College. We celebrate it each February, but, my challenge to you is to make every day YOUR founder’s day… during your time here… and after your time here.
And so, on behalf of the board of trustees of Union College in Schenectady NY, I bid you welcome to this special celebration.