Ramée's plan for Union focus of this year's alumni symposium

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Two hundred years ago, French architect Joseph Ramée, working closely with President Eliphalet Nott, designed the first comprehensive plan for an American college or university.

Ramée's design became a model for collegiate planning. Among the many campus designs it likely influenced was Thomas Jefferson's for the University of Virginia and Frederick Law Olmsted's for Stanford University.

"Surveying the Campus Landscape: A Bicentennial Celebration and Examination of Joseph Ramée's and Eliphalet Nott's Grand Plan," is the subject of this year's Alumni and Friends Symposium, Friday through Sunday.

Throughout the weekend, guests will participate in discussion groups and panel presentations related to the plan, and take walking tours of campus. The idea is to help graduates re-engage in the intellectual life they enjoyed at Union. Most of the events will be held in the Nott Memorial.

On Friday at 8 p.m., Paul Turner '62, professor emeritus of architectural history at Stanford University and author of Joseph Ramée: International Architect of the Revolutionary Era and Campus: An American Planning Tradition, gives the opening address.

On Saturday at 11 a.m., architect Art Lidsky, president of Dober Lidsky Mathey, will discuss "Campus Planning Trends within Colleges and Universities." At 8 p.m., President Stephen C. Ainlay will talk about "The Unbuilt Union."

Other symposium topics to be addressed include the intersecting landscapes of physical space and academic and intellectual life, and lessons from Ramée for a residential college in the 21st century.

Panelists include Lynne Birdsall '76, director of admissions at Sterling College (Vermont); William Carey '86, engineer, Divney Tung Schwalbe; James Carl '84, associate professor, Cleveland State University; Cynthia Curtis-Budka '87, associate professor, The College of New Jersey; David Duchscherer '67, principal, Wendel Duchscherer; Jayme Lahut '83, executive director, Schenectady Metroplex; Steven Levy '72; Donald Lippman '82, president, DEL Development Corporation; Peter Martini '78, vice president and project executive, Commodore Builders; Robert Powers '77, historic preservationist, Powers and Company, Inc.; and Theron Russell '75, project manager, Forest City Ratner Companies.

The symposium is part of the College's celebration of the bicentennial of Union's campus design, "The 200 Days of Ramée." Other events include "The Grand Design: Joseph Ramée’s Drawings for the Union College Campus,” an exhibit at Mandeville Gallery featuring 30 facsimiles of Ramée's original drawings.

The first Alumni and Friends Symposium, held in 2007, was modeled after the “Moral Dilemmas of Governing” class led for many years by Byron Nichols. Twenty former students of Nichols, a popular political science professor from 1968 to 2008, returned to Union for a spirited discussion on the moral and political issues surrounding illegal immigration.