Convocation rings in Union's 219th year

Publication Date

Acting President Therese McCarty helped the Union community celebrate the start of the College's 219th year Tuesday with a simple message: notice, choose and tell.

In her Convocation address in a packed Memorial Chapel, McCarty said these three words sum up how the campus community guides students through their educational journey at Union.

"We help students to notice what they are interested in, we help them to articulate those interests…we help students to make choices inside and outside the classroom, and we help them to tell about those choices," she said.

McCarty noted that the College as a whole engaged in a process of noticing, choosing and telling over the past year in revising its 2007 strategic plan to help shape Union's educational values.

In sharing highlights of the plan, McCarty said one way to convey the school's story is with the phrase, "Think, Connect, Act."

"Union students learn to think deeply and broadly, they connect disciplines, they connect theory and practice, they develop and connect both local and global perspectives, and they act by being innovative in making contributions that matter to humanity," McCarty said.

She cited one example of how the values articulated in the strategic plan can inform how the College undertakes a project. This week's opening of the Wicker Wellness Center and its proximity to the Breazzano Fitness Center will create "possibilities for partnerships that keep us healthy in mind and body."

Wicker's opening also provides an opportunity to focus on the academic side of public health, including local and global issues, the history of public health and the contributions Union alumni have made in the field.

"We can make this personal for students by helping them to learn more about what fosters good health here and in their own present and future neighborhoods and by helping them to explore possible careers in public health," McCarty said.

This will be accomplished through a series of events throughout the academic year, including a Mandeville Gallery exhibit this winter and a symposium on careers in public health and wellness in spring. In addition, speakers for the Presidential Forum on Diversity in October and Founders Day in February support the theme.

There also will be a special focus on the humanities at Union. This comes at a time when their role is under attack on the national level.

"This focus is prompted in part by a collective sense of urgency that we seek to define how we at Union can support study of the humanities," McCarty said.

The focus also coincides with the upcoming renovation of the Humanities Building.

"Study of the humanities brings opportunities for gaining global perspectives, for integrating thought and action, for being creative and innovative, in fact, for supporting every educational value we hold dear," McCarty said.

She concluded by challenging students to embrace the imperatives of "think, connect and act," and in doing so, "know that the rest of us here at Union are striving to do the same, thinking broadly and deeply, connecting in distinctive and innovative ways, and acting purposefully to make contributions that matter. That’s what it means to be part of the community that is Union College."

For the full text of McCarty's address, click here.

Also at Convocation, McCarty welcomed the Class of 2017. The 564 first-year students were selected from among a record 5,725 applicants, the most competitive year in the College’s admissions history.

David Hayes, acting dean of the faculty and vice president for Academic Affairs, presented the annual Stillman Prize for Excellence in Teaching to Carol Weisse, professor of psychology and director of the Health Professions program.

Weisse joined Union in 1988. The prize was created by David I. Stillman ’72, Abbott Stillman ’69 and Allan Stillman in honor of Abraham Stillman, father and grandfather.

McCarty cited Weisse's flair for challenging students and addressing questions "that are fundamental to our understanding of what it means to be human. You find ways to help students engage with people and organizations beyond Union’s gates, both locally and internationally."

Hayes also recognized the students who made the Dean’s List last year. Their names are on a plaque that will be displayed in Reamer Campus Center.

The convocation opened with remarks from William A. Finlay, College marshal and chair of the Department of Theater and Dance; Mark Walsh ’76, chair of the Board of Trustees; Ron Bucinell, associate professor of mechanical engineering and chair of the Faculty Executive Committee; and A. Richard Harris '14, Student Forum president.

The Union College Chorale with the Heavenly Voice gospel choir, under the direction of John Cox, performed Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?

Accompanied by Professor of Music Dianne McMullen, the Class of 2017 led Ode to Ole Union to close the ceremony. An all-campus barbecue followed on Hull Plaza.