President Ainlay speaks on Union's history

Publication Date

“Ideas for their own sake matter, but for Union that is not enough,” President Stephen C. Ainlay told students Wednesday in Prof. Denis Brennan’s new course on Union history. “Ideas matter as ways to change the world.”

He cited Charles P. Steinmetz, the electrical inventor of GE who founded Union’s electrical engineering department, for his advocacy of a then-new idea, alternating current. He also mentioned Nikki Stone ’96, who earned a gold medal at the 1998 Olympics in the new sport of aerial freestyle skiing.

Steinmetz and Stone are among those who possess Union’s DNA, the audacity to imagine, Ainlay said.

The President discussed his ongoing project, in collaboration with students, to develop a book that cites important Union College events for each day of the year. Among the entries would be Feb. 18, the day Stone won gold, or March 30, the date in 1867 that Secretary of State William Henry Seward (Class of 1820) purchased Alaska.

Brennan’s class, titled “Hidden in Plain Sight: Union College’s History and Treasures,” aims to make students more aware of the history that surrounds them. “Tight schedules and familiarity make it easy to overlook the history of the College,” he said.