Convocation a time to celebrate a campus and a community

Publication Date

Union kicked off its 220th academic year Tuesday with a Convocation ceremony that touched on its historic founding, celebrated the present and looked toward the future.

In his address in a packed Memorial Chapel, President Stephen C. Ainlay used a recurring theme of Union as a community, from campus building projects and cultural offerings to new initiatives aimed at strengthening an institution whose opening line in its mission statement declares Union a “scholarly community dedicated to shaping the future and understanding the past.”

He noted the importance of community is evident in Union’s commitment to projects that maintain, preserve and enrich the campus, such as the renovation of the Humanities building (to be christened Karp Hall when it reopens in the winter term).

“The humanities – just as with the social sciences, sciences, arts, and engineering – are essential to the curricular experience at Union,” Ainlay said. “The humanities play a critical role in helping us engage enduring human questions, explore ethical issues behind technological advances, and understand the perspectives of others and our common humanity.

He highlighted the abundant opportunities to gather as a community, from the Union College Concert Series, featuring world-class performers in chamber and classical music, to Mandeville Gallery exhibits, Henle Pavilion dance concerts and Yulman Theater performances.

“Communities thrive when they experience things together and plan where they are going,” Ainlay noted.

He also urged the audience to help strengthen the community by supporting a series of efforts, including one led by the White House, “It’s On Us,” to prevent sexual harassment and sexual and relationship violence on college campuses.

The College, he said, will expand its educational programs as well as the bystander intervention program, which enlists and trains members of the campus community to intervene in situations where sexual harassment or sexual violence appear imminent.

“Let me be perfectly clear: There is no place for these behaviors in our community,” Ainlay said. “Familiarize yourself with our policy on sexual misconduct, relationship violence and sexual harassment. Truly, it’s on us.”

In closing, Ainlay reminded the audience of the different paths each took in their journey toward Union, whether coming from different states, countries, religions, genders, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities and economic situations.

“But, in choosing Union,” he said, “we chose to appreciate those differences…I’d ask you to appreciate one another, protect one another, advocate for one another, care for one another. Put shoulder to the wheel for our common good. By doing so, we honor our community and we honor membership in it. By doing so, we honor the essence of Union.”

To read the text of Ainlay’s speech, click here.

Also at Convocation, Ainlay welcomed the Class of 2018. The 575 first-year students were selected from among 5,406 applicants, one of the most competitive years in the College’s admissions history.

Therese A. McCarty, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, presented the Stillman Prize for Excellence in Teaching to Andrew Morris, associate professor of history. Morris began at Union 2003. The prize was created by David I. Stillman ’72, Abbott Stillman ’69 and Allan Stillman in honor of Abraham Stillman, father and grandfather. It is given annually to a faculty member to encourage outstanding teaching.

McCarty 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.

Drew Ivarson ’15 received the Hollander Prize in Music, established by Lawrence J. Hollander, dean of engineering emeritus. A double major in computer science and arts, Ivarson performed Allegro from Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3 by Beethoven.

The convocation opened with remarks from William A. Finlay, College marshal and professor 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 Ben Saperstein ’15, Student Forum president.

Accompanied by Professor of Music Dianne McMullen, the Class of 2018 led Ode to Ole Union to close the ceremony. An all-campus barbecue followed on Hull Plaza.