Board of Trustees extend President Stephen C. Ainlay's contract

Publication Date

John E. Kelly III, chair of the Union College Board of Trustees, today announced that the board has extended the contract of President Stephen C. Ainlay.

Ainlay became the 18th president of Union on July 1, 2006.

In announcing the contract extension, Kelly, a 1976 Union graduate, emphasized the board’s enthusiastic support of Ainlay’s leadership.

“Union has been extremely fortunate to have Dr. Stephen Ainlay as our president for the past decade,” said Kelly, senior vice president, Cognitive Solutions and IBM Research for IBM Corp.

“He has positively transformed the College in every dimension and positioned us to be the world’s leading liberal arts college that fully incorporates STEM fields into its vision of what it means to be liberally educated. Our board of trustees has unanimously supported extending his tenure as president.”

Kelly noted that during Ainlay’s tenure, Union has enriched its curriculum and programs, continued to recruit a world-class faculty and talented students, and improved its campus facilities and infrastructure. The College has seen record-level applications and early decision requests. The College’s student population has also become the most diverse in its history.

The 563 students in the Class of 2020 were selected from a record 6,647 applications, one of the most competitive admissions cycles in the school’s history. The students arrive from 29 states and 23 countries, with nearly 30 percent international or from underrepresented backgrounds. It’s also one of the strongest academically, with two-thirds of the students ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

Under Ainlay’s leadership, the College created an Office of Campus Diversity and an Office of Multicultural Affairs. Union has been honored four times with a national HEED (Higher Education Excellence in Diversity) Award in recognition of its work in this area.

Ainlay also instituted Presidential Green Grants aimed at supporting environmentally sustainable projects on campus. Union was among the first to sign the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), pledging to formally work on reducing, and eventually eliminating, campus global warming emissions.

Ainlay has overseen the transformation of academic and wellness spaces. Among the major renovation projects were Taylor Music Center, Lippman Hall, Lamont House, Karp Hall, Butterfield Hall, Breazzano Fitness Center and the recently completed Visual Arts building, which has been renamed the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts.

New construction includes the Peter Irving Wold Center (home to interdisciplinary science and engineering), the Henle Dance Pavilion (home to the College’s growing dance program) and the Wicker Wellness Center (home to counseling and health services).

During Ainlay’s tenure, the College completed its “You Are Union” campaign, which surpassed its $250 million goal by $8 million.

Ainlay voiced his appreciation for the continued support of the board.

“It has been my great honor to serve Union College these past 10 years,” said Ainlay. “Union’s rich history and distinctive mission to integrate the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences and engineering attract some of the most talented and interesting students in the world, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them and the remarkably gifted faculty and staff who make this institution so special.”

In addition to his role as president, Ainlay serves as a professor of sociology at the College.

A native of Goshen, Ind., Ainlay earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Goshen College, and both his master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from Rutgers University. He held a post-doctoral fellowship at Princeton University. He was also a visiting scholar at St. Edmund’s College in Cambridge University and a summer fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto, Calif.

Before joining Union, Ainlay spent 23 years at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., where he served as vice president for Academic Affairs, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and dean of the College.

His research projects have focused on investigations of blindness, aging, spirituality and various aspects of Mennonite life, all aimed at better understanding the ways in which people find meaning in their lives.

Ainlay is married to Judith Gardner Ainlay. They have two sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandsons.

Ainlay is active in higher education circles. He serves on the Board of the Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU). He joined with five other college presidents and, with the help of the Andrew Mellon Foundation, created the New York Six Consortium. The New York Six facilitates collaborative efforts between Colgate University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith College, Skidmore College and Union College.

Ainlay serves on the Board of Trustees of Loyola University Maryland.