President Stephen C. Ainlay's 2018 Founders Day greeting

Publication Date

I am pleased to add my welcome to this 223rd anniversary of the charter bestowed on Union College by the New York Board of Regents in 1795. I want to give a special welcome to the members of our Board of Trustees who join us today: Chair of the Board, John Kelly, former Board Chair and Trustee Frank Messa, Trustee Bill Perlstein, Student Trustees Michael Lippman and Sarah Taha, and Faculty Trustees Megan Ferry and Scott Kirkton. Having them here today, provides me with the opportunity to thank them, as representatives of the full Board, for their 12 years of support and institutional leadership. We are all, and I am especially, in your debt.

I also want to add another special welcome our Founder’s Day speaker, Scott Greenberger, and Stephanie Nichols, the recipient of the Gideon Hawley Award. We are very pleased that both of you could be here today.

2018 is indeed the 223rd anniversary of our Charter but it’s also the 100th anniversary of the death of Andrew Van Vranken Raymond, member of the Union Class of 1875 and the 9th President of Union College. It is fitting that we remember him today – his portrait is just to the left of the doors to the Chapel – given that we wouldn’t likely be celebrating Founders Day today but for him. This observation is doubly true: for one, many have argued that he saved Union College from disappearing, plagued as it was with in-fighting, fiscal woes, facility needs, and declining enrollments before he took the position; secondly, it was President Raymond, with his deep appreciation of Union’s history, who initiated “Charter Day” now “Founders Day.”

President Raymond was the stuff of legend. As a student, he was quite the athlete. The Encyclopedia of Union College reports that, in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tied game, he hit a grand slam home run on the field that we now call “rugby field.” Home base was near the corner of what is now Messa House and the ball carried over 500 feet, hitting the wall of South Colonnade (or where Hale House dining room is located). He was also selected to be the student speaker during the dedication of the Nott Memorial, a sign of his oratorical skills.

As President, he sold off assets to reduce debt, recruited a first class faculty (including Charles Steinmetz), convinced Frank Bailey to serve as College Treasurer, and convinced Andrew Carnegie to help build what is today the Reamer Campus Center and what was then a general engineering building. He also convinced GE to help build an electrical engineering facility. Still a compelling speaker, he was also described as having a magnetic personality.

I would have greatly enjoyed talking to President Raymond. Let us remember him today as representative of the many people who poured their hearts and souls into ensuring this institution not only survived but thrived.

Thank you all for joining us today. I hope you will always take time to convene as a community on Founders Day and remember Union’s history and the contributions of this storied institution.