Union and the Adirondacks

Union College has a long history of intersecting in various ways with the Adirondack mountains and wilderness areas.  Some of our earliest graduates had important relationships with the region, helping to shape conservation policy and popularize the recreational value of the area.  Franklin Hough, Class of 1843, is considered the first chief of what was to become the U.S. Forestry Service, and Hough Peak in the northern Adirondacks bears his name. William James Stillman, Class of 1848, helped develop the region as a tourist destination by starting the Adirondacks Club, a summer excursion for literary and philosophical figures– including Ralph Waldo Emerson. William Fox, Class of 1860, served as the first Superintendent of the Adirondack Park.

In the late 1970s, Paul Schaefer, an advocate for the preservation of the Adirondacks, offered a course on the Adirondacks at Union. He was also awarded a doctor of science degree by the College for his conservation efforts. Union collaborated with Schaefer and fellow conservationists to call attention to the need to preserve the Adirondacks, and as a result, the Union library became home to the Adirondack Research Center. Its materials (known as the Adirondack Research Library) were later moved to the Schenectady Museum, and ultimately, to their current location on St. David’s Lane in Niskayuna, at the former home of Paul Schaefer.

Over the last decade,  Union has sponsored various symposia and events related to the Adirondacks, including our Mohawk Watershed Conference.  Faculty members have made the Adirondacks the subject of their research, students have authored senior theses about the region, and the area has remained an important recreational destination for our student groups and organizations. Maintaining this academic focus on the region, Union College entered into a partnership with the Adirondack Research Consortium in April 2015 to publish the Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies.

Union is uniquely poised to strengthen its relationship with, and understanding of, the Adirondacks for years to come.

For further reading, see: “Union College and the Adirondack Mountains, Wilderness and Waterways: A Brief History and Prospectus” by President Stephen C. Ainlay.



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