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Five hundred Union College freshmen, Schenectady 2000/GE volunteers team up to clean up downtown

Posted on Aug 30, 2001

Schenectady, N.Y. (August 30, 2001) – On Saturday, Sept. 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., about 500 Union College freshmen will join dozens of community volunteers to pitch in, pick up and put a shine on the City of Schenectady. Work teams will tackle a range of projects throughout the city, everything from painting the city's railroad bridges and pulling weeds to removing graffiti and planting flowers.

“At Union, service to the community is an integral part of the College experience,” said Union President Roger Hull, who created the volunteer day in 1995 and is an active participant each year. “We have found that these projects engender a volunteer spirit that continues to flourish throughout their college years.”

Union students will be joined by more than 100 community volunteers from Schenectady 2000 and the General Electric Elfun Society, a company-wide volunteer organization of GE leaders. “It's incredible how much we accomplish in a single day,” said Debbie DeLuke, Schenectady 2000 project director. “Without question, the volunteer spirit in this city is alive and well.”

Over the past six years, Freshmen Day has contributed much to the revitalization of Schenectady. Here's a look at the numbers since 1995:

  • Volunteers: 3,000 Union students and more than 1,000 community members have contributed more than 10,000 hours of service.
  • Painting: More than 600 gallons have been used to spruce-up 11 of the city's railroad bridges, miles of guardrails and railings, and dozens of pieces of playground equipment.
  • Landscaping: Thousands of mums, shrubs, and hundreds of pounds of mulch and topsoil have been used to beautify area parks, parking lots and playgrounds.

The annual community service day, called The John Calvin Toll 1799 Community Day, is named in honor of John Calvin Toll, Union Class of 1799 (the College's first class). This year, General Electric, the major sponsor of the event since its inception in 1995, contributed $10,000 towards the purchase of supplies, including hundreds of flowers and plants, gallons of paint and truckloads of mulch. Since 1995, GE has contributed $60,000 to support the community-service effort.

“Funding projects like this is a pleasure,” said Jan Smith, manager of business communications & external affairs for GE Power Systems. “The beautification day is a great example of cooperative effort and support. The monetary gift combined with the hard work of volunteers ensures the project's success.”





  • BIKE PATH ON NOTT ST: 100 students and volunteers to clean-up/paint fences in area around Union Community center.
  • AMTRAK PARKING LOT (Erie Blvd. and Liberty St.): flower/shrub plantings, weeding, painting, etc.
  • CENTER CITY SPORTSPLEX (State Street, across from Proctors): inside painting, washing windows, plantings, etc.
  • LIBRTY PARK, VALE PARK: 60+ students engage in fence painting, re-paint lines on basketball courts, etc.
  • NOTT TERRACE: 30+ students to clean the area
  • RAILROAD BRIDGE PAINTING: North Jay Street, Union Street, Green Street, and Pine Street bridges will be painted by 100+ students and volunteers
  • JAY STREET PEDESTRIAN MALL: 30+ students volunteers to clean the area
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‘Pre-College Camp’ at Union gives local minority students a taste of college life

Posted on Aug 9, 2001

About 60 minority high schoolers from the Capital Region will get a taste of college life at “Camp College” this weekend at Union College.

“There are
so many minority and underprivileged students in the Capital Region who simply don't think of college as an option,” said Kelly Herrington, associate dean of
admissions at Union and organizer of the camp. “If we can get at least a few of these students to think about college it will be worth it.”

Students arrive Friday afternoon (Aug. 10) and stay through Sunday afternoon for a weekend that includes sessions with professors and college admissions counselors; simulated classes in arts, science, music and engineering;
stargazing in the College's observatory; and demonstrations by dance and music

But the
most valuable part of the weekend may come during the informal chatting in the
dorms or at meals, said Herrington. “The real advantage of an overnight camp
like this is that it fosters the kind of interaction between the students that
will make them feel comfortable in a college setting,” Herrington said.

The 60 students in grades 9 through 11 are evenly divided between the Schenectady, Albany and Troy communities.

“We want to show these students that if they work hard,
this is the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Herrington, himself a graduate
of Union. “We are telling them, 'You are college material and we'd like to see
you in college.'”

The weekend was made possible in part by grants from the national and state Associations for College Admission Counseling. 
Herrington worked with a number of community service organizations to
recruit and transport campers. “I felt it was important to use these community
organizations to identify candidates for this camp,” Herrington said. “Often,
it is the minister, mentor or social worker who best knows the students we
should be reaching.”

colleges like Union, competing for talented students from under-represented
groups is an institutional priority. “It's important to target this group at a
younger age and plant to seed to ensure an applicant pool with greater numbers
of these students,” Herrington said.

A schedule
of events is attached.

For more
information, call Kelly Herrington at 388-6585 (where he can be reached
throughout the weekend.)

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Union College features ‘Jon Schueler About the Sky’

Posted on Aug 9, 2001

Artist's aim was to unite nature, passion and art

Schenectady, N.Y (August 9, 2001) – Union College will present the exhibition Jon Schueler About the Sky in the Mandeville Gallery from August 9 to Sept. 30. The show will feature 30 paint-ings, from the 1950s through the 1980s, by the respected Abstract Expressionist. An exhibition re-ception featuring Magda Salvesen, Schueler's widow and co-editor of his autobiographical writings The Sound of Sleat: Autobiographical Writings, will take place Wednesday, Sept. 19, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Gallery; Salvesen will give a gallery talk and slide show of the life and work of the artist at 6 p.m.

“As a painter, Schueler's constant aim was to unite nature, passion and art in an eternal triangle. The sky was to him the embodiment of nature, and nature was the source of passion just as passion was the source of art,” said Douglas Hall, keeper of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

“Although he never quite achieved the fame of some of his contemporaries, Schueler was, like other Abstract Expressionists of his era, a very intense, careful artist,” said Rachel Seligman, Mandeville Gal-lery curator. “He was very involved in the struggle to create something honest, moral and meaningful. The various abstractions depicted in this show are all inspired by the Scottish Highlands, as he was attracted to that region by the intersection of light between the sky, the landscapes, and the sea.”

A second-generation Abstract Expressionist, Jon Schueler (1916-1992) was born in Wisconsin. After receiving his BA and MA at the University of Wisconsin, he volunteered for the Air Force and was sent to England in 1942, flying missions over France and Germany. Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he attended the California School of Fine Arts, where he studied under Clyfford Still. Joining Still in New York, he was introduced into the circle of first-generation American abstract painters. As Schueler's work became more informed by nature, he was drawn to the west coast of Scotland, living there from 1970 to 1975 and thereafter visiting each year from his base in New York City.

The exhibition is organized and circulated by Sweet Briar College in Virginia and is supported in part by the Judith Rothschild Foundation and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Other venues have in-cluded the Cleveland Institute of Art, Reading Museum of Art, Ca., and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

For more information, visit the Mandeville Gallery web site.

Gallery hours: from August 9 – Sept. 2

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
from Sept. 3 – Sept. 30: Mon. – Thurs.
9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon-Fri Sat. noon – 5 p.m. Sun. noon to 10 p.m.

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Two win Watson Fellowships

Posted on Aug 1, 2001

Louisa Stephens and Anastasie
Prokhorova, both seniors, have been awarded prestigious Watson Fellowships for a year of study abroad. Each of the one-year, self-directed fellowships carries a stipend of $22,000. Here is what they will be doing.

“You have to look twice”

As a first-year student, Louisa Stephens '01 read an article about Zane Riester '97, who won a Watson Fellowship to photograph similarities between train stations and cathedrals. “I'd like to do that someday,” she remembers thinking.

Someday is now for Stephens, who was
awarded a Watson for a proposal titled “Photographic Explorations: Pursuing the Sun.” She plans to take photographs during maximum summer sunlight in five countries: Peru, Argentina, Greece, Sweden, and Portugal. “In my portfolio, there is a strong element of sunlight,” she says. “Any photographer will tell
you that light is important. It enlivens every picture. But it may be even more true of me.”

Stephens, a native of Framingham, Mass., grew up in a darkroom, so to speak. Her father, an accomplished hobby photographer, would let her sit on a stool in the corner of his darkroom (“as long as I was still”). Her love of photography developed as she watched her father's black-and-white nature images emerge from the developing trays. She further
cultivated her love for photography as a student at Dana Hall School in
Wellesley, Mass.

But the economics major and computer science minor hadn't had any photography classes at Union until just this year, when she took Photography II. It was Professor of Photography Martin Benjamin who encouraged her to include a portfolio of her works with her written proposal for the Watson.

Stephens takes two cameras when she travels — a “point-and-shoot” with color film for the “normal tourist pictures,” and a manual camera with black-and-white film for more artistic work.

“Other tourists ask me, 'Why do you have your camera pointed at the ground when there is this amazing landmark in front of you?'” she says. “Often, you can't even really tell what country I'm in. But it's about little details: pebbles in a road, part of a fence. I'm often more interested in these than the broad picture. It's cool to find things that other people overlook.”

Stephens favors abstracts over photos of people and landscapes. Of her work, she says, “You have to look twice to know exactly what you're looking at.”

Describing her Watson as “open-ended,” Stephens says she wants to give herself some flexibility. “I don't want to close myself into a box and then get there and find out I can't do what I'd planned.”

Stephens has traveled to England, where her grandparents live, and to Canada. But it was a term abroad in Belgium last year, and travel by herself and with friends, that most impressed the Watson committee, she said. “I wouldn't have applied for (the Watson) if I didn't have that experience,” she says. “It was a real confidence booster.”

After the Watson, she hopes to do consulting work with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Boston. She completed an internship and training
program with the firm (arranged through Ron Kinghorn '90), but decided to defer
an employment offer to do the Watson.

Of her career plans, she is sure about one thing — she doesn't want to be a professional photographer. “I don't like people telling me what to shoot.”

On myth and reality

Anastasie Prokhorova recalls a bitter cold winter night in 1986 when her father dragged her past a crowd and through the heavy doors of Leningrad's Philharmonic Hall.

Inside, the concert already under way, people were standing on tiptoe, craning their necks to see a pianist working his way through Tchaikovsky's monumental Piano Concerto No. 1.

“When at last he brings the piece to a conclusion, the crowd explodes in a frenzy of applause and shouts of 'bravo!' ” Prokhorova recalls. “It is a memorable concert, but not because a master has conquered one of the most technically challenging and
emotionally complex compositions in the world. No, the conqueror is the
fifteen-year-old wunderkind, Evgeny Kissin, and his performance is a historical meeting between great
composition and great talent.”

So began Prokhorova's fascination with child musical prodigies, or, as Clara Schumann once said of Brahms, a “young man sent to this world already made.”

Prokhorova, who graduated with a major in French and a minor in history, will use her Watson to study “Cultural Phenomenon of the Wunderkind” in Germany, Italy, France, Austria, England, and Japan. She will focus on European countries and then compare them with the non-Western traditions of Japan. She plans to visit music festivals, competitions, and music schools, interviewing students,
parents, and teachers of prodigies.

“From Mozart to Jacqueline du Pre and beyond, the child prodigy has been the subject of intense curiosity and scrutiny for the vast majority of us who do not possess their gifts,” she says. “How can a five-year-old compose a symphony or play the repertoire of an adult musician?”

Our cultural construct – perpetuated by books and movies like Amadeus and Shine — would have us believe that while wunderkinder may be irresistible, effervescent, inspiring, and soulful, they are also maladjusted individuals. “When a child's capacities are discovered, the term wunderkind is thrust upon the child, and it is perceived that he or she is leaving behind a life,” Prokhorova says. “Some people say that the child has no childhood, that the parents or teachers were abusive. That's what I'm trying to discover, the relationship between this mythology and the actual individuals living the experience,” she says.

And finding how societies treat their prodigies could provide a cultural barometer of what people think about human intelligence and talent, she adds.

Prokhorova, an accomplished pianist who began her musical studies at age ten at a school in her native St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), recalls the wunderkinder who attended her school in isolation from the “regular” students. “They were five or six years younger, but were capable of playing a repertoire usually reserved for adults,” she says. “We used to see
them on stage at concerts, but I don't remember communicating with them very
much. But we were all fascinated.”

Prokhorova immigrated to Brooklyn with her physician parents when she was sixteen. (She was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in March, the same week she learned she had won a Watson.) “The piano gave me great comfort [in adjusting to life in the U.S.]; it was a strong spiritual bond with the country we left behind,” she says.

She enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music, and won a New York Piano Teachers Congress Competition. But without the supportive musical environment she had had in Russia, her musical education slowed down. At Union, she plunged into her studies in French and history, putting aside piano study. It wasn't until the spring of 1999, when she began to prepare for a performance of Schumann's Piano Concerto No. 1, that she realized that “music will always be an essential part of my life. This is what I like about my Watson. It marries my love of study with my love of music, much as I have tried to do in my life at Union.”

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Admissions process of 1816

Posted on Aug 1, 2001

The college admissions process was different in 1816, when William Henry Seward came to Schenectady to see if he could get into Union. Here is his description of how he was admitted.

“I climbed the College Hill with a reluctant and embarassed step, to offer myself for an examination at which I feared I might not pass. I called at the office of the register, Mr. Holland, and by him was immediately introduced into the presence of the Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. The college catalog, which I had carefully read, described him as the Rev. Thomas McCauley, Doctor of Divinity and Doctor of Laws. I wondered at my presumption in coming into so high a presence.

“The professor inquired which of the classes I supposed myself prepared to enter. I summoned boldness to answer that I had studied for examination to enter the junior class. He immediately put me through a series of questions for half an hour, in several preparatory
classbooks, and pronounced me more than qualified. He then asked my age, and on
receiving the answer, “fifteen,” he replied that my studies had carried me beyond my years; the laws of the college making sixteen the age for
entering the junior class. …

“I was duly matriculated as sophomore; and these two large words signified, for me, a great deal, because I had not the least idea of the meaning of either.”

Seward offers some insights into college discipline, 1816-style:

“The discipline of the college was based on the soundest and wisest principles. There was an absence of everything inquisitorial or suspicious; there were no courts or impeachments; every young man had his appointed studies, recitations, and attendance at prayers; and a demeanor was required which should not disturb the quiet or order of the institution.

“If he failed or offended, he was privately called into the presence of the president or professor, remonstrated with, and admonished that repeated failure would be made known to his parents for their consideration, while habitual insubordination would be visited with dismissal. …”

Although he praised the College's approach to discipline, Seward was less enthusiastic about its approach to teaching:

“There was a daily appointment of three tasks, in as many different studies, which all pupils were required, unaided, to master in their rooms, the young, the dull, the backward, equally with the most mature and the most astute.

“The pupil understood that he performed his whole duty when he recited these daily lessons without failing. With most of us memory was doubtless the faculty chiefly exercised; and where so much was committed mechanically to memory, much was forgotten as soon as it was learned. It was a consequence of this method of instruction, which, I think, was at that day by no means peculiar to Union College, that every study was not a continuous one, but consisted of fragmentary tasks, while no one volume or author was ever completed.”

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