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George Cuttita: Union’s most loyal sports fan calls it a game

Posted on Jan 30, 2005

We say thanks and farewell to Union's most loyal sports fan. The College's first sports information director, George Cuttita, is leaving Union after 25 years and an estimated 10,000 athletic contests to join his wife, Donna, who has begun a new career in Orlando, Florida.

Cuttita, left, with son Danny at the scorers table at a past basketball game

Union's garnet-wearing booster has always remembered the first advice he got from his mentor, retired Director of Athletics Richard Sakala: “Dick told me that the student-athletes should always come first,” Cuttita said. “If you take care of them, everything else will fall into place. And he was absolutely right.”

The job of sports information director at most institutions is nothing short of intense. Except for a brief respite in the summer months, it is a late-night gig with just enough time on the weekends to grab a sandwich before heading off to the next game.

Cuttita was feted at a recent reception attended by alumni, friends and campus colleagues. Later that evening, in a center-court ceremony between the men's and women's basketball games in the new Viniar Athletic Center, Cuttita received an ovation, a chair and a framed collection of action photos from his career.

Cuttita found his calling early, writing sports for local papers when he was a freshman at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park. By his junior year, he was a busy stringer for the Albany Times Union. By the time he arrived at Union in 1980 to a manual typewriter with three missing keys, he was a seasoned veteran of the local sports scene.

At Union, he was ubiquitous at games, patrolling the sidelines with a camera, scurrying around the press box, even rolling out the carpet for special events. In recent years, he was often assisted by his son, Danny, a gifted statistician who shares his father's gift of grace under pressure.

George has been there for the great times-Stagg Bowls in football, final fours in hockey, Hall of Fame performances by great student-athletes and NCAA appearances by more than 15 different Union teams. He has also been steadfast through losing seasons and tough defeats. Throughout it all, there has been no one more dedicated to Union- and our student-athletes- than George Cuttita.

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The Nott Memorial-ized

Posted on Jan 30, 2005

A most distinctive edifice of College America practically begs for artistic interpretation

One of the most distinctive structures on a college campus, and certainly one of the most recognized landmarks in New York's Capital District, the Nott Memorial has always attracted attention and excited the imagination. Students originally called it “The Cheesebox” and “one end of the bolt that holds the earth together.” Later sobriquets included “Minerva's Breast” and, when the building housed the library, “The Nipple of Knowledge.” It's also been known as Alumni Hall, Graduates Hall, Memorial Hall, and the “round building.” This unusual edifice practically begs to be interpreted artistically.

The Nott Memorial was conceived as the centerpiece of Union College by Jean-Jacques Ramée in 1813. Ramée's “chapel” was plain, round, and windowless; he envisioned the building as an alumni hall. Its placement and surroundings fit in the Renaissance tradition of the Ideal City, espoused by Piero della Francesca.

Edward Tuckerman Potter, Class of 1864 and grandson of Eliphalet Nott, was the architect for the initial construction, from 1858 to 1875. Potter originally planned a white-and-gray stucco brick building, to resemble the surrounding buildings, but by 1872, he'd decided to introduce color into the design by calling for colored stone and including gothic windows. A proposal in 1874 would have crowned the dome with a bronze statue of Eliphalet Nott. (This idea was revived briefly in 1973). In 1903, the College Library was moved from Washburn Hall to the Nott Memorial, which had just been renovated with money given by Andrew Carnegie to make it habitable year round. The library remained in the Nott until it moved in 1961 to the newly built Schaffer Library. The Nott went on to house the Union Theater Department until the Yulman Theater was built in 1992. The Nott was then closed for a major restoration (price: $9.5 million, plus a $1.5 million maintenance endowment). The building was rededicated as a highlight of the Bicentennial celebration in 1995.

Today, the Nott is a unique, much-admired space used for lectures, concerts, exhibitions, and study.

Because the Nott served as home to the Theater Department for two decades, it's not at all unusual that Professor of Theater Charles Steckler feels abiding affection: “I pretty much lived there. We had academic space, and a theater-in-the-round, where we held rehearsals at night.” He once baked a birthday cake in the shape of the Nott for a colleague. “Too bad I never took a photo,” he laughs. He remembers well when the most recent restoration began: “The Nott was beautiful even when covered with scaffolding.”

Inspired by its distinctiveness, Steckler created an image of the Nott with a face peeking out from under the dome. This character, called “Jack-in-the-Nott,” was featured on theater posters (“Union Theatre-If it's Nott for you, tell a friend!”) as well as on t-shirts (“Nott Memorial Theatre 1961-1991, Celebrating Thirty Years”).

To promote a production of Alice in Wonderland, Steckler once took some of John Tenniel's original drawings and collaged them over the Jack-in-the-Nott (Jack was erased for the occasion). The poster was printed in reverse on the back-a trompe-l'oeil to hang on glass doors around campus.

Another poster, with a mysterious puzzle-like appearance, seems to be made up of different squares. In fact, it was executed in twenty sections, by multiple student artists-a collective assignment in a printmaking course Steckler taught in 1976. The original, which measures 4 by 5 feet, now hangs in Grant Hall. “The project went so well,” says Steckler, “that we held an exhibit in the Nott called 'The Student Prints-Relief Printmaking at Union College.'”

Our thanks to Special Collections for their help in sorting through Nott memorabilia. We (and they) are always on the lookout for more. If you have ever seen a Nott teapot, or a knitted Nott, or maybe macramé (a knotted Nott), or any interesting Nott artifacts, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us, at caseyc@union.edu.

Reproducing the Nott

The Nott as converging technologies project? Why not! Engineering students are using a new 3-D printer to produce testable prototypes, including plastic models of a wide range of objects such as springs, golf club heads, and propellers. A model of the Nott was inevitable. How does it work? Data is entered into a computer and what comes out of a “printer” is a plastic replica of the Nott-a kind of “three-dimensional Xerox,” says Dean of Engineering Bob Balmer. “Think of it not as sculpture,” he points out, “but as a kind of print.”

This spring, engineering is teaming with visual arts for a course on sculpture that will use the 3-D printer to teach computer-aided design to art students. Says Balmer, “It's the same techniques in both disciplines. It's how you apply them that's different.”

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Up Front with Roger Hull

Posted on Jan 30, 2005

'I will always be tied to Union'

Roger Hull

As this magazine was going to press, President Roger Hull wrote the following letter to the College community. More news about his announcement and the search for his successor appears in the news section of this magazine. We will feature a full article about Hull's tenure in the next issue.

I am writing to inform you that, on June 30, 2005, I will bring my tenure as President of Union College and Chancellor of Union University to a close. For 15 years, it has been my pleasure and privilege to lead a renaissance at the College. Now, however, it is time to “pass the baton” and to move on to new challenges which, initially, will involve creating a charitable foundation that will establish academies on college and university campuses for at-risk grade school children. Union has never been stronger in its magnificent 210-year history. With an incredibly dedicated faculty and staff, enrollments and student quality at all-time highs, balanced budgets and an endowment that has more than tripled since 1990, innovative learning and living programs and first-rate facilities, a stunning campus that has been recognized as one of the most beautiful in America, and town-gown relations that serve as a national model, Union's next leader will inherit a college poised to move to the next level of excellence.

I have had the honor to serve the College, and I am proud of the men and women who have worked with me to forge a more perfect Union. Together, we have made the College stronger in every measurable way, we have raised more than $250 million, and we have set standards that will allow Union's next president to enjoy the fruits of an institution that has been energized and elevated.

As one who has devoted his best efforts for 15 years to the betterment of Union, as one whose sons know the College Grounds as home, I will always be tied to Union and follow her continued progress in the years to come. I strongly believe that, with the ongoing support and goodwill of the entire Union family, from which I have benefited tremendously over the years, that progress will be assured.

All the very best,
Roger H. Hull

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Asian sex industry is focus of ‘Shangri-La’ at Yulman Feb. 3

Posted on Jan 28, 2005

Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa
and composer Susie Ibarra bring the avant-garde chamber opera “Shangri-La” to Union College's
Yulman Theater on Thursday, Feb 3, at 7:30 p.m.

Yusef Komunyakaa
Susie Ibarra

one-night-only workshop performance is free and open to the public. 

explores the pervasive tourism sex industry in Southeast
Asia and the resulting widespread poverty and HIV infection in the

story is told from many different points of view: the Thai women working as
prostitutes and their families, western tourists and solicitors, and a “metaphysical

ambition of the opera is to create awareness on issues like human rights, HIV and

are thrilled to bring to campus a cutting-edge artistic endeavor that deals with
global issues and transcontinental themes,” said organizer Ed Pavlic, associate professor of English at Union

Komunyakaa was inspired after reading articles about men from the West traveling
to Bangkok, immersing
themselves in lifestyles filled with fantasy, sometimes unable or willing to
return to their everyday lives. 

A collaborative
effort, Komunyakaa wrote the libretto and Ibarra wrote the original score, which
incorporates jazz, blues and Thai folk music. It will performed by nine opera
soloists and seven musicians from New
York City. This is a contemporary piece with vocalists
singing with operatic diction into cell phones. Thursday's show will mark the third performance of this opera.

Komunyakaa is a professor at Princeton University. He is perhaps best known for
his work, Neon Vernacular (1993),which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
The work also garnered the Kingsley Tufts Award for poetry, the William
Faulkner Prize and was a finalist for The
Los Angeles Times
book award. His book,
Talk Dirty to the Gods,
became a finalist for the National Book Critics
Circle Award. He has also written librettos for the operas Testimony and Slip Knot.

Modern percussionist and composer Ibarra is based
in New York City.
Her music is considered avant-garde and experimental, drawing on a variety of
influences such as jazz, improvisation, classical and Southeast Asian gong
music. She performs with her trio, quartet and Electric Kulintang
Ensemble. Her work has brought her to the Weill
Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy
Center, the Lincoln Center
and Alice Tully Hall.

show is sponsored by Union's East Asian
Studies program, Africana Studies, UNITAS and Women's
and Gender Studies.

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Posted on Jan 28, 2005

Feb. 14

Arts Atrium Gallery
Hanga at Union,” an exhibition of contemporary
Japanese woodcuts. Gallery talk on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 11
a.m. with artist April Vollmer.

Through Feb. 27
Dyson Hall, Nott Memorial
One Day, One Wrong Turn” about the effects of a November 2000 car crash

March 13

Gallery, Nott Memorial
“Walter Hatke: Recent Work”

Through March 18.
Social Sciences Gallery
Photographs from anthropology term in Tasmania

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