James Underwood, a popular professor and former dean with more than 40 years of service to Union College, has been named the College's interim president, it was announced by Steve Ciesinski '70, chairman of the board of trustees.
Underwood, the Chauncey H. Winters Research Professor of Political Science, will serve while a presidential search committee chaired by Trustee Frank Messa '73 continues their work. President Roger Hull is stepping down June 30 after 15 years.
Underwood has been a member of the College's faculty since 1963, serving in a number of capacities including dean of faculty from 1988 to 1994, chair of the political science department from 1978 to 1984, chair of the social sciences division, and director of the General Education program.
“Jim's vast experience as faculty member and dean of faculty will serve him well in leading Union,” said Ciesinski. “He was the obvious first choice from a strong pool of candidates on campus. He is a respected scholar who has taught generations of Union students how to lead. I am delighted that he has agreed to guide the College through this transition and to continue the momentum. I look forward to working with him on the College's priorities.”
“Jim and I have been friends for 14 years when he was dean and then returned to the faculty,” said Dan Lundquist, vice president for admissions. “He knows Union and is known by the entire Union family. As great as our brand-new class is, they will have to hustle to keep up with Jim.”
“Jim Underwood is a man of great integrity and high standards,” said Clifford Brown, a colleague of Underwood's in the political science department and chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, the faculty governing body. “I have no doubt whatsoever that he will continue to advance this College just as he has done throughout his distinguished career.”
“Who better than Jim to support the You Are Union campaign as we roll it out across the country?” asked Mark Walsh '76, trustee and co-chair, with Messa, of the $200 million campaign. “I respect Jim Underwood enormously. The College is lucky to have him ready to step in and step up, and I can't wait to join him on the road as we meet alumni around the U.S. and the world to tell the story of Union's campaign and our shared aspirations.”
“Jim is a great friend – of the College and me,” said Hull, who worked closely with Underwood while he was dean of faculty. “He knows every tree, every planting, every nook and cranny on this campus. I can think of no one better to fill this important role, and I applaud the board's decision to name him interim president.”
“Union is a warm and spirited place with a magnificent campus, dedicated and committed people, and students distinguished by their energy and their eagerness to learn,” said Underwood. “I consider myself blessed to have been a part of this place, and I look forward to contributing in any way that I can.”
Underwood, the longest-serving current faculty member when he retired from full-time teaching in 2003, has remained active on campus. He keeps an office in the College's Emeritus Center, attends many College events, and continues to teach and advise students. This term he is teaching a class on Eliphalet Nott, Union's president from 1804 to 1866, with former student Jeremy Dibbell '04.
He has taught a range of courses including Contemporary American Politics; Political Leadership; Policy-Making and American Society; the Environment, Energy and American Politics; Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; and Seminar in American Politics.
He has been an advisor to many students in the College's internship programs in Washington and Albany. He has long-standing friendships with a number of alumni who have gone on to distinguished careers in law, politics and diplomacy. In recent years, he has taught a number of children of former students including one whose parents were both students.
His areas of professional interest include political leadership, administrative systems, environmental and energy policy, and New York State politics. He has been a consultant to the Subcommittee on Executive Reorganization in the United States Senate, and to the New York State Education Department. He also has served on Congressional staffs as a recipient of an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship.
He is the co-author Governor Rockefeller in New York: The Apex of Pragmatic Liberalism in the United States, and has published articles in Policy and Congress and the Presidency. In 1971, he co-authored Science/Technology — Related Activities in the Government of the State of New York, a study funded by the state Office of Science and Technology. He has written and lectured extensively on former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. He recently wrote an article, “Lincoln: A Weberian Politician Meets the Constitution,” in the June 2004 issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly. His entry on William H. Seward, Union Class of 1820 and Lincoln's secretary of state, was published in the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency.
A popular speaker at alumni events, Underwood spoke last fall to the Washington D.C. Alumni Association on the presidency of Chester Arthur, Union Class of 1848. He received the Faculty Meritorious Service Award from the College's Alumni Council in 2002.
A graduate of Franklin and Marshall, he received his M.P.A. and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. He is a member of the American Political Science Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A native of Irwin, Penn., he and his wife, Jean, live in Niskayuna.