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At Founders Day, Rev. Gomes sees Union as icon of hope

Posted on Feb 23, 2006

The Rev. Peter J. Gomes told those gathered in Memorial Chapel that a small liberal arts college like Union is “a beacon of light in a cultural wilderness… and the darker it gets, the brighter your light shines. All you have to do is keep it burning. You are civilizing an uncivilized country.”

Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian morals, delivers address at Founders Day, Feb. 23, 2006.

Speaking Thursday at the Founders Day celebration in observance of the 211th anniversary of the College, Gomes – one of Talk magazine's “Best Talkers in America” – discussed the importance of Founders Day, noting that a wise institution takes the time to regularly, publicly and formally applaud its past while securing its future.

“It good for us to remind ourselves and others that we are not the first, nor will be the last to be here,” said Gomes, Harvard University chaplain, American Baptist minister and best-selling author.

“I am happy that Founders Day is a separate occasion that pulls us out of our routines to remember great hopes and great ambitions.”

Union received its charter on Feb. 25, 1795, the first college charter granted by the Regents of the state of New York. The first Founders Day observance was held in 1896.

Gomes called the creation of Union College “a bold experience in a closed world,” introducing French and engineering, among other forward-thinking initiatives at the end of the 18th century.

“This college reflected the little notion of a national union, an outgrowth of a sense of community devoted to unity rather than sectarianism, to community rather than division.”

Gomes, 64, is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University and Pusey Minister in Harvard's Memorial Church. He holds degrees from Bates College and Harvard Divinity School, as well as 30 honorary degrees. During the Union ceremony, he received an honorary doctor of letters degree from Interim President Jim Underwood.

He said both Union and Harvard, as heirs to an act of a state Legislature, “share this institutional beginning at the hands of the public good.

“The state has every right to expect great and glorious things from us. We exist to improve the landscape, to reform the world… to take the rough stuff of human nature which comes to us as freshmen.

“The whole purpose of this enterprise is not personal, private interior decoration,” he said of a liberal arts education, “but for the public good. A college that commits itself to improving the wider world deserves everything we can give it.”

Gomes said “we are living in barbarous times,” with mistrust, anxiety and fear pervasive “throughout the land.” And in these troubled times, “we celebrate the virtues and opportunities of an institution such as this. It is in such schools that I invest the greatest hopes for this country.” 

Gomes reflected at length on the Nott, both the building and the man, marveling at Eliphalet Nott's 62-year tenure – the longest of any college president in the nation.

Gomes was perhaps most engaging in his long, dramatic story about his first encounter with the Nott, which appeared to him like a lost spaceship.

“That is a very extraordinary things in the middle of your campus,” he said. “Was it an Italian baptistery set up in Upstate New York? Was it a remnant of another planet? Was it the top of a some enormous building that lies underground? I approached it both reverently and warily.” 

Gomes drew laughter when he noted that once he entered the spectacular 16-sided edifice, “it was no clearer from the inside what the building was about. I said to myself, ‘This is an academic mystery.' A splendid, glorious, wonderful mystery. No one knows what to do with it.

“It's very much a center, a power and a presence,” he continued, talking of the Nott's majesty and grandeur as a metaphor for a broad liberals arts vision. “It almost sounds – dare I say it? – religious.”

Bemoaning the current state of American education today as ‘dumbing down,” of “a kind of manufactory in which we all play our little part,” he said, “How I wish every college in America could have its center. It might make us a little bit more reverent in the face of ignorance,” and aid in the “transformation from darkness to light, from petty division to broad, human tolerance.”

He added, “Wherever I go from now on, I will invoke the specter of your great mystery.”

Concluding his talk, Gomes evoked the Nott once more, reminding his listeners that this glorious heart of the Union campus “can remind you of a great hope to be cultivated.”


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Pollster Zogby to speak at Union

Posted on Feb 23, 2006

Pollster John Zogby will lecture on “The Political Landscape in 2006: The U.S. and the World,” on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Union College's Nott Memorial.

The Schenectady talk, part of the Perspectives at the Nott series, is free.

Zogby is the president and CEO of Zogby International, an opinion and marketing research organization based in Utica, N.Y., with offices in Washington, D.C. The firm works with psychologists, sociologists, computer experts, linguists, political scientists, economists and mathematicians to “explore every nuance in language and test new methods in public opinion research.”

Zogby appears regularly on all three nightly network news programs plus NBC's “Today Show,” ABC's “Good Morning America” and is a frequent guest for Fox News and MSNBC special programs, along with CNBC's “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” He also is a regular political commentator for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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Posted on Feb 23, 2006

Elisabeth Sartori print. Exhibit: Impressions of the Louvre.

Through March 10

Wickoff Student Gallery,

Nott Memorial

Drawn to Print: Impressions of the Louvre

Drypoint etchings from the 2005 winter break mini-term in Paris



Through March 17

Burns Arts Atrium Gallery,

Arts Building

Cal Crary photography

Photography by Cal Crary

& William Lamson

Features works by these two New York City artists. Crary, Class of 2000, produces images related to time and space. Lamson is an award-winning MFA student.



Through April 30

Mandeville Gallery,

Charles Steckler with model of stage

Nott Memorial

Charles Steckler: Stage Design

A retrospective covering some 40 shows of stage designs crafted by Steckler, professor of theater and designer-in-residence, as well as drawings, construction models and artifacts, from life-size puppets to the hand-crafted sausages from Tartuffe.

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Posted on Feb 23, 2006

Friday, Feb. 24, 1:15-2:15 p.m. / Olin Rotunda / Engineering Student Professional Society Fiesta

Friday, Feb. 24, 3 p.m. / F.W. Olin Center 115 / Department of Classics: Alex Gottesman of University of Chicago on “Reinventing Troy: Achilles Goes Hollywood”

Friday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. / Messa Rink / Men's hockey vs. Colgate

Friday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. / Old Chapel / Rhythm for Life Concert to Fight AIDS

Friday, Feb. 24 – Monday, Feb. 27, 8 and 10 p.m. / Reamer Campus Center Auditorium/ Movie: “Jarhead”

Saturday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m. / Messa Rink / Men's hockey vs. Cornell

Sunday, Feb. 26, 3 p.m. / Memorial Chapel / Union College Choir, Victor Klimash, director of performance studies, conductor

Monday, Feb. 27, 12 p.m. / Social Sciences 103 / Pollster John Zogby on “The Political Landscape in 2006: The U.S. and the World”

Monday, Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m. / Nott Memorial / Pollster John Zogby on “The Political Landscape in 2006: The U.S. and the World”

Monday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m. / Beuth House / Film: “The Nasty Girl”

Tuesday, Feb. 28, 3:30 p.m. / Becker Career Center 201 / “Getting Started with Becker Career Center”

Tuesday, Feb. 28, 4 p.m. / Golub House / Movie: Abre los Ojos directed by Alejandro Amenábar

Tuesday, Feb. 28, 4:20 p.m. / Wold House / Movie: Converging Technology

Wednesday, March 1, 10:50 a.m. / Memorial Chapel / Ed Kottick, musicologist, on “Gods and Mortal, Monkeys and Dolphins: The Exotic World of Early Keyboard Instruments”; and 12:05 p.m., on “Wire, Wood, Air, and Ear: How the Harpsichord Makes its Sound”

Wednesday, March 1, 7 p.m. / Arts Building 215 / Welsh poet Menna Elfyn

Thursday, March 2, 12:25 p.m. / Bailey Hall 207 / Biology seminar: Richard L. Cross of SUNY Upstate Medical University on “Biological Rotary Motors”

Thursday, March 2, 12:30 p.m. / NWS&E 304 / Physics seminar: Senior theses

Thursday, March 2, 12:30 p.m. / Arts Building 215 / Jennifer Matsue, assistant professor of music, East Asian studies and anthropology, on “Just What is the ‘Popular' in Popular Music? From Taiko to Techno in Contemporary Japan”

Thursday, March 2, 12:30 / Becker Career Center 212 / Workshop: Resume 101

Thursday, March 2, 12:40 p.m. / NWS&E 102 / Electrical and computer engineering seminar: John Reschovsky of Accumetrics Association Inc.

Thursday, March 2, 12:40 p.m. / NWS&E 222 / Computer science seminar: Rachel Cobleigh of UMass on “Propel: An Approach Supporting User Guidance in Developing Precise and Accessible Property Specifications”

Thursday March 2, 4 p.m. / Golub House / New faculty colloquium: Psychology, visual arts, mechanical engineering

Thursday, March 2, 4:30 p.m. / Phi Beta Kappa room / Philosophy speaker: Marya Schechtman of University of Illinois at Chicago on “Staying Alive: Personal Continuation and the Unity of a Life”

Thursday, March 2, 7-9p.m. / Arts Building 215 / Israeli poet Rachel Tzvia Back on Placing the Voice: The Personal and the Political, Israel 2006

Thursday, March 2, 8 p.m. / Memorial Chapel / Musicians from Marlboro

Friday, March 3 – Monday, March 6, 8 and 10 p.m. / Reamer Campus Center Auditorium / Movie: “Rent”

Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4, 8 p.m. / Yulman Theatre / Winter Dance Concert featuring “Jean Cocteau: Le Prince Frivole”
Saturday, March 4, 7 p.m. / Nott Memorial / Barry Scott's tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

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