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Class of 1956: A Timeless Gift for 50th

Posted on Jun 23, 2006

Class of 1956 ReUnion Chair Robert Hodges retired in January, but that doesn't mean he'll retire to the living room. “When a retiree plunks his body on a couch and watches TV for 14 hours a day,” Hodges has observed, “he's often dead within a year.”

Hodges plans to ski, swim and kayak, and he'll play tennis and a little golf. He'll teach a Revolutionary War history course at Ocean County College, not far from his home in Forked River, N.J., and turn the family genealogy he's been compiling for more than a decade into three books. He's busy because he knows that time is not unlimited.

“I'll be 72 in April,” he says. “I'm almost halfway through my life.”

Hodges and other members of his graduating class are also devoting boundless energy to establishing a Class of 1956 scholarship to commemorate their 50th ReUnion in May.

“The scholarship is really an endowment that funds an annual scholarship,” Hodges says. “It continues giving into perpetuity. In this way, the Class of '56 will be remembered forever.”

Hodges and others on the ReUnion Committee are soliciting donations from classmates, and they hope to raise far more than the $25,000 minimum necessary to establish a single scholarship. “We expect to shoot past that.” he says. “We're anticipating the largest class gift to the College we have ever made.”

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Class of 1951 Connects with Young Scholars

Posted on Jun 23, 2006

Richard Killeen '51 applied to Union from Yokohama, Japan, during World War II, writing “School is first choice – will travel 6,000 miles to attend” on his admissions form.

“That must have impressed someone,” he remembers with a laugh.

These days, Union is still top choice for the man who's a master at marshalling his fellow classmates in volunteering time, money and energy for Union people and projects.

And, considerably closer to campus from his home in Saratoga Springs, he revels in being a mentor to young scholarship students.

“I let them know that if they ever have problems, our house is only a half hour away, and they can always send me a letter or call,” he says.

Killeen left the Pacific and landed on Union's campus in 1947, a time when the College was rife with opportunities for veterans. Students ranged in age from 17 to 47, many of them, like himself, benefiting from the G.I. Bill. He's been actively involved in campus life and scholarship programs ever since.

As Class of 1951 head agent, a position he accepted in 1993 after serving as an associate agent for nine years, Killeen expanded the existing Class of 1951 Endowed Scholarship. The former New York Telephone/NYNEX executive likes nothing more than to keep in touch, and he regularly sends photos, news, quips and other tidbits of information to his classmates.

He also connects with students regularly and attends every scholarship luncheon.

The current class scholarship recipient is Jonathon Miller '08, a mechanical engineer and lacrosse player from Yarmouth, Maine, who is, Killeen says, “a pleasure to spend time with. My wife, Patricia, and I have enjoyed watching him develop into a mature young man.”

Killeen is proud, too, that his class includes 13 graduates who have given private scholarships. He'll make sure to let them know that, next time they're all together. That'll be in May, when the Class of 1951 celebrates a milestone of more than half a century.

“It's going to be spectacular. Our 55th ReUnion will set another standard of excellence for Union,” Killeen says with his usual zest for all things Union. “We're sure to have many old stories to repeat and new tales to tell.”

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Baltay Scholarship: A fund renewed, a toast to Tom

Posted on Jun 23, 2006

During their junior year abroad, Jeffrey A. Leerink and Delta Phi fraternity brothers Thomas Baltay '87 and James Olney '87 met in Florence and traveled throughout Italy together during a semester break. Leerink and Baltay so enjoyed their travels that they vowed that after graduation, they'd labor for a few years, make enough money to buy a boat and then sail around the world.

The dream ended, tragically, when Baltay died in a car crash after he returned home. But nearly 20 years later, Leerink is keeping his old friend's spirit alive by issuing a new challenge to the scholarship that bears his name.

Leerink has offered to match up to $25,000 in donations that alumni and others give to the Thomas A. Baltay '87 Memorial Scholarship, established in 1989 by the Baltay family and Baltay's friends at Delta Phi and Union.

“Nothing would make me happier than to match the whole amount,” says Leerink, now chairman of Leerink, Swann and Company, a Boston healthcare investment banking firm.

Leerink remembers his old friend for his easy-going personality, free spirit and ability to “bring the important things in life front and center.” In addition, he had a passion for engineering and the outdoors. “Tom would come out of engineering classes with ideas for how to redesign surfboards and skis,” Leerink recalls.

This winter, Leerink was planning a sailing trip from Florida to the Caribbean through the Panama Canal, with stops in Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. He invited along Delta Phi brothers Olney, Matthew Schambers '86 and Patrick DiCerbo '88, all old friends of Baltay's. “We'll be thinking of Tom,” Leerink said before setting off in mid-January, “and I'm sure we'll make a toast to him.”

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Henle Scholar – Ariel Weiner: The eclectic

Posted on Jun 23, 2006

Ariel Weiner loves stories and poetry, comic books and movies, fantasy and fairy tales.

“When you're having a bad day, I always think it's best to go to fairy tales; there's a happy ending,” says Weiner. “I try to stay away from books that are best sellers.”

This 18-year-old bibliophile from Montville, N.J., the daughter of a radiologist and a CPA, is a self-described eclectic who grew up dreaming of the scribe's life.

“I usually write short stories and poetry. I don't like rhyming poems; I always liked haiku. I write realistic fiction or fantasy,” she says. “I love correcting people's grammar. And punctuation matters.”

Weiner worked on her high school literary magazine and in a small New Jersey comic shop, Funny Books. “I was the Wednesday girl. Wednesday's new comic book day, the busiest day of the week. I'd get to meet the comic book and animation artists. It was so much fun.”

Her first term at Union, Weiner took anthropology, British lit and, her favorite, freshman preceptorial with Suzanne Benack, where she discussed everything from themes of justice in Plato's Republic to the origins of human violence. It was “the kind of class where you can go in and talk about anything, where you are not treated like a child, where your opinion matters,” Weiner says. “I like being able to be heard and to hear what others believe.”

This term, she's studying Spanish, European history and freshman precept. She sings second soprano in the Union choir.

Her initial visit to Union was love at first sight, her own happy ending. And the dream come true continues.

“Union's the kind of place where we are free to do pretty much anything,” she says. “Even when it's raining I like it. I like the Nott; I have a direct view of it from my room in West.”

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Henle Scholar – Alexandra Dubodel: The girl from Gomel

Posted on Jun 23, 2006

Coming to Union by way of two big cities, Brooklyn and the 12th century city of Gomel in Belarus, Alexandra Dubodel is enjoying the closeness and support of the small College community, whether she's researching internships at the Becker Career Center or throwing herself into volleyball, a sport she'd never before played.

“Union is a great school, with a tight-knit feeling,” she says, noting it's half the size of her alma mater, Brooklyn Technical High School. “Here, it's easy to get 1-on-1 attention, whatever your issues are.”

In Gomel, Dubodel studied art, piano, gymnastics, ballet, and ballroom and traditional Belarusian dancing. Many of her classes were at the Palace of the Pioneers in the local park, a city unto itself, “like Central Park, only with castles.” When she was 11, her family moved to New York.

Dubodel has gotten good at shuttling between different worlds and finding her own niche.

She's studying sociology, French and freshman preceptorial this term. In the fall, she kept busy at her job in the Yulman Theatre as part of the costume crew for A Midsummer Night's Dream.

She loves Minerva life at Wold House, dorm living at West College. She recently bought a Japanese fighting fish for her room, named Bartleby, after Melville's novella, Bartleby, the Scrivener. In addition to campus life, she's exploring “a lot of Schenectady's lovely Greek Orthodox churches.”

On breaks, this self-described bookworm tries to tackle her collection of Gogol (“I miss reading in Russian”). And she's excited about her decision to be an art history major; art, English and biology were all possibilities for the young woman who seems to find joy in every experience.

Overarching everything, there's the excitement of being a Henle Scholar.

“When I found out, I did a little dance, a happy dance, a victory dance,” she says.

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