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Recalling Rennes and Prof. Roberts

Posted on Jul 28, 2006

As one of the first groups of Union students to spend a term in Rennes (1970), I was glad to see a story about the 35th anniversary in the latest magazine. I had a great time while I was there. I learned a great deal about the language and culture, stayed with a really nice family, made some good friends and got the opportunity to travel during and at the end of our stay.

I was disappointed, however, not to see any mention of the professor who led the original group-Professor Alan Roberts. It was Prof. Roberts who did the groundwork of setting up the host families, the instructional program, the logistics and all the details that made the trip so successful and memorable. Prof. Roberts was a quirky but memorable teacher who worked very hard to make sure everyone was safe, well-cared for and getting the most out of the experience. He even had a second group of Union students staying a few hours away, in Angiers, who required his attention at the same time.

Though the Rennes program has had such a long history of success, it would be a shame to overlook the guy who got it off the ground.

Robert Mikulak
Class of 1972
Asheville, N.C.

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College’s Minvervas, Greeks featured in article

Posted on Jul 28, 2006

The Chronicle-whose primary readers are faculty, staff and admini- trators at campuses across the country-has devoted much coverage in recent years to the fate of fraternities and sororities and to institutions' response to a changing culture.

The article about Union, by Chronicle reporter Elizabeth F. Farrell, began with an account of a Friday afternoon gathering of Sigma Phi brothers and Prof. Andrew Morris, who led a discussion on volunteerism and an individual's obligation to society.

It continued:

“Administrators hope that gatherings like these-as well as the housing changes Union has forced on three big fraternities here-are beginning to transform the relationship between fraternities and Union's administration. The shift began in February 2000, when college officials, worried that the Greek system so dominated the campus that it was harming Union's students and reputation, attempted to redefine campus social life. Instead of dissolving fraternities-a step taken by several other colleges-Union decided to make the Greek system part of a social experiment, working with members of fraternities and sororities, among others, to create a new living-and-learning community known as the Minerva system.”

Dan Lundquist, vice president for admissions, financial aid and communications, called the article “a thorough and balanced look at the progress, challenges and possibilities of the Minerva system and Greek life. We believe that Union's approach has become something of a model for other institutions who are also dealing with the issue of preserving the rich traditions of Greek life in the context of changing cultures and attitudes.” Lundquist cited continuing feedback from guidance counselors and prospective students who have praised the College's vision and candor.

If you would like a reprint of the article, please contact us at magazine@union.edu.

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With Fulbright, Schaeffer heads to Germany

Posted on Jul 28, 2006

“I just thought it was an interesting part of the country,” said the German studies and history double major who spent a term in Germany last year. “They still have these big, ugly, square buildings that went up during communism.”

Schaeffer , who won the Fulbright, expects to be a teaching assistant in an English class at a German high school. But he's waiting to hear where he will spend 10 months starting in September.

Schaeffer got the idea to pursue a Fulbright from Prof. Jill Smith of modern languages, who was a Fulbright in Germany. He was assisted throughout the application by Maggie Tongue, director of postgraduate fellowships.

At Union, he was a member of the cross country and track teams, a dean's list student and member of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society. He did his history thesis on the rise of the religious right in conservative politics with Prof. David Baum. He did a senior writing project in German studies on literary representations of resistance to the Holocaust.

A native of Austinburg, Ohio, Schaeffer is the son of Don and Evelyn Schaeffer. He visited his brother, Don '02, while he was at Union and enrolled the fall after Don graduated. His brother is working with an insurance company in Stockholm, Sweden, and the two are planning to tour Europe after Andrew arrives in Germany.

The College had several winners under the Fulbright Hayes program in the 70's and 80's, including Rebecca Koopmann '89, now assistant professor of physics and astronomy. Recent winners have included Maureen Farrell '02 in 2002 and Jeffrey Nebolini '96 in 2004.

The Fulbright Program, named for the late Sen. J. William Fulbright, supports the exchange of education, culture and science with more than 140 countries. It is funded through an annual appropriation by Congress to the Department of State.

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Union receives $5+ million gift

Posted on Jul 28, 2006

A longtime resident of Scotia, Williams died October 15, 2005, in Doylestown, Pa. He was 95. Williams received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. He was a member of Eta Kappa Nu. He also studied at Duke and Cornell universities. After he graduated from Union College, Williams went to work for General Electric, where he was manager of the Magnetics Section and worked in the engineering laboratory. He married Virginia Smith in 1950. The couple had no children.

Williams was a loyal donor to the College, contributing relatively modest amounts annually. In 1987, he donated a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Men of Our Times to Schaffer Library.

When he died, he left behind an estate that exceeded $20 million, much of it acquired through investments. He divided the bulk of his estate between Union College, Piedmont College in Georgia (his wife's alma mater) and the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pa. Williams, an accomplished violinist who performed with orchestras in New York and Philadelphia, also left gifts to individual musicians.

The gift to the College, which may total about $6 million, was unrestricted. The College will use the money to endow three chairs in his name, and to fund the renovation of Butterfield Hall.

“We are extremely grateful to receive this generous gift,'' said Interim President James Underwood. “Union obviously played a big role in William's life, and we are happy to honor this outstanding alumnus by endowing the chairs in his name.''

The largest gift in the College's 211-year history was the $20 million given in November 2002 by John Wold, a geologist and former U.S. Congressman from Casper, Wyo., and his wife, Jane. Previously, the largest gift was $9 million from the F.W. Olin Foundation, Inc. of New York City, in 1996 for a high-technology classroom and laboratory building known as the F.W. Olin Center.

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It’s a small world for students in Minerva class

Posted on Jul 28, 2006

Pulitzer-prize winning columnist Thomas L. Friedman defines globalization as the international system that replaced the Cold War system. It is the integration of capital, technology and information across national borders in a way that is creating a single global market and, to some degree, a global village. riedman's critically-acclaimed book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, was a central part of a new class this spring at Union, appropriately titled, “Globalization.''

It was the second Minerva-sponsored course, following Election 2004, a hugely popular class offered that fall.

Students play a key role in a Minerva class by helping shape the curriculum and choosing the instructors.

Eight faculty members taught how globalization affects everything from the type of food people eat to the music they listen to. There was no midterm; students took a series of mini-exams.

Among the topics were “The Economic Case for Globalization: Is Free Trade a Good Thing,'' taught by Economics Professor Tomas Dvorak; “The Digital Divide: Outsourcing and Offshoring of Jobs,'' with Computer Science Professor Valerie Barr; and “The Effects of Globalization in the Distribution and Meaning of Popular Music,'' taught by Anthropology Professor Derek Pardue.

Other professors included George Shaw (Geology), Ashraf Ghaly (Engineering and Computer Science), and Kenji Tierney, George Gmelch and Sharon Gmelch (Anthropology).

“It's really neat,'' senior Emily Clark said of the Minerva course concept. “It gives students exposure to different professors and teaching styles. With so many different subject matters, students are also more likely to find something that truly engages them.''

Clark was chair of the committee that organized the class. Other members included Amy Bell ‘06, Michael Eisnach '07 and Professor George Gmelch.

Clark, an anthropology and modern languages major, found the idea of a class on globalization intriguing.

“I didn't know much about the politics of globalization or the economics,'' said Clark, a resident of Beuth House, which sponsors the class. “But I can see it through a cultural lens. This class gave me a better understanding of what it all means.''

In addition to Friedman's best-selling book, students also watched several segments of “Commanding Heights,” an award-winning PBS documentary on globalization.

“Globalization is such an interesting topic, not only for the students, but for me, as well,'' said George Gmelch, who lectured on its role in sports.

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