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The Parents Association and the Nicholsons: Keeping U Connected

Posted on Jul 24, 2007

Lori, Peter and Katie (2006) Nicholson.

When Kate Nicholson '06 left for college, it marked a beginning for parents Lori and Peter.

For three of their daughter's four years at Union, the Westchester, N.Y., couple was deeply involved in campus life, everything from organizing a get-together for new students and families to hosting a reception for President Stephen C. Ainlay.

From 2003-06, the Nicholsons co-chaired the Parents Association, a vital link in keeping families informed about campus life. Every Union parent and guardian is automatically a part of the group.

"The best part of our involvement was that it allowed us to be more in tune with Kate's college experience," said Lori Nicholson, a senior VP and managing director of marketing at communications giant Young and Rubicam in New York. "We also got to know how other students were feeling and adjusting to college life."

Lori and Peter, director of communications at Rolex Watch USA in New York, dove right into their new roles, organizing and hosting events.

During the "freshman sendoff," they welcomed 70 accepted students and their families into their Briarcliff Manor home in August 2004 and again the following summer. Each fall, they hosted an annual parents' gathering during Homecoming and Family Weekend. "The meeting is a unique opportunity for Union parents to speak candidly with the administration," said Lori. "There aren't many places where this could happen."

The Nicholsons were always a phone call or e-mail away for any parents with questions or concerns. They also stayed in touch with a monthly e-mail newsletter and regular column for Union College magazine.

"Lori and Peter were great parent partners," said Lis Bischoff-Ormsbee, director of the Parents Program. "They've been strong advocates for the Union experience, and they communicated with individual parents in many different ways. They also shared parent feedback with Union's administration. In many ways, they have pushed us to continue to grow and improve where we can."

Bischoff-Ormsbee said that as part of the Union family, parents can help enrich their children's experiences by supporting the College, attending events and staying up-to-date on College news. The Parents Association helps promote all of this while also strengthening the financial foundation of the College. Last year, current parents and parents of alumni gave $538,320 to the Parents Fund.

With daughter Kate now an official Union alumna (she's an advertising assistant at Women's Wear Daily), the Nicholsons have stepped down as Parents Association co-chairs. But they encourage other parents to become active in the organization.

Said Lori: "It is certainly an exciting time to be a Union College parent."

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Union a benchmark for Judge Judith Dein ’76

Posted on Jul 24, 2007

Alumni, Judith Dein, 1976

Arriving on campus in 1972, just months after Union graduated its first coed class, Judith Dein '76 found a college struggling to incorporate women into its culture. She soon became involved in issues of the day, from the Vietnam War to the impact of the new hockey rink to the role of women on campus and in society.

"No matter was too large or too small," says Dein, who majored in American Studies, was co-editor-in-chief of Concordiensis and a founder of the investigative student newspaper, the Campus Voice. She was also active in the Women's Caucus and the College president's Commission on the Status of Women and Task Force on Race Relations.

"As students and as women, we thought we'd be able to run the world. There was no doubt in our minds that we could and would change the world for the better. I guess the jury is still out on that one."

Today, Dein rules from a courtroom bench in Boston, where she is a United States magistrate judge for the District of Massachusetts, in the sixth year of an eight-year appointment. Her job includes both civil litigation and such criminal matters as pretrial proceedings, initial detention hearings and search warrants. In December 2001 she found herself in the media spotlight when she arraigned "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and remanded him to jail without bail.

"It's a little strange to find myself in a high profile job because I don't see myself that way," she says. She recalls being surprised and pleased when a stranger stopped her one day at her local car wash. "He recognized me, even though I was in my sweatpants and baseball cap. He said, ‘You swore me in as a citizen; that was the most important day of my life.' I can't remember ever feeling more honored and satisfied about the work that I do."

In addition to new citizen naturalizations, Dein presides over jury and jury-waived trials, holds hearings, authors opinions and conducts mediations.

"The law is a great career," says Dein, who lives with her husband, Alan M. Reisch '75, and their teenage son. "I feel like I'm making a contribution. I believe strongly in the judicial system, and I truly love coming to work."

Dein and Reisch, both resident advisors at Union, really got to know each other while evacuating Fox Hall during a series of bomb scares in fall 1974. Both went on to graduate from Boston College Law School, with Dein graduating cum laude in 1979. Clerkships and private practice followed, including several years as a partner at Hale and Dorr, and then Warner & Stackpole, where she concentrated in commercial and employment litigation.

She is active in many youth education projects and participates in bar-sponsored legal seminars and in the Harvard Law School Trial Advocacy Program. In 2002, she and Reisch, who majored in political science, endowed an annual scholarship to help support a Union student interested in political science.

At Union, Dein combined courses in English, history and political science. She was inspired by Professors Stephen Berk (Holocaust and Jewish Studies), Robert Wells (American Studies), Manfred Jonas (History), Frank Gato (English), and Byron Nichols and the late Charles Tidmarch (Political Science).

"American Studies was one of the first interdisciplinary majors, a way to take courses in diverse fields and see a subject from different points of view," says Dein. "It's a theme – I tried to never limit my options."

Dein was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and honored with the prestigious Bailey Cup for her campus involvement. She graduated summa cum laude.

"I loved Union. It was intellectually challenging, and I made lifelong friends," says Dein. "Going back for my 30th ReUnion last year was a pleasure. There were all these women with great careers who had lived through the same work and life struggles as I had. We had a lot to talk about."

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Anthony C. LaVecchia ’98

Posted on Jul 24, 2007

Memorial award celebrates passions of former Concordy editor

The first Anthony C. LaVecchia '98 Memorial Award was presented on Prize Day, May 5. The award is designed to promote excellence in student journalism, particularly political journalism.

Anthony C. LaVecchia, Class of 1998

Anthony "Tony" Charles LaVecchia came to Union in fall 1994 and quickly made his voice heard as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, Concordiensis. A political science major and member of Phi Sigma Kappa, he wrote against hazing and apathy, urged students to connect to then-new World Wide Web and came head-to-head with then-President Roger Hull on a few occasions.

"Tony never did anything half way," said Josh Katz '97, a fraternity brother and one of LaVecchia's best friends. "He approached all aspects of his life with the same passion."

"He was very concerned with getting down to business," said Union Assistant Librarian Courtney Seymour '98, a close friend. "He felt, if you've got something to say, say it, and be upfront about it."

Tony LaVecchia died Feb. 27, 2005 at age 28 in a highway accident in Texas. A Brooklyn native, the son of Janis LaVecchia of Las Vegas and Richard and Christiana LaVecchia of Deer Isle, Maine, he traveled widely, wrote poetry and was involved in fundraising programs to help children with cancer.

A number of LaVecchia's friends – including Katz; Phi Sig brothers Peter Farnum '98 (Seymour's husband) and Andy Fradkin '98; and co- Concordiensis editor Adrian MacLean Jay '98 – joined LaVecchia's parents in creating the LaVecchia Memorial Award. Frank Rossi '98 donated $1,250, and an anonymous alumnus created a matching challenge. Other classmates, fraternity brothers and Concordy staff, including Mike Korcynski '99, also pitched in.

"Tony loved Union. It was the basis of most of his deep friendships," said Rich LaVecchia.

LaVecchia was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Dean's List and Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society. He did a term abroad in Florence, Italy, and graduated magna cum laude.

His strong sense of ethics was well-known. In 1996, he and MacLean Jay were in the eye of a national media storm when the Unabomber story broke. When it became apparent the bomber was related to a faculty member, they turned away national networks rather than disclose personal details.

LaVecchia's ability to touch on sensitive topics with diplomacy and grace "helped make the editorial section a place of ripe debate for the student community," said Katz. "It is our hope that this memorial fund will impassion another Union student to learn the two things that gave Tony great joy during his time at Union, and helped shape his life after Union: his studies in political science and his work on the Concordy."

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Lee Davenport ’37

Posted on Jul 24, 2007

Physicist a leader in the electronics age

Lee Davenport, class of 1937

The Lee Davenport '37 Summer Research Fund is awarded annually to students in engineering, chemistry, biology, physics or geology who work closely with a faculty mentor on summer research. Davenport recently shared his Union reminiscences, including stories about his own inspiring faculty connections.

In 1934, Lee Davenport was removing insects from plants for 35 cents an hour when Physics Chairman Peter Wold made him an enticing offer.

"He invited me to help make scientific drawings. I'd never done anything like it before, but he said, 'It's better than picking bugs off salvias.'"

It was the beginning of an unforgettable relationship – one that helped lay the groundwork for Davenport's successful career as a physicist and leader in the development of advanced communications technology.

"Peter Wold was a remarkable man," Davenport said. "He was one of the kindest people I've ever met, and very inspirational."

For Davenport, one of two students in the Class of 1937 who became physicists (Howard Moncton was the other), living and learning at Union meant taking advantage of opportunities galore. "I did things I never dreamed I could do. We were allowed to develop our own challenges, in the labs, with professors, at General Electric," he said.

One of the greatest scientific developments of the day was the generation of high voltage electricity to help smash atoms, and Davenport set out to build a high-voltage generator known as a Van de Graaff machine. "I went down to GE and said, 'I need a ball made of two-and-a quarter square inches of aluminum, three feet in diameter," he recounted. "I made all the pieces in the Physics lab. Talk about being stretched. Peter Wold could have said, 'You're a little crazy to build a Van de Graaff.' But he didn't. He said, 'Go to it.'"

A Schenectady native, Davenport, who turned 91 on New Year's Eve, recalled his Union days while in town for the inauguration of Stephen Ainlay as 18th College president. It was the fourth time he participated in the swearing in of a new Union president.

"It's hard to be a film star," he joked while sitting in an armchair in Abbe Hall, surrounded by decades of Union memorabilia, as a video crew recorded the historic event. With his platinum hair, red tie and blue-gray suit, Davenport was a picture of dignity.

Union was the first choice for the young Mont Pleasant High student. His father (Harry L. Davenport '13), a Schenectady school teacher, and grandfather (Frank E. Davenport, Class of 1880), went to Union, as did a grand-uncle (Charles P. Sanders, Class of 1878).

On campus, Davenport joined the scientific research society Sigma Xi and the Radio Club. He enjoyed classes with John March and Ernest Ligon, professors of Philosophy. And he forged lifelong friendships with classmates Alan Van Wert and Ed Moulton, with whom he sang in the Glee Club under Prof. Elmer Tidmarsh ("a jewel").

Davenport holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pittsburgh. The Ph.D. is for work he conducted at the top secret MIT Radiation Laboratory during World War II, developing revolutionary fire control radar known as microwave radar. SCR-584 (Signal Corp Radio #584) was the most advanced battlefield radar system at the time. It was Peter Wold who helped make possible the unique degree arrangement between the two schools.

Davenport taught at MIT and at Harvard, where he was responsible for the nuclear lab and a 92-inch cyclotron that was the second largest atom smasher in the world at the time.

He spent 24 years with the GTE Corporation and various subsidiaries, retiring as vice president and chief scientist. In 1963, he appeared on the television show "I've Got a Secret" with GTE's plan to transmit TV pictures via lasers. Under Davenport, GTE patented the bright red phosphor now ubiquitous in television displays.

He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1973. Davenport lives in Greenwich, Conn. He has two daughters from his marriage to the late Anne Stephenson. Since his retirement, he has worked as a communications and advanced technology consultant, but he's nurtured his non-scientific side, as well, restoring vintage cars and caravanning in road rallies through his 80s.

A member of the Union Terrace Council, former ReUnion Leadership Gifts Committee and former Term Trustee (1968 to 1985), Davenport became a Life Trustee in 1985 and Trustee Emeritus in 1988.

"Part of our job as Trustees and alumni is to see to it that people believe in this place," he said. "This is a marvelous institution, and it has every opportunity to continue to grow in reputation and prestige."

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Class of 1941 dedicates Sorum House Den

Posted on Jul 24, 2007

Paula Ciesinski, Sorum House Den

The Class of 1941 is a distinguished one by any account. Graduates became engineers and executives, writers and publishers, diplomats, doctors, lawyers and inventors. They were heroes in two wars.

Paying permanent tribute to this outstanding group of men, a handsome glass case in the den of Sorum House now displays memorabilia of their days at Union and different phases of their lives. Many members took part in dedicating the den last year.

"My father would have been pleased to see the results of his classmates' efforts," said Union Board Chairman Stephen Ciesinski '70, whose father, Adam, was a class member.

One of Union's seven Minerva Houses, Sorum House is dedicated to the memory of Dean of Faculty Christina (Christie) Sorum. It is popular for Christie's Coffeehouse and its student-faculty book groups and discussions.

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