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Update on city shooting

Posted on Feb 28, 2008

7:30 p.m. — The College’s Emergency Notification System was activated today around noon in the wake of an alleged drive-by shooting several blocks east of campus.

The incident did not involve members of the Union community, and those on campus were not in danger during the incident, according to Campus Safety.

The College activated the system – which includes campus-wide emails, voice mails and updates on the College Web site – after being contacted by Schenectady police.

Police responded to reports of shots fired at the intersection of Eastern and Morris avenues at around 11:40 a.m. An SUV with the passenger’s side window shot out was found abandoned on nearby Glenwood Boulevard. A victim was being treated at Ellis Hospital for a non- life threatening gunshot wound, according to police.

Police say a suspect's vehicle was later found abandoned in Niskayuna, where they were searching for those involved.

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Alaska as classroom

Posted on Feb 28, 2008

Geology Professor John I. Garver issued this first-hand report from Alaska, the “rough, wild and remote tectonic playground” where 10 Union students joined him and Professor Jaclyn Cockburn last June on a three-week research expedition to track clues left by earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.

The shovel slides into the muck, revealing alternating layers of peat and ocean sand. The layers are subtle clues left by a tsunami in 1964. Professor Jaclyn Cockburn and I are with a group of Union students on Kodiak Island off the southern coast of Alaska and we’ve uncovered tectonic gold.

Students look down at the Copper River from the terminus of Childs Glacier, near the city of Cordova. Alaska. Winter 2008 magazine.

“Living on the Edge” is a mini-term research course that has brought Union students to Alaska to study geological hazards in a place where tectonic plates collide. Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes account for some of the most catastrophic hazards that result from tectonic activity. Humanity is learning some tough but simple lessons about responding to these events. Part of the reason we are in Alaska is to study mitigation options and teach students fieldwork skills that may someday help society better prepare for geological catastrophes.

Alaska is a rough, wild and remote tectonic playground. There are major fault lines and rumpled mountain ranges driven by the ongoing collision of the tectonic plates. Alaska sits on a subduction zone where oceanic plates are forced below the continental edge, producing volcanoes that define dramatic topogra­phy. Like the San Andreas Fault in California, Alaska also has a major fault line where two plates slide past one another.

Sarah Tonry '10 takes notes as Professor Jaclyn Cockburn lectures on the debris-covered ice of Childs Glacier.

In 1964, Alaska was shaken by the second biggest earthquake ever recorded, a magnitude 9.2 on the Richter scale. This event resulted in some of the most dramatic tectonic movements the modern world has ever experi­enced. Like the Sumatran earthquake in 2004, a huge block of ocean floor was displaced upwards, shifting enough water to spread tsunami waves around the globe. Large swaths of land moved upward and landed in a nearly equal area dropped downward. Part of our task on this mini-term is to find clues of these tectonic undulations.

Geologists are no strangers to work in difficult conditions, and work on Kodiak Island is no exception. As we prepare for our first hike around the island’s Middle Bay, students load their packs, affix bear bells, and pull on rubber boots. The idle chatter comes to an abrupt halt, when our host, Gary Carver, gets out his 12-gauge shotgun, and loads it. At this point, students start to pay attention, very close attention. Gary gives students a lesson on what to do if they encounter a Kodiak bear, one of the biggest bears in the world. The main point is, don’t panic, stand your ground and don’t run.

Students sit on the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline near the Richardson Highway. Alaska. Winter 2008, Union College magazine.

With our new understand­ing of Kodiak bears, we head out across the salt marsh on Middle Bay. In the flats of the salt marsh, we find sand, muck and peat. Below that is another series of sand, muck and peat. The sand is puzzling. There is no sand obvious anywhere on the modern salt marsh.

The layers are clues left by a terrifying tsunami. In Middle Bay in March 1964, the train of tsunami waves stirred up offshore sediment, and carried that sand inland and covered the otherwise placid coastal estuary.  

In 1964, a number of people got caught in the waves and part of the reason we are in Alaska is to study mitigation options and teach students fieldwork skills that may some­day help society better prepare for geological catastrophes. A number of people died because they didn’t know that tsunamis arrive as a train of waves, not just one big one. As we dig deeper, it is clear that this wasn’t the only time Kodiak has been hit by major waves, and the diagnosis for the people of Kodiak Island is grim if history repeats. And this seems like a certain conclusion from our analysis.

The Sumatran earthquake and subsequent tsunami in December 2004 was a humbling example of how major earthquakes that rupture the ocean floor can generate monstrous and deadly waves. We have the scientific knowledge to tackle many of these hazards. We have engineering solutions for warning systems. We have designs for buildings, bridges and other infrastructure. We hope this trip will help students see important links between science and society.

After the Kodiak marsh, we move on to the heart of the dramatic landscape of the Central Alaska Range. In the village of Mentasta Lake in south central Alaska along the 400-mile Denali fault, we encountered a community that had no emergency plan in place despite having sus­tained a violent earthquake in 2002. A visit to the village became a lesson for Amanda Kern ’09. 

“This experience gave me the chance to take my knowl­edge in geology and apply it to policy and people. The realization that many com­munities worldwide are situated in hazardous areas that are virtually unknown to their residents brought home the importance of educating people on how to live with their environment,” Kern wrote.

We later moved on to the spot where the Denali Fault passes under the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. The pipeline is one of the most crucial arteries of the nation’s oil lifeline. Completed in 1977, the 800-mile pipe carries about 1 million barrels of oil a day from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. At the current rate of consumption in the United States, this accounts for about 5 percent of daily usage.

The Denali Fault rips east-west across the Alaskan landscape. Like the San Andreas, this fault allows rock on either side to slide past each other every time there is a big earthquake. In both cases, these faults allow the Pacific tectonic plate and the North American plate to slide past one another. In the Central Alaska Range, the rock sliding by is getting jammed together as it tries to turn a corner, and the collision there has driven rock upwards to form some of the biggest mountains on the continent. Mt. McKinley is more than 20,000 feet high.

Dealing with this tricky spot has illustrated the importance of the interface between science and engineering. In the 1970s when the pipeline was being built, geologists identified a concealed fault line and engineers designed a flexible pipe that could shake freely in the event of a big earthquake. In March 2002, about 25 years after the pipeline was completed, the fault lurched about 8 feet sideways under the pipe, and it shook violently back and forth like a slinky toy. Not a drop of oil was spilled.

“Based on the work of geologists, engineers have placed the pipeline on Teflon slides in areas where it crosses fault lines to allow for the pipeline to move in case of an earthquake. It’s cool to see that after the 2002 earthquake all these precautions really did pay off,” wrote Kelly Owings ’08, an environmental studies major who completed the mini-term in Alaska.

Another part of our agenda for the trip is to train students to sustain themselves in the cook using a fire, and get their wet feet, literally. For many, this was the first major experience away from home. For almost all of them, it was the first extended time in tents away from modern conve­niences.

As the trip concludes, we’re in the Central Alaska Range and the low evening sunlight illuminates the snowy peaks. This trip has been amazing and I think it has been a reward­ing and profound experience for all.




Four environmental science students with backgrounds in chemistry and geology traveled in July to the Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska to collect samples and document the impact of environmental change in several large watersheds.

Sadie Gorman. Monica Tse, Alaska research, 2007

The Alaskan research spanned three weeks and was separate from the “Living on the Edge” mini-term. Each of the four Union students received a summer research grant through the College’s Internal Education Foundation. Two students received Surdna Summer Research Fellowships and two were awarded fellowships through the Lee Davenport ’37 Summer Research Fund.

“Working in remote, cold regions such as the Kenai Peninsula is important,” said Jaclyn Cockburn, visiting instructor of geology and co-leader of the trip. “These areas are relatively pristine and thought to be more sensitive to environmental changes, such as climate variability and the influence of contaminants, than some temperate regions such as upstate New York.”

Cockburn and Sam Basta ’08, an environmental studies major, and Kara Gillivan ’08, a geology major, headed to the Kenai Peninsula in early July to collect sediment samples and perform simple water column measurements from glacially fed Skilak Lake through the major glacial melt period of the hydrological season. Chemistry major Monica Tse ’08 and biochemistry major Sadie Gorman ’08 also completed research on the peninsula.

Basta and Gillivan are using their sediment and summer observations as part of their senior thesis projects.

Basta’s research is concerned with characterizing and mapping the accumulation rates in the proximal basin of Skilak Lake. Through investigations of the recent sedimentary record, he hopes to identify zones of higher accumulation that will be targeted for further sampling in future years.

Gillivan will investigate the role recent climate change has played on the dynamics of the Harding Icefield and several smaller glaciers that flow from it, such as Skilak Glacier. Increased glacial runoff may lead to increased sediment loads in streams on the Kenai Peninsula, which may have serious impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

“Being in Alaska this summer gave me an opportunity to see first hand what has happened recently to the smaller glaciers and the watersheds they feed,” Gillivan said.


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Posted on Feb 28, 2008


Union College magazine cover for Summer 2007 issue.

I read “A Long Road to Recovery” (Summer 2007) about U.S. Marine Lt. Brent Filson ’03 with great interest. I served as an F-16 pilot in southern Turkey for Operation Northern Watch in 2001. During that deployment, I was forced to eject from my F-16 after my engine failed approximately 60 kilometers from the Iraqi border north of Syria. My ejection seat had a parachute so I “gently” fell to earth. I was picked up by U.S. helicopters after an hour of anxious­ness in a portion of Turkey known to be unfriendly to Americans.

In fall 2002, I served at Al Jabar Air Force Base in Kuwait and performed multiple attacks on Iraq in response to Iraqi attacks on coalition aircraft. In February 2006, I served as a presidential advanced agent for Air Force Two at Bagram Air Force Base in Kabul, Afghanistan. I worked in support of Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit, during which a suicide bomber attacked with intent to harm the vice president and killed a service member.

Regardless of one’s thoughts on current U.S. foreign policy, it is imperative that stories of military sacrifices be told. There is a hidden force of individuals serving in places like Korea, the Balkans and the Far East; and I know some are Union alumni. They too make big sacrifices.

Mike Nelson ’97
Mike is a major in the U.S. Air Force and an F-16 instructor pilot. 

I received Union College magazine in a care package from home. Thank you for the article about Lt. Filson. I am serving in Kabul with the International Security Assistance Force as the physician in charge of a medical team. We treat soldiers, aid workers and delegates from the 37 nations. We also treat local needs help. 

Dr. Eric Kujawski ’97
Eric is a U.S. Navy lieutenant and medical officer. In August he earned a Com­mander’s Commendation for treating and transporting a wounded soldier. 

Improvised Explosive Devices were difficult to detect. Insurgents hid the devices anywhere, from the carcasses of dead animals to near-perfect casts of roadside curbs. If you saw an IED, your convoy was on top of it by the time you realized what it was. In my two tours, I passed three recognizable IEDs and, fortunately, none was initiated. 

In the story, Lt. Filson said, “I have much more respect for Vietnam veterans now. They had nowhere near the same medical care and had a diff erent welcome home.” I agree. Without the support from the people of our great country, the job of the American soldier would be nearly impossible. 

Ronald Rushneck ’01
Ronald is a U.S. Army engineering battalion captain on ready reserve status. He served near Baghdad from April 2003 to April 2004 and in 2005.



I congratulate the 1971-72 men’s basket­ball team and Coach Gary Walters for being inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame (“Seven to be Inducted into Hall of Fame,” Summer 2007). However, I think you need to note that the team was recruited by Coach Chris Schmid. 

Chris retired from coaching in 1970, but he never retired from Union. Chris lives near Schenectady and is a tireless College supporter. I was fortunate to play football for coach Schmid and still visit with him and his wife during their winter visits to Florida.

Waldo K. “Skip” Lynch ’70
Skip lives in Palm Harbor, Fla. 

The Hall of Fame article failed to mention how much Bob Ridings cared for female athletes struggling for equality in the mid-1970s under the relatively new Title IX. Bob was quick to repair my glove when I needed it for a softball game. When the softball team was playing in cold weather one spring, Bob supplied us with old wool baseball uniforms since our uniforms were nothing more than really short shorts, short sleeve shirts and socks. 

But what I remember about Bob was his smile and charm.  I also remember that little bead of spit that was always hanging from his pipe. 

Gwen Young Sachnoff ’78
Gwen lives in Oceanside, N.Y.






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Union signs agreement with Berkskhire Community College

Posted on Feb 28, 2008

Feigenbaum Hall

Engineering and computer science students at Berkshire Community College can transfer into Union under a new agreement between the two schools.

The articulation agreement guarantees admission to Union for students at the Pittsfield, Mass., school who graduate with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Qualified students would be admitted as juniors into the equivalent bachelor’s program at Union.

Praising BCC’s programs at a recent signing ceremony, President Stephen C. Ainlay said Union “was pleased to provide BCC graduates with an access point to a bachelor’s degree.” BCC President Paul Raverta said the new pact will make it easier and more affordable for his students to “continue their studies at this prestigious institution.”

Union has similar articulation agreements with other area schools, including Schenectady County Community College.

The agreement with BCC was encouraged by longtime Union benefactors Armand V. '42 and Donald S. '46 Feigenbaum, founders of General Systems Company in Pittsfield. The College's annual Feigenbaum Forum, begun in 1996, brings academic and business leaders together at Union to discuss issues of mutual concern.

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President’s message

Posted on Feb 28, 2008


A love of learning; a love of Union

In the fall issue of this magazine, we noted the passing of Professor Joseph Board, long time member of the Union faculty. In this issue, we appropriately memorialize him and his many contributions to the College. Joe paid a visit to me a few months into my presidency. As a fellow Hoosier, he delighted in sharing stories of his days in Indiana as well as his tales of his years at Union. At my inauguration, Joe led the faculty procession adorned in the colors of Oxford University, testimony to his time as a Rhodes Scholar. I was fortunate to get to know Joe, if for all too brief a time, and he made a lasting impression on me.

Up Front photo. Stephen C. Ainlay.

Since news of his death reached us in early October, I have heard from many alumni of the College who wanted me to know that Joe Board made a difference in their lives. They credit him with building a strong Department of Political Science during his tenure as its chairperson. They credit him with awakening within them an intellectual curiosity and a love of learning. They talk about the ways in which he modeled his own love of learning and his own seemingly insatiable curiosity about the world of politics and current events. Joe Board made a difference in their lives.

He loved working with Union students, and it is indeed fair to say that he loved Union College. Even when quite ill, Joe offered to help me and the College in any way that I saw fit.

In this issue of the magazine, we also announce John and Jane Wold’s decision to dedicate over $13 million dollars to new construction that will better integrate our science and engineering departments with each other and with the rest of our academic departments and interdisciplinary programs. Their lead gift will make it possible for us to pull the science and engineering complex closer to the historic quad and create an academic “town square” that will put science and engineering on display and create a vital space within which learning and the exchange of ideas will take place. This is critical to realizing our Strategic Plan and helping us recruit talented young men and women to the College. It will also allow us to model for the higher education community at large what effective liberal education looks like in the 21st century.

The Wold’s gift to Union is a remarkable act of generosity. It is also, in a word, transformative. It represents their belief that the institutional direction set out in our Strategic Plan is the right path for Union College. Their gift reflects their commitment to the education of today’s young men and women. Their gift underscores their confidence that this generation of college-age men and women, if effectively educated, will make an enormous difference to the world. Perhaps most of all, the gift from John and Jane Wold underscores their love of Union.

How is one college fortunate enough to have the likes of Joe Board and John and Jane Wold? I believe it owes to the fact that for over two centuries Union has committed itself to offering an education that equips its students for the challenges of their day; an institution that finds inspiration in its past but encourages its faculty and students to commit themselves to a learning environment that is innovative and responds to the times. Such an institution attracted a Rhodes Scholar named Joe Board. Such an institution helped cultivate the likes of John Wold. We can all take pride in this. It is cause for gratitude and celebration.


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